By John J. Puccio
Here’s a rundown on the disc’s contents. You’ll recognize most of the names and many of the songs:
1. Karpman: “Brass Ceiling” (from The Journey of General Ann Dunwoody)
2. Steiner: Overture to Sergeant York
3. Giacchino: Medal of Honor Suite
4. Cohan: “Over There”
5. Moshier: A Portrait of Honor
6. Debeasi: American Sniper Suite
7. Williams: March (from 1941)
8. Beal: The Long Road Home
9. Goldsmith/Bernstein: The Great WWII Medley
10. Berlin: “Good Bless America”
11. Key: “The Star-Spangled Banner”
12. Isham: “Army Strong”
13. Williams: “The Jedi Steps” and “Finale” (from Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Next, a word about the band. According the album jacket, “The United States Army Field Band of Washington, DC is the U.S. Army’s premier touring musical organization, traveling throughout the country and internationally to connect the American people to their Army and to represent the nation around the world. At the heart of the Band’s mission is telling stories of service that honor veterans and remind people what makes America a country worth protecting.”
After listening to this album, I’d have to say that the Army Field Band is not only the Army's premier touring band, they are one of the best bands in the country. Their precision and execution are remarkable, and they produce a rich, robust sound in the military manner. Everything is as clean and sharply creased as a military officer’s uniform. What’s more, the leader, Col. Jim R. Keene, keeps things moving at a healthy clip. Admittedly, he may not be as flexible or imaginative as some better-known conductors, but this is military music, and Col. Keene ensures that it remains true to its source.
The rest of the music, though, fits the pattern of good, patriotic, militaristic tunes. The Overture to the movie Sergeant York has a pleasant, poignant, homey, classic-Hollywood feel to it. The Medal of Honor Suite is more theatrical than some of the others and more sedately somber. The George M. Cohan number “Over There” finds soloists Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Erbe and Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Garcia and the Soldiers’ Chorus in good voice. (We hear the chorus again in moving renditions of “God Bless America” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”)
And so it goes. The material is appropriate both for celebrating the American soldier and showcasing the talents of the Army Field Band. If any of these things appeal to you, the album makes an attractive proposition.
Producer Dan Merceruio and engineer Leslie Ann Jones recorded the music at Skywalker Sound, Marin County, California in October and November 2018. The album contains two discs: one a regular CD containing the songs in two-channel stereo and the other a Blu-ray containing the songs in two-channel stereo, 5.1 surround sound, and 5.1.4 channel Dolby Atmos. I listened and am reporting on the stereo CD.
Excellent clarity. Excellent depth of field. Excellent transient response. Yeah, mostly an excellent sounding album. There’s a lot of brass involved, so you can expect if your system favors the high midrange or treble at all it might seem a bit bright or forward. Mostly, however, the sound is realistic, miked at a moderate enough distance for lifelike reproduction. I’ve been on the main Skywalker soundstage several times, so I have some idea what things sound like in that big room, and this recording is about what I remember.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below: