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Good on its own but attains more power if you see the film.

Music Review: The War: A Ken Burns Film Soundtrack

Written by Fumo Verde

For those of you who have seen The War: A Film by Ken Burns, this CD contains the music. With all the images of life during wartime, this soundtrack, like those of a major motion picture, energizes the feelings and the emotions this film arouses. Running like the film itself, the music follows the seven-part series as it weaves the story and gives it a deeper soul, one that combined well with the stories told by those who were there.

This disc has some fabulous music by great contemporary artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Wynton Marsalis, and Norah Jones. Other material was taken from the time it was made like 1945’s “It’s Been A Long, Long Time” (Jule Styne/Sammy Cahn) sung by Bing Crosby with Les Paul on guitar. Sad songs such as this one and others like it paraded across the airwaves during the war because it was a depressing time.

“If You Can’t Smile and Say Yes” (Louis Jordan/Timmie Rodgers) by Nat King Cole and his Trio reflects the current events of the time with lyrics like “Don’t you the’s a war on/ Everything is rationed,” and a few bar later, “Baby, let bygones be bygones/ ‘Cause men are as scarce as nylons.” The war was on everyone’s mind and the music back then, like music now, got them through their days while inspiring hope and anticipation.

My favorite song on this CD is “American Anthem” (Gene Scheer). It plays at the opening and the ending of the documentary. Amanda Forsyth & Bill Charlap perform it as an instrumental to close the disc, but I love what Jones does with it to open the CD. With soft and gentle piano playing ever so delicately, her voice sings out for the voices that cannot:

“Battles fought together/ Acts of conscience fought alone/These are the seeds from which America has grown /Let them say of me/ I was one who believed/ In sharing in the blessings I received/ Let me know in my heart/ when my days are through/ America-America I gave my best to you.”

You could pick up this CD by itself and you wouldn’t be disappointed in the music, but you wouldn’t really understand the whole picture or what value it lent to the making of the film. This disc has a fantastic marquee but it helps if you have seen the film. If you have, then each song will remind you of what was sacrificed during that time, in battle and on the home front. See The War then pickup this CD.

About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS

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