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The Long Road to Freedom: An Anthology of Black Music Box set, Original recording remastered

4.9 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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Decades after its conception, Harry Belafonte's enormously ambitious project has come to a rewarding fruition with the release of this lovingly produced and beautifully packaged collection. Between 1961 and 1971, Belafonte sought to create a comprehensive document of what he calls "African-matrixed music": "African rooted, Africa as origin, evolved from an original African form." The rough timeframe Belafonte follows begins with the arrival of blacks in America in the early 17th century and ends at the dawn of the recording age. Yet this five-disc set (with a bonus "making of" DVD) amounts to so much more than a musical history; it is, instead, a detailed sociopolitical history of the people who created this music and a journey following the evolution of black culture from the time that the diaspora left Africa for the New World.

Disc 1 offers tribal chants, shouts, and spirituals while the second disc explores the slavery era through the Civil War. Disc 3 looks at postwar sounds both urban and rural while the fourth disc crosses into the next century as the street cries and mountain hollers morph into folk ballads, gritty blues, and minstrel shows--the roots of popular music as we know it today. The final disc includes songs of work and songs of worship, the practical tools of survival for African Americans in troubled times. The sounds found across these discs are faithful re-creations featuring a large cast that includes the likes of Belafonte, Bessie Jones, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, and Joe Williams. The lovely 140-page hardbound book includes extensive notes and provocative essays, as well as stunning photos plus artwork by Charles White. To be sure, this is not easy listening and those looking for your basic "roots music" collection will be disappointed. Rather, this is really a fascinating exploration of the roots of roots music. --Marc Greilsamer

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Ose Yie (Ashanti War Chant) - Asafoiatse Nettey
  2. Sakadougou (Maninka Ballad) - Kandia
  3. Ake (Yoruba Work Chant)
  4. Kufidi M'Pala Bituta (Baluba) - Toko Mzobe
  5. Ayilongo (Ghenya Boatmen) - Emanuel N'Suba
  6. Oba Oba (Homage to a King)
  7. Oaikoi (Harvest Ceremony)
  8. Agiee Tatatale (Ga Play Song) - Betty Clotty and the African Children's Chorus
  9. Aja Aja O (Yoruba Fable) - Betty Clotty and the African Children's Chorus
  10. Falle-well Shisha Maley (Transitional Hymn)
  11. Amazing Grace - Bessie Jones, Sorrell Booke
  12. How Do You Do Ev'rybody? (Greeting Shout) - Ella Jenkins, Nannie McNeil
  13. O, Lord, I'm Waitin' On You (Spiritual) - Valentine Pringle
  14. Prayer (Spiritual) - Bessie Jones
  15. Kneebone Bend (Prayer Shout) - Bessie Jones
  16. Hark 'E Angel (Watcher's Shout) - Harry Belafonte
  17. Yonder Comes Day (New Year Shout) - Bessie Jones
  18. Goodbye Ev'rybody (Farewell Shout) - Valentine Pringle

Disc: 2

  1. Tombeau, Tombeau
  2. Je M'en Vais Finir Mes Jours ("Madelaine" song)
  3. Dans Un Brigatoire
  4. Pour la Belle Layotte - William "Billy" Eaton
  5. Fomme la Dit, Mo Malheure
  6. Miche Banjo (Bamboula) - Robert Henson
  7. Good Mornin', Good Mornin' ("John Canoe" processional) - J. Hamilton Grandison
  8. All Roun' de Glory Manger - Ezerlene Jenkins, Joe Crofford
  9. Mary, What You Call Yo' Baby? - Carrie Suter
  10. Wonderful Councillor - Harry Belafonte
  11. Follow The Drinking Gourd - Leon Bibb
  12. Steal Away To Jesus
  13. Meetin' Here Tonight - Joe Crofford
  14. Many Thousan' Gone
  15. The Colored Volunteer - Harry Belafonte
  16. We Look Like Men of War - Earl Baker, Milt Grayson
  17. Song Of The First Arkansas Volunteers (Glory Hallelujah) - Harry Belafonte
  18. Free At Las' - Joe Crofford

Disc: 3

  1. Ol' Lady From Brewster (Children's Song)
  2. Hallie, Come On! (Woman's Field Holler) - Miriam Burton
  3. Run Squirrel, Whoa Mule (Game Song) - Thelma Drayton
  4. Fox Chase (Mouth Organ) - Sonny Terry, Brownie McGee
  5. Chickens Done Crowed (Sunrise Holler) - Valentine Pringle
  6. 'Way Go Lily (Children's Song)
  7. Shine On (Graveyard Holler) - Ned Wright
  8. Grey Goose (Ballad) - Bessie Jones
  9. Pick A Bale O' Cotton (Hoe Down) - Sonny Terry, Brownie McGee
  10. Li'l Gal, Li'l Gal (Game Song) - Bessie Jones
  11. Go To Sleepy (Lullaby) - Harry Belafonte
  12. I Got 'Em (Street Cry) - Valentine Pringle
  13. Hambone, Hambone (Children's Pattin') - Tyrone Cooper
  14. Watermelon Man (Blues) - Ned Wright
  15. Fare Thee Well, Oh Honey (Blues) - Gloria Lynne
  16. Blackberry Woman (Street Cry) - Lillian Hayman
  17. Easy Rider Blues (Blues) - Joe Williams
  18. Oh, Johnny Brown (Ring Game) - Sharon G. Williams
  19. I Got 'Em (Street Cry) - Valentine Pringle
  20. Black Woman (Blues) - Brownie McGee
  21. Watermelon Man (Street Cry) - Ned Wright

Disc: 4

  1. Let The Deal Go Down - Godfrey Cambridge, Joe Crofford, Brownie McGee
  2. Betty and Dupree - Joe Williams
  3. Eas' Man - Leon Bibb
  4. John Henry - Valentine Pringle
  5. Boll Weevil - Harry Belafonte, Al Shackman
  6. Stagolee - Cortez Franklin, Lennie Pogan
  7. Joe Turner Blues - Gloria Lynne, Herman Foster
  8. Honey Take A Whiff On Me - Ben Carter, Lennie Pogan
  9. Go 'Long Muley
  10. My Baby In A Guinea Blue Gown
  11. Dat Liar - Milton Grayson
  12. Finale

Disc: 5

  1. Ho Boys Cancha Line 'Em? - Valentine Pringle
  2. Good Ir'n - Harry Belafonte
  3. Go On Ol' Gator
  4. Doncha Hear Yo' Po' Mother Callin'?
  5. River Sounding Chant - Charles Colman, William Eaton
  6. Nobody's Business Lord But Mine - Harry Belafonte
  7. My God Is A Rock - Harry Belafonte
  8. We Are Climbin' Jacob's Ladder
  9. I Am So Glad - Harry Belafonte
  10. I'll Never Turn Back, No Mo' (and excerpt from Dr. King speech) - Irving Barnes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  11. Lord, I Don't Feel Noways Tired - Howard Roberts


Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 11, 2001)
  • Includes 5 CDs & 1 DVD edition
  • Number of Discs: 5
  • Format: Box set, Original recording remastered
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: Buddha
  • ASIN: B00005NCRC
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,610 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Fred McGhee on March 4, 2002
Format: Audio CD
Job well done. The scope of this music is as comprehensive as anything out there. One of the great things about this collection is that it is broad in scope yet surprisingly accessible. These CD's are great teaching tools, and are also surprisingly ENTERTAINING at the same time. In that regard alone they are a wonderful testament of and to the Black experience. But they are far more than just this. The engineers working on this record also did a terrific job; the sound quality is exceptional... You will be challenged, educated, excited, entertained, enriched, and uplifted by these amazing and stirring songs.
No, these are not the Lomax field recordings. If you read the book accompanying the five CD's you'll find out why these recordings weren't done in the field. I'm glad they made the decision that they did; for the most part they brought the field into the (now historic) studio.
These songs will make Black people immensely proud of their heritage, and will give others a fine appreciation of the Black experience in America and elsewhere...
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Format: Audio CD
What a gift this is to all of us! Researched and recorded between 1961 and 1971, this collection traces the
history of black music from the late 1600's to the 20th Century. It covers the roots of African music,
chants, shouts and early spirituals, Louisiana Creole music and a re-creation of a slave Christmas, songs
from the Underground Railroad and Civil War era, rural and urban roots music, game and children's
songs, work songs, minstrel songs...you name it, it's here.
As one who has spent innumerable hours straining to decipher old recordings, I must say that
Belafonte and crew have done a fantastic job of bringing the music to life, creating a sound that is both
satisfying to the modern ear, yet authentic and respectful to the original material. (The music has NOT, for
example, been modernized stylistically. Hurrah for that!) Belafonte simply captured in a modern era what
might have been captured in, say, 1866 had modern recording equipment been available.
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Format: Audio CD
The packaging of this set is absolutely top notch. The highest quality materials were used in its construction and the book is superb.
However, from a musical standpoint, I found it very hard to listen to (and I am quite open minded, musically; a big fan of "the Anthology of American Folk Music").
I had expected much more rootsy music...field recordings and the like ala Lomax. However, all of the music on these dics was recorded by Belafonte in a studio in New York and involves many religeous chants, work hollers and childrens songs. A good deal of this set is simply sung a cappella. The selections that I enjoyed most are the ones that have some instrumentaion (mostly drums and hand clapping). There are a few numbers that have additional instrumentation as well.
Overall, while I feel it is worth owning as a historical multimedia document of the black experience in America, I know I will listen to it seldom, if at all, because you REALLY have to be in the mood for it.
If you are looking for a more accessable documentation of black music, I would recommend that you look at a collection called "Sounds of the South" which has a lot of great field recordings made by Alan Lomax.
The overall effect of "The Long Road to Freedom" is like walking through a slavery exhibit at a museum...educational and interesting, but ultimately, in my opinion, not overly satisfying from a musical standpoint.
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Format: Audio CD
My boyfriend gave me this collection last year. He's a musicanwith a deep love of all roots music. I'm black; he's white. We listened to this together and we both found it to be a revelation.

If you are looking for field recordings, this is not the collection for you. The sound is not quaint and tinny (although I love those recordings too). Instead, this is a collection that shows how 'black' music (that is, music from the African Diaspora to America) changed and grew over time, and produced sounds that we still hear today. The selection ranges from Louisiana Creole (the ancestor to today's Zydeco) to Civil War tunes (contrary to the information you'll find on the web and other places, not all black Civil War music was in dialect, and the marching songs are rousing in their patriotism and pride), to good-time music (the ancestor to hip-hop, R&B, and modern pop). The most disturbing piece is the slave sermon, which should probably be played in every classroom in America during discussions of the Revolutionary War, which is followed by a worship service similar to the types held by slaves in private, and acts as a good counterbalance to the prior piece.

My boyfriend and I found ourselves bonding over the Civil War music, as he is an avid bagpiper and very much into Celtic culture. We talked about the roles of Irish and black soldiers in the Civil War and what they had in common in terms of not being viewed as human by most of society. We also enjoyed hearing people like Brownie Magee, not on a fuzzy old recording, but in a living, vibrant fashion.

People who think that 'black music' is only for black people must also think only Italians should listen to opera and that Jimi Hendrix wasn't really a rock musician.
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