This being an important film, this is not just a soundtrack it’s curated, by John Legend. So it’s surprising that he picks Hi-NRG disco as the soundtrack, a genre that’s the least suitable . . . only joking but he could have done, as this is an “audio companion” to the film, ie not actually music that you’ll hear in the soundtrack. It’s blues and gospel, re-recorded for the film, so it sounds pukka, though, as with all film soundtracks, it’s a mixed bag; quality, true, but mixed.
It opens with a bit of fiddle from Tim Fain (who crops up twice more on the album, with a blend of classical and dance violin), presumably the slaves having a dance before John Legend’s Roll Jordan Roll, bluesy gospel, shows them being soulful, resigned to their lot and hoping for better things in the hereafter. Legend’s other track Move is more modern, electric blues.Roll Jordan Roll also appears later as a spiritual, vocals and clapping only.
Gary Clarke Jr turns in a low-key Freight Train and an even lower key (In The Evening) When The Sun Goes Down (written by Lonnie Donegan, Trivial Pursuit fans).
Alabama Shakes’ Driva Man is stripped down and soulful blues, with a nice jazz sax solo, but so redolent of suffering it’s almost painful in itself. David Hughey and Roosevelt Credit’s My Lord Sunshine is a spiritual, complete with the rhythm of hard graft.
Alice Keys contributes Queen Of The Fields, the most modern sounding of the tracks, with the exception of Chris Cornell’s slightly-out-of-place Misery Chain, perhaps included to encourage rock fans (white males aged 20+) to go and see the film. Hans Zimmer provides the classical interludes.
As one Amazon wag notes, the album contains 9m 29s of music from the actual film and 32m 55s of other music, but for fans of the blues — those who like a curated selection, recorded by top people — it’s probably worth a listen.
For those who don’t know, 12 Years A Slave tells the true story of Solomun Northup, who found himself in slavery and separated from his family after a startling turn of events. The sad thing is that slavery is not of the past, and the CD also appeals for support for the anti-slavery campaign walkfree.org