New York, NY (Top40 Charts)
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at Bear Family Records have assembled an impressive four-CD anthology that is part '50s American soundtrack and part historical document, representing the most comprehensive examination ever assembled of songs inspired by the Korean War.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.
The 121 tracks on these four discs incorporate a full range of American styles — country, blues, pop, folk, bluegrass, and gospel — and features big-time acts covering all of these genres. The selections include country stars like Ernest Tubb, Gene Autry, Jean Shepherd, Tex Ritter, Red Foley, and Merle Travis
as well as blues legends John Lee Hooker, Lightnin' Hopkins, Big Boy Crudup, and Jimmy Witherspoon. There are songs by Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Fats Domino, Lloyd
Price, Dave Bartholomew, and 2018 inductee Sister Rosetta Tharpe, with Delmore Brothers, Louvin Brothers, Jim & Jesse, and (individually) the Osborne Brothers
among the bluegrass luminaries in this collection. ]
Each of the Battleground Korea's four discs is organized around a different theme, essentially taking a chronological look at the war. CD 1's songs are about "Going to War," while CD 2 deals with being "In Korea." "On the Homefront" is CD 3's focus and CD 4 explores "Peace and Its Legacies." One of the well-thought-out aspects of this compilation is that Bear Family created several short narrative-style song-cycles throughout. The "On the Homefront" CD, for example, has "A Dear John Letter," followed by "John's Reply," "Dear Joan" and "Forgive Me John." Another set of songs goes from "Please Daddy, Don't Go to War" to "Why Does the Army Need My Daddy," "God Bless My Daddy" and "Don't Steal Daddy's Medal." The "Peace and its Legacies" disc, meanwhile, strings together a run of tunes that starts with "Leavin' Korea" and ends with "Back Home."
This anthology also does a clever job of pairing songs. Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup's "The War Is Over" is followed by Lightnin' Hopkins' "The War Is Over. B.B. King's "Questionnaire Blues" precedes John Lee Hooker's version. CD 1, in fact, contains renditions of "Korea Blues" done by Fats Domino, Clifford Blivens with the Johnny Otis Band, and Willie Brown. Bear Family obviously dug deep to discover tunes for this set, and certainly came up with some interesting obscurities. Where else can you hear Hank Harral and His Palomino Cowhands do "When They Raised the UN Flag In South Korea," Cactus Pryor and his Pricklypears' tune "(In Again, Out Again) Packing Up My Barracks Bags Blues," and "When They Drop the Atomic Bomb" from Jackie Doll and his Pickled Peppers?
There is much more to Battleground Korea, however, than just the songs; archival non-musical material is woven in throughout. You will hear from General Douglas
MacArthur as well as excerpts of speeches by presidents Truman and Eisenhower. There are field reports from war correspondents and public service announcements from Vic Damone and even Howdy Doody.
The box also comes with a 160-page, full-color hardcover book, with liner notes from music scholar Hugo A. Keesing detailing background information on every song and recording artist. Fully illustrated, the book also is packed with vintage photographs, flyers, advertisements, record covers, magazines, and other period memorabilia. Special chapters include an interview with country singer Frankie Miller about his time in Korea, a nine-page section with some rare photographs of Marilyn Monroe's visit with the U.S. troops, and a history of the Korean War.
Battleground Korea arrives at a timely moment, with Korea a frequent subject in the news and the U.S. government having a particularly fraught relationship with North Korea. This highly relevant box set provides a compelling collection of period music and historical perspective into the sights and sounds of America's forgotten war.
Track listing here: https://thekoreaprojectblog.wordpress.com/2017/05/06/tracklisting/