The War: A Ken Burns Film [Deluxe Edition]

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Barnes & Noble - David McGee
Focusing on the lives of people in four small towns during World War II, Ken Burns's seven-hour epic The War brings the reality of war home on a personal, intensely human level in way no other filmmaker has done since the multiple-Oscar-winning 1946 classic, The Best Years of Our Lives. This is not war romanticized; it's war up close, brutal, bloody, and horrific, and the memories of how it was remain searing and vivid to the veterans and their loved ones. The music Burns has chosen for The War thus reflects both the hopes and the melancholy of those years, sometimes all in the course of one song, as on Norah Jones's somber piano-and-vocal reading of the film's theme ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - David McGee
Focusing on the lives of people in four small towns during World War II, Ken Burns's seven-hour epic The War brings the reality of war home on a personal, intensely human level in way no other filmmaker has done since the multiple-Oscar-winning 1946 classic, The Best Years of Our Lives. This is not war romanticized; it's war up close, brutal, bloody, and horrific, and the memories of how it was remain searing and vivid to the veterans and their loved ones. The music Burns has chosen for The War thus reflects both the hopes and the melancholy of those years, sometimes all in the course of one song, as on Norah Jones's somber piano-and-vocal reading of the film's theme song "American Anthem." Comparable in effect to the poignant "Ashokan Farewell" theme of Burns's Civil War project, it is repeated at the end of the soundtrack as a haunting instrumental for piano and cello by Bill Charlap and Amanda Forsyth, respectively, who render it with touching sensitivity to the nuanced tenor of Jones's vocal and to the series' overall mood. The War soundtrack album is a concise, 17-song sampler of the music heard over the course of seven hours of film, including original performances by contemporary artists such as Jones, Forsyth and Charlap, classical violin virtuoso Joshua Bell, and Wynton Marsalis, who contributed some original compositions, including the introspective piano-and-cello instrumental "America My Home" (featuring Forsyth and Charlap in another star turn). These recordings complement the indelible hits from the war years, which here include Kay Starr's buoyant "If I Could Be with You," the King Cole Trio's smooth workout on a V-disc recording of "If You Can't Smile and Say Yes," and tracks from Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Benny Goodman. Bolstering the effect of all this timeless pop are classical performances by Yo-Yo Ma and by Leonard Slatkin conducting the London Philharmonic in William Walton's brooding "The Death of Falstaff."

In addition to the soundtrack, the box set boasts three "inspired-by" discs, which include some of the music found in the film and are thematic in nature. Sentimental Journey: Hits from the Second World War is an orchestra-heavy compilation of vocals and instrumentals that pretty much touches all the right bases -- Benny Goodman with a swinging treatment of "We'll Meet Again," Artie Shaw's luscious take on "Dancing in the Dark," plus Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Coleman Hawkins, Duke, Cab Calloway, Satchmo (his enduring, bluesy treatment of "Memories of You," featuring one of Louis's most seductive vocals), and others. In addition to Armstrong's, vocal highlights include the young Frank Sinatra's sensitive, romantic reading of "Let's Get Lost" and his masterful, dramatic rendition of "Long Ago and Far Away" (which is preceded by Sinatra's spoken introduction identifying himself as "the hoodlum from Hoboken") and the Mills Brothers' sweetly swinging blues-tinged pop classic "Paper Doll." The one legitimate flaw is the virtual absence of the great female vocalists of the era, who certainly left their mark on our boys overseas but, apart from Kay Starr, are unrepresented here.

