This gloriously eclectic soundtrack to For Love of Liberty: The Story of America's Black Patriots, which originally ran on PBS in February 2010 as part of the network's Black History Month programming, helps add texture and context to a comprehensive depiction of the heroic actions of black men and women in America's armed services. The film itself was a large, celebrity-rich undertaking, featuring Halle Berry as the host, narration by Avery Brooks, and even an intro by Colin Powell -- plus voice-over readings by everyone from Morgan Freeman and Susan Sarandon to Donald Sutherland and Louis Gossett, Jr. The soundtrack, which deservedly won the 2010 Gold Medal for Excellence in Film Music at the Park City Music and Film Festival, presents 17 pieces taken from the uniquely patched score, which fascinates endlessly with its colorful combination of instrumental passages and vintage and contemporary vocal performances. Black history and gospel music go hand in hand, so it's not surprising that the most memorable tracks are rousing, inspirational takes on "The Minstrel Boy" and "O Holy Night," featuring the Andraé Crouch Choir. The journey is rich and must be heard all the way through -- or better yet, experienced while watching the film itself, but a few individual tracks bear mention, including Billie Holiday's original heartbreaker "Strange Fruit," which is bookended with Lawrence Brown's melancholy "Desperate Times" to illustrate the human rights violations black pats overcame; Brown is the composer of the film's overall score, too. Also unique is rising opera star Amber Mercomes' "Pie Jesu" (from Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Requiem") and Oren Waters' blues/gospel turn on the longing holiday classic "I'll Be Home for Christmas." For the most part, the soundtrack is purposely driven by African-American artists performing tunes most often identified with white artists, which helps the viewer/listener realize that the sacrifices made in American wars were not limited by race. This is a truly incredible musical document to accompany a powerful film that should be seen by more people.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran