America's Musical Journey Director: Greg MacGillivray Narrated by: Morgan Freeman Cast: Jonathan Batiste, Aloe Blacc, Lil Buck Showing: IMAX until October 3 Rating: ★★★½
By SAM BARSON
America, a defining hotpot of cultural diversity and creative expression, has been responsible for producing some of the world’s most successful musicians.
In Greg MacGillivray’s epic IMAX adventure, singer-songwriter Aloe Blacc takes audiences on a guided tour through America’s rich musical history.
The audience, guided by an endearing and charismatic Blacc, moves through the iconic cityscapes of New Orleans, Chicago, New York City, Nashville, Memphis, Miami and more.
The tour is visually striking, and the musical checkpoints the audience find themselves at, as each destination is reached, are familiar and enjoyable to the ear.
MacGillivray and Blacc do a splendid job of providing audiences with samples of popular music to bop along to in their seats, as well as informing them of the historical and social contexts that shape America’s music history that are perhaps less well known.
It’s a journey that is appropriately balanced between the performative style of a musical film and the educational style of a documentary.
The journey’s cornerstone is the life of Louis Armstrong, who Blacc, as an African-American musician himself, is particularly inspired by.
Armstrong’s story of immigration, oppression and subsequent success is the narrative that remains closest in our minds even after we meet the likes of Elvis in Graceland and joyfully dance down the streets of Latin-infused Miami.
The positivity that comes from Armstrong’s story weds itself with what this documentary is ultimately about: a celebration of the country’s diversity.
Considering America’s dark past of racial tension and segregation, this documentary makes it feel almost necessary to celebrate the country’s joys and unity in the best way it knows how, through music.
It is a shame however, that this celebration was so rushed. With the documentary sitting at a running time of just over 40 minutes, there were certain moments that left you feeling unsatisfied and yearning for more. A shame, considering this is a historical journey that deserves to be told properly.
America’s Musical Journey is a treat to both the eyes and ears, a fun homage to an incredibly important part of musical history. A must-see for any lover of music.