There's no subtlety about I'm Beginning to See the Light: Dance Hits from the Second World War. It's about getting bodies in motion and is a sheer delight from the get-go. Opening with Duke Ellington & His Famous Orchestra's shuffling "C Jam Blues" (which features a most unexpected outburst of country fiddle less than a minute in), the disc goes on to chronicle an astonishing variety of music that fell under the rubric of Big Band -- from the jubilant "In the Mood" courtesy Glenn Miller & Hs Orchestra; to the country swing of Al Dexter's signature tune, "Pistol Packin' Mama" to the loping grace of Erskine Hawkins's "Tuxedo Junction." Artie Shaw's great orchestra of the time is understandably represented twice, with the lush, jittery arrangement of "Frenesi" that features terrific clarinet soloing from Shaw over a lovely string arrangement, and a lighter-than-air string passage buttressing Shaw's keening clarinet soloing on "I'm Confessin'." And it's heartening to see Jimmie Lunceford and Charlie Barnett and their orchestras included, as they boasted two of the hottest lineups of the day but usually lose out to the household names when these sort of retrospectives are assembled.

It's no surprise that Songs Without Words: Classical Music from the War is the most ruminative of the four discs in the box set. In the documentary, these works tend to be heard at the most heart-wrenching or reflective moments: Yo-Yo Ma has such moments himself in his anguished soloing in Dvorak's "Cello Concerto in B Minor," the fevered pulse of his bowing mirroring the soul-deadening onscreen horror. Suitably, that most American of composers, Aaron Copland, is here twice: His first appearance is with Benny Goodman and the Columbia Symphony Orchestra on a solemn original composition, "Concerto for Clarinet, Strings, Harp and Piano," a 16-minute-plus work that opens up into a stirring, soaring celebration of hope after its dour theme-setting stanza, then returns to a more ominous mood. It's a roller-coaster ride of emotions, from abject fear to unbridled optimism and back, and a more appropriate musical evocation of the war years could hardly be summoned. His other composition here, "Grovers Corners" from Our Town, with the New Philharmonic Orchestra, comes in at a slight 3:12 and sounds like the first tentative breaking of a new day, full of hope in a strings-and-woodwinds passage of exquisite, fragile beauty. Works by Ligeti, Fauré, Liszt, and Messiaen ("Quartet for the End of Time") sound a doom-laden note, but the Mendelssohn composition that gives this disc its title, "Songs Without Words," is a marvelous, nuanced duet performed by Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Emanuel Ax that balances light and dark emotions. Like the other three discs in the box set, this one works well as a self-contained entity, free of any context but that of the music itself, but those who see Burns's film will never hear these works in quite the same way again -- just as those who see The War may come away with a whole new perspective on the human toll these conflicts take. Even in the "good war," it's an awful price to pay.
All Music Guide - Richie Unterberger
