Musical Score By: Quincy Jones, Jr.
Distributed by: Varese Sarabande Records
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Last year, I watched a DVD commemorative set of a dramatic miniseries I remembered watching as a child - Roots. Spanning generations, the Roots television miniseries was based upon Alex Haley's book about his ancestors beginning with the Mandinka warrior Kunta Kinte and ending with his grandson and great-grandchildren. The series was impactful and controversial as the first of its kind to show the atrocities of slavery. A remake of the series was just recently aired on the History Channel, A&E and Lifetime.
I haven't seen the remake - there are some projects that are so dramatic, so impactful, as to never need to be remade - but I still hold the original Roots in very high resolve and plan to re-watch the Roots sequels (Roots The Next Generations and Alex Haley's Queen) soon. In the meantime, I can relive the Roots experience through Varese Sarabande Records' re-release of the Roots Soundtrack, featuring musical score by Quincy Jones, Jr., a musician, conductor, arranger, music producer, television producer and composer considered to be one of the greatest minds in music and television history. In addition to the music he performed on the trumpet while on tour and the music he would produce for artists like Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Jr. is also known for the musical scores he created for such well-known films and television series as In Cold Blood, In the Heat of the Night, Ironside, Sanford and Son and The Color Purple.
In the liner notes included with the Roots Soundtrack, Quincy Jones, Jr. talks about how he first became involved with the project: "Iím so thrilled to know that the Roots soundtrack is being relaunched for our younger generations to have the opportunity to learn about the evolution of black American music from its African origins to the late twentieth century. I got involved in the early stages of the project back in 1976 because I was passionate about educating listeners on the essence of what African music was truly about. I felt that America did not have a true understanding of the ramifications that the Trans-Atlantic slave trade had on music as a whole, and sadly I believe we still do not have an understanding of it to this day; as such, the words I wrote in the 1977 liner notes are as pertinent today as they were back then, and it brings me great pleasure to be able to share the message with a new audience."
As I listened to the Roots Soundtrack, I instantly pictured a variety of scenes from the miniseries, so memorable was the music created by Quincy Jones, Jr. All of the music on the album was performed by the Quincy Jones Orchestra, which featured woodwinds, brass and strings in addition to a banjo, electric and acoustic bass and harps. Often times, the orchestra was accompanied by The Wattsline Choir, other times by solo singers like Letta Mbulu. The music was incredibly dramatic and offered up an exotic sound, reminding viewers where Kunta Kinte came from. My favorite tracks were the gospel songs What Shall I Do (Hush Hush Somebody's Calling My Name) and Oh Lord Come By Here, but each and every track was as enjoyable as the last, perfectly describing Kunta Kinte and his family's journey.
The Roots Soundtrack was quite an enjoyable listening experience. I am incredibly happy that Varese Sarabande Records decided to re-release the album and recommend it to fans of the original miniseries and those who have never seen the miniseries as an incentive to watch it.