Various Artists, “Battleground Korea (Songs and Sounds of America’s Forgotten War)” (Bear Family)
The obsessive Bear Family label in Germany earned a Grammy nomination earlier this month for best historical album for this intriguing and enlightening compilation, which brings together songs and excerpts of newscasts documenting the U.S.’ involvement in Korea in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The music here is less a collection of hits than songs that channeled the singers’ feelings about the conflict, many of them from African American blues musicians and white country singers from the South who disproportionately made up the ranks of the armed forces. Among the four-CD set’s 121 tracks, which retails for about $117, are recordings by Fats Domino, the Louvin Brothers, B.B. King, Gene Autry, Jean Shepard and many others who never achieved fame or fortune. (R.L.)
Overshadowed by World War II and Vietnam, the 1950-53 Korean War is often called the “Forgotten War.” The same could be said for much of the music it inspired.
Music historian Hugo Keesing and co-producer Bill Geerhart seek to change that with “Battleground Korea: Songs and Sounds of America’s Forgotten War.” More than three years in the making, the anthology’s release in May was timely as nuclear talks with North Korea have renewed interest in the Cold War conflict.
The effort paid off Friday with a Grammy nomination for best historical record. The awards will be announced in February.
BATTLEGROUND KOREA: SONGS AND SOUNDS OF AMERICA'S FORGOTTEN WAR 4CDs with hardcover book Bear Family BCD 17518
As the dedication for this fascinating collection puts it: "This anthology is for all the men and women whose service and sacri-fice in the Korean War were barely acknowledged and quickly forgotten. We hope that by preserving this music and history we have honored, in some small measure, those who served! With talk of an actual peace settlement, that would replace the "armistice" enacted in 1953, currently in the air diplomatically this legacy project also couldn't be more timely. Presented on four CD's accompanying a 160 page hardcover book illustrated with a variety of black & white and color archival photos and images (including a great ten page spread on Marilyn Monroe's 1954 visit to the troops), the resultant effect is a power-ful indictment of war in general to these draft-dodging ears. Over 100 country, blues, pop and gospel titles cover all the aspects of the war featur-ing charting artists like B.B. King, Fats Domino,
Jean Shepherd, Cecil Gant and the Louvin Brothers along with dozens of other musicians. Interspersed throughout the music is rarely heard documentary material including patriotic Public Service Announcements,
Kriegsnachrichten-Blues 4$ Eine neue CD-Box mit amerikanischen Propaganda-Songs aus dem Koreakrieg erinnert an weißen Antikommunismus, schwarze Melancholie und die Geburt des Protest
VON KLAUS WALTER
Am Sonntag, dem 25. Juni 1950 korea-nischer Zeit haben bewaffnete Trup-pen aus Nordkorea das Territorium der Republik Korea angegriffen," erklärt ein Sprecher der Vereinten Nationen, und so erfahren die meisten Amerikaner, was da los ist am anderen Ende der Welt. So beginnt der Koreakrieg und so be-ginnt „Battleground Korea", eine 4-CD-Box mit über 100 Songs und Tondokumen-ten. Das erste Lied zum Krieg lässt nicht lange auf sich warten. „Wir kämpfen bis wir sterben, Korea wir kommen", verkün-det im August 1950 ein gewisser Harry Choates aus dem texanischen Ort Corpus Cristi. Der Sänger wird nur 28 Jahre alt, er stirbt 1951, nicht im Krieg in Korea, son-dern im Gefängnis in Texas. Im Suff hatte der Alkoholiker seinen Kopf so lange gegen die Zellenwand geschlagen, bis er tot war.
VARIOUS ARTISTS Battleground Korea: Songs and Sounds of America's Forgotten War Bear Family Records - BCD1 751 8 The Korean War (1950-53) is often ad-dressed as the "forgotten war" (or "conflict"). largely because of its relatively indecisive end. Following closely after the war to end all wars." it concluded with an armistice that 65 years later remains fraught. demonstrated most recently through "denuclearization" efforts and insult battles that drew upon Elton John hits. Battleground Korea. which collects 121 tracks about the war, reveals that it was hardly "forgotten" during its time, and addresses a wide range of topics on the battlefield and the home front. The set is likewise catholic in drawing from multiple genres—about a quarter of the tracks here are blues/R&B/African American gospel. the majority are from a broad array of country styles, and these are complemented by mainstream pop songs.
Battleground Korea, the weighty four-CD box from Bear Family, bears the subtitle "Songs and Sounds of America's Forgotten War," an assessment equal parts true and false. Compared to the wars that surrounded it -- it happened five years after World War II and ended two years prior to the escalation of military activities in Vietnam -- the Korean War doesn't occupy much space in the American popular consciousness, but it did generate two enduring works of art: The Manchurian Candidate and the 1970 feature film M*A*S*H, along with its accompanying television series. Both The Manchurian Candidate and M*A*S*H were written after the conclusion of the Korean War, but the recordings on Battleground Korea -- mainly music, but there is also a wealth of newsreel footage -- differ because they were produced during the war. These aren't reflections, they're documents of how the country felt as the battle raged.
In the enclosed 168-page hard-cover book in LP format, all songs and artists are honoured in detail with their lyrics and bio-graphical facts. Countless photos of the war front in Korea document the dramatic deployment of the Allied troops. Posters and posters underline the patriotic madness of those days of war. Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe's late visit to the front in 1954 also enriches the visual component of this historically unique documentary by Bear Family. Willi Andresen
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.
New boxed set 'Battleground Korea' documents music from 'forgotten' war
There has never been a box set quite like Battleground Korea: Songs and Sounds of America’s Forgotten War, due out in the U.S. on March 23, 2018. The award-winning folks at Bear Family Records have assembled an impressive four-CD anthology that is part ’50s American soundtrack and part historical document, representing the most comprehensive examination ever assembled of songs inspired by the Korean War. While the music of the World War II and Vietnam War eras garnered a lot of attention, far less is known about the sounds of the Korea War period, even though it stands as a significant time in American society, from the post-WWII boom years to dawning of the ’60s.