The War, directed by Ken Burns, was a seven-part documentary series broadcast on PBS television in 2007, focusing on the experiences of American soldiers in World War II. Much popular music of the period was heard on the soundtrack, as was some music specifically composed and recorded for use in the film. This four-CD set, with the full title The War: A Ken Burns Film: Deluxe Edition: Soundtrack and Music from the Second World War, devotes one disc each to a certain thematic strain. Disc one -- the only one in this package that is also available separately, as a stand-alone release -- focuses on music actually heard on the soundtrack, mixing compositions/performances by Wynton Marsalis; vintage recordings from the time by Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and Kay Starr; and some other material, including one track, "American Anthem," recorded by Norah Jones on piano and vocal specifically for the series and previously unreleased prior to its appearance here. Disc two, "Sentimental Journey: Hits from the Second World War," has some of the smoother and more romantic jazz-pop hits of the era by the likes of Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, the Mills Brothers, Cab Calloway, Harry James, and Tommy Dorsey. Disc three, "I'm Beginning to See the Light: Dance Hits from the Second World War," has swing jazz that repeats some names from earlier in the box Goodman, Basie, Miller, Artie Shaw and adds selections from some others like Gene Krupa and Jimmie Lunceford, and is the CD most likely to be enjoyed by general music fans. The fourth and final disc, "Songs Without Words: Classical Music from The War," has ten classical pieces recorded between 1963 and 2006 of a subdued and mournful nature, two of which noted cellist Yo-Yo Ma plays on, and one Aaron Copland's "Concerto for Clarinet, Strings, Harp and Piano" on which Benny Goodman plays clarinet. This is primarily recommended to those viewers deeply impressed by the series, rather than the general music listener, who might find the range of styles -- primarily mixing jazz and classical sides, but also with some non-jazz songs from then and now -- too wide to sustain interest. An illustrated booklet from Ken Burns explains the conception and intention of the documentary series, with a smaller one explaining the reasoning behind the music selected for the soundtrack.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 9/11/2007
  • Label: Rca
  • UPC: 886971454024
  • Catalog Number: 714540

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 American Anthem - Norah Jones (5:07)
  2. 2 Walton: The Death of Falstaff - London Philharmonic Orchestra (3:37)
  3. 3 The Wang Wang Blues - Benny Goodman Sextet (2:52)
  4. 4 Movin' Back - Wynton Marsalis (2:46)
  5. 5 How Long Blues - Count Basie (2:58)
  6. 6 In the Nick of Time - Mike Marshall (6:13)
  7. 7 It's Been a Long, Long Time - Les Paul (2:59)
  8. 8 America My Home - Wynton Marsalis (2:17)
  9. 9 If I Could Be with You (One Hour Tonight) - Capitol International Jazzmen (2:48)
  10. 10 Blue as the Turquoise Night of Neyshabur - Silk Road Ensemble (4:27)
  11. 11 Until I'm in Your Arms Again - Wynton Marsalis (2:41)
  12. 12 Part: Variations for the Healing of Arinushka - Kalle Randalu (5:10)
  13. 13 Basie Boogie - Count Basie Orchestra (2:23)
  14. 14 Solitude - Duke Ellington & His Orchestra (3:14)
  15. 15 Copland: Concerto for Clarinet, Strings, Harp and Piano - Columbia Symphony Orchestra (7:44)
  16. 16 If You Can't Smile and Say Yes - Nat King Cole (2:34)
  17. 17 American Anthem - Amanda Forsyth (1:44)
Disc 2
  1. 1 We'll Meet Again - Benny Goodman & His Orchestra (3:19)
  2. 2 Dancing in the Dark - Artie Shaw & His Orchestra (3:04)
  3. 3 Little Brown Jug - The Glenn Miller Orchestra (2:51)
  4. 4 I'll Be Seeing You - Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra (3:06)
  5. 5 Moonglow - Artie Shaw & His Orchestra (3:30)
  6. 6 Memories of You - Louis Armstrong & His Orchestra (3:11)
  7. 7 I'll Get By - Harry James & His Orchestra (2:44)
  8. 8 On the Alamo - Benny Goodman Sextet (3:26)
  9. 9 Pennies from Heaven - Teddy Wilson (3:17)
  10. 10 Body and Soul - Coleman Hawkins & His Orchestra (3:02)
  11. 11 Let's Get Lost - Frank Sinatra (2:59)
