The digital edition of The Apollo: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is released today (1 November) by Universal Music Group/Blue Note Records/Polygram Entertainment/UMe. The soundtrack appears just ahead of the broadcast premiere of the new HBO documentary on 6 November.
The new film, directed by the Oscar and Emmy-winning Roger Ross Williams, charts the unique history and modern-day cultural and musical legacy of the famous New York City venue the Apollo Theatre. The CD and 2LP vinyl editions of the soundtrack will follow on 20 December, with liner notes written by Williams.
The 32-cut soundtrack is produced by the music supervisors for the documentary, Grammy nominee Dondi Bastone and TunesMap founder G. Marq Roswell. It’s executive produced by Williams and White Horse Pictures CEO Nigel Sinclair and mastered by Ian Sefchick at Capitol Studios. The album highlights classic recordings by many of the storied artists who have played at the Apollo.
Featured artists and recordings include Charles Mingus’ ‘Take the ‘A’ Train,’ Ella Fitzgerald’s ‘How High The Moon,’ Billie Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit,’ Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ and James Brown’s Say It Loud-I’m Black and I’m Proud’ and ‘Lost Someone,’ from his first Live at the Apollo album of 1963, regularly regarded as one of the greatest of all live albums.
Such classics are interspersed with interview excerpts from the film from key participants in its story, alongside authors, artists, and community leaders who share their thoughts about the landmark location. There are brief clips from President Barack Obama (recorded at the Apollo in 2012), Angela Bassett, Pharrell Williams and others. Also part of the soundtrack is a new, original song, ‘Don’t Turn Back Now’ by five-time Grammy winner Robert Glasper with vocals by Ledisi, plus selections from Glasper’s original score for the film.
The documentary features remarkable archive clips of music, comedy and dance performances by an A-list of talents including James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Lauryn Hill and Richard Pryor. There’s behind-the-scenes verité footage of the team that runs the theatre, and interviews with Angela Bassett, Common, Jamie Foxx, Patti LaBelle, Smokey Robinson, Pharrell Williams and more.
The current state of race in America is also examined in the film, tracking the 2018 multimedia adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ bestselling book Between the World and Me as it comes together on the Apollo stage. Williams explores not only the struggle of black lives in America, but the role played by art in that struggle, and the Apollo’s continuing, essential role in that cultural conversation.
Several interviews on the album feature elements of Glasper’s original score, and the soundtrack also has score pieces by composer Todd Griffin in this context. They include an excerpt from the film that spotlights the stage adaptation of Coates’ Between the World and Me.