Equal parts propaganda and patriotism, romance and realism, drama and comic relief, celebration and devastation, the songs on Battleground Korea illuminate a war that need not be forgotten. So does the 160-page book which impresses in every way. Between its covers, one will find not only track-by-track liner notes detailing facts about the most obscure of artists, but also essays, photo scrapbooks, complete lyrics, and appendices. Penned by Hugo Keesing with Bill Geerhart, and chockablock with memorabilia and illustrations, it’s a stunning and compelling reference book. The four compact discs are housed on spindles within. Christian Zwarg has remastered the material here under the supervision of producers Keesing and Geerhart and executive producer (and Bear Family founder) Richard Weize.
The hardcover book features several in-depth essays that help place the Korean War in context, as well as set the scene for music’s relationship with the war. Detailed biographical and background essays are provided for every recording, and – since the subject matter is at the heart of the collection – printed lyrics are provided for all of the songs.
The book also features a staggering collection of photos – quite a few in color – that provide added dimension to the narrative. As historical releases go, Battleground Korea establishes a nearly impossibly high standard. For those interested in digging into the Korean War from a rarely-approached historical angle, this boxed set is just the ticket. Recalling George Santayana’s aphorism about not learning the lessons of the past, and with the Korean peninsula (and the American government’s perspective on it) currently back in the news, there’s no better time.
The 'Songs And Sounds Of America's Forgotten War' on 4-CDs plus book. Following 2010's Next Stop Is Vietnam, compiler Hugo Keesing turns his forensic attention to documenting the often-overlooked Korean conflict that started in June 1950 and ended three years later.
World War II produced its own trove of hit songs, including "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else but Me)," "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas." And who can think of the Vietnam War without summoning memories of Barry Sadler's "The Ballad of the Green Berets," Pete Seeger's "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy," the Doors' apocalyptic "The End" or Country Joe & the Fish's "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag." The Korean War, however, is something of an anomaly in that regard, one that is addressed in an expansive new four-CD box set, "Battleground Korea: Songs and Sounds of America's Forgotten War," just released by the wondrously obsessive German label Bear Family Records. About three years ago —long before Donald Trump was considered a serious candidate for president and well before his Twitter war with current North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un propelled the country back onto center stage of world affairs — coproducers Bill Geerhart and Hugo Keesing went to work on culling music of the Korean conflict.