  12. 12 Blues in the Night - Cab Calloway & His Orchestra (3:08)
  13. 13 There Shall Be No Light - Duke Ellington's Famous Orchestra (3:11)
  14. 14 Echoes of Harlem - Cootie Williams & His Rug Cutters (3:14)
  15. 15 Skylark - Earl Hines & His Orchestra (3:10)
  16. 16 Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night of the Week) - Frank Sinatra (2:42)
  17. 17 Paper Doll - The Mills Brothers (2:36)
  18. 18 Long Ago and Far Away - Frank Sinatra (2:42)
  19. 19 Sentimental Journey - Les Brown & His Orchestra (3:50)
  20. 20 Waiting for the Train to Come In - Harry James & His Orchestra (3:06)
Disc 3
  1. 1 C Jam Blues - Duke Ellington's Famous Orchestra (2:38)
  2. 2 Frenesi - Artie Shaw & His Orchestra (3:03)
  3. 3 In the Mood - The Glenn Miller Orchestra (3:34)
  4. 4 Let Me off Uptown - Gene Krupa & His Orchestra (3:04)
  5. 5 Taxi War Dance - Count Basie Orchestra (2:50)
  6. 6 The Sheik of Araby - Coleman Hawkins All Stars (2:58)
  7. 7 Pistol Packin' Mama - Al Dexter and His Troopers (2:48)
  8. 8 American Patrol - The Glenn Miller Orchestra (3:19)
  9. 9 For the Good of Your Country - Count Basie Orchestra (3:15)
  10. 10 Cherokee - Charlie Barnet & His Orchestra (3:15)
  11. 11 Rose Room - Benny Goodman Sextet (2:49)
  12. 12 Opus #1 - Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra (2:56)
  13. 13 I'm Beginning to See the Light - Harry James & His Orchestra (3:13)
  14. 14 Tuxedo Junction - Erskine Hawkins & His Orchestra (3:17)
  15. 15 One O'Clock Jump - Count Basie Orchestra (3:04)
  16. 16 I'm Confessin' - Artie Shaw & His Orchestra (3:23)
  17. 17 (I've Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo - The Glenn Miller Orchestra (3:16)
  18. 18 Boogie Woogie - Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra (3:11)
  19. 19 'Tain't What You Do (It's the Way That You Do It) - Jimmie Lunceford & His Orchestra (3:01)
  20. 20 Sing, Sing, Sing - Benny Goodman & His Orchestra (8:39)
Disc 4
  1. 1 The Death of Falstaff - London Philharmonic Orchestra (3:38)
  2. 2 Adagio, Ma Non Troppo - Kurt Masur (12:35)
  3. 3 Concerto for Clarinet, Strings, Harp and Piano - Columbia Symphony Orchestra (16:57)
  4. 4 Lamento. Adagio [from Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano, "Hommage à Brahm - Marie-Luise Neunecker (7:33)
  5. 5 Élégie, Op. 24 - Pascal Devoyon (7:00)
  6. 6 Nuages Gris - Barry Douglas (2:12)
  7. 7 Quartet for the End of Time (Third Movement) - Tashi (7:43)
  8. 8 Grovers Corners - New Philharmonic Orchestra (3:12)
  9. 9 Songs Without Words - Emanuel Ax (4:08)
  10. 10 Nimrod - London Philharmonic Orchestra (5:06)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
Ken Burns Indexed Contributor
Aaron Copland Conductor
Sam Bush Mandolin
Edgar Meyer Bass
Richard Stoltzman Clarinet
Bing Crosby Vocals
Doris Day Vocals
Peggy Lee Vocals
Frank Sinatra Vocals
Les Paul Guitar
Buster Bailey Clarinet
Count Basie Piano, Leader
Cab Calloway Vocals
Charlie Christian Electric Guitar
Buck Clayton Trumpet
Bill Coleman Trumpet
Billy Eckstine Vocals
Harry "Sweets" Edison Trumpet
Benny Goodman Clarinet
Freddie Green Guitar
Lionel Hampton Vibes
Earl Hines Piano
Johnny Hodges Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone
Harry James Trumpet
Jo Jones Drums
Jonah Jones Trumpet
John Kirby Bass
Billy May Trumpet
Mel Powell Piano
Max Roach Drums
Artie Shaw Clarinet
Tab Smith Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone
Buddy Tate Tenor Saxophone
Ben Webster Tenor Saxophone
Teddy Wilson Piano
Cootie Williams Trumpet
Cozy Cole Drums
Johnny Guarnieri Piano
Herb Jeffries Vocals
Jack Jenney Trombone
Al Klink Tenor Saxophone
Lou McGarity Trombone
Johnny Mince Clarinet
Oscar Moore Guitar
Vido Musso Tenor Saxophone
Gene Rodgers Piano
Yo-Yo Ma Cello, Soloist
Dick Haymes Vocals
The Modernaires Vocals
Coleman Hawkins Tenor Saxophone
Kitty Kallen Vocals
John Mills Sr. Vocals
Al Dexter Vocals
Anita O'Day Vocals
Trummy Young Vocals
Wellman Braud Bass
Sonny Greer Drums
Walter Page Bass
Joshua Bell Violin
Leonard Slatkin Conductor
Louis Armstrong Trumpet, Vocals
Georgie Auld Tenor Saxophone
Tex Beneke Tenor Saxophone, Vocals
Benny Carter Alto Saxophone
Artie Bernstein Bass
Barney Bigard Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone
Billie Holiday Vocals
Don Byas Tenor Saxophone
Harry Carney Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone
Bill Charlap Piano
Nat King Cole Piano, Vocals
Ralph Collier Drums
Ed Cuffee Trombone
Tommy Dorsey Trombone
Duke Ellington Piano, Leader
Nick Fatool Drums
Jackie Fields Alto Saxophone
Victor Goines Saxophone
Fred Guy Guitar
Joe Guy Trumpet
Earl Hardy Trombone
Arthur Herbert Drums
Ida Kavafian Violin
Al Killian Trumpet
London Philharmonic Orchestra Track Performer
Wynton Marsalis Trumpet
Mike Marshall Guitar
Glenn Miller Trombone
Johnny Miller Bass
Donald Mills Vocals
Harry Mills Vocals
Herbert Mills Vocals
Eustis Moore Alto Saxophone
Tommy Morgan Electric Guitar
Joe "Tricky Sam" Nanton Trombone
Allan Reuss Guitar
Eli Robinson Trombone
Fred Sherry Cello
Axel Stordahl Conductor
Juan Tizol Valve Trombone
Jack Washington Baritone Saxophone
Sid Weiss Bass
Arthur Whetsol Trumpet
Edward Aaron Cello
Dale McMickle Trumpet
Peter Serkin Piano
Billy Taylor Jr. Bass
Tommy Lindsay Trumpet
Todd Reynolds Violin
Mark OConner Violin
Ed Lewis Trumpet
Otto Hardwick Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Bass Saxophone
Kurt Masur Conductor
Laura Newell Harp
Kayhan Kalhor Kamanche
William Oscar Smith Guitar
Emanuel Ax Piano
Abba Bogin Piano
Colin Jacobsen Violin
Carlos Henríquez Bass
Leo Suzuki Viola
Barry Douglas Piano
Norah Jones Piano, Vocals
Amanda Forsyth Cello
Siamak Aghaei Santur
Nick Cords Viola
Sandeep Das Tabla
Doug Wamble Guitar
Ali Muhammed Jackson Drums
Lawrence D. Brown Trombone
Chief Justice Earl Warren Alto Saxophone
Steven Isserlis Cello
Ken Starr Vocals
Robert Bruce Scott Trombone
Pascal Devoyon Piano
Saschko Gawriloff Violin
Siamak Jahangiri Ney
Kalle Randalu Piano
Marie-Luise Neunecker French Horn
Technical Credits
Aaron Copland Composer
Edward Elgar Composer
Franz Liszt Composer
William Walton Composer
Olivier Messiaen Composer
Louis Prima Composer
Cat Stevens Composer
Steven Berkowitz Producer
Ken Burns Producer, Liner Notes
Bill Finegan Arranger
Jerry Gray Arranger
Wynton Marsalis Arranger, Composer
Delfeayo Marsalis Producer
J.P. Johnson Composer
David Foil Producer
Howard Fritzson Art Direction
Tom Schick Engineer
Lynn Novick Producer
Duncan Allardyce Producer
David Lai Mastering
Lee Alexander Producer
Sarah Bolstein Producer
Sam Hynes Author
James P. Nichols Engineer
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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2012

    A wonderful collection of the music that accompanied the series! Excellent product at a very affordable price!

    Would recommend this to anyone who appreciates and enjoys the music from the War years of 1941-1945. It compliments the series beautifully as well as serving as an excellent collection of the most well-known songs of this epic period! I also enjoyed getting to know some others as well as artists I had not known before. Perhaps, this was especially close to me, as my father fought at Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. He would never talk about it. I now know why...

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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