Songs of the Soldier is one of those releases that repays close attention to the cover art -- the general title and the subtitle "26 Time Honored Classics" might well suggest an album of patriotic songs, but it's actually quite something else again. There is indeed a segment of "Classic Army" songs at the end, including "Yankee Doodle" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," but even here there are surprises -- "Auld Lang Syne," and the Korean folk song Arirang, which the expanded online booklet notes explain was taught to many American GIs during the Korean War. The rest of the music is for the most part much less well known; most of it is associated not just with a specific branch but with a specific subdivision (the Mechanized March, track 8, with mechanized brigades, for example). A few pieces, like Meredith Willson's Tropic Lightning, track 10, were written by professional composers, but most were the products of uniformed personnel themselves. The songs on this disc almost represent a kind of folk music, with unusual images, a fair proportion of interservice rivalry, and a good deal of humor in places (listen to Dogface Soldier, reputedly a favorite of Dwight D. Eisenhower). The atmosphere of the performance, too, is nonprofessional although in no way amateurish. The music is accompanied by one or two pianos, giving it a service-academy auditorium atmosphere -- but the vocal blend of the all-male group is clean and warm. The only complaints, really, are documentary; on a disc with the stated intention of benefiting the Army Historical Foundation, it would have been nice to have more information about the origins of the individual songs. Even the online version of the notes is sparse. Nevertheless, this disc should find an audience well beyond collectors of military memorabilia.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
The Battle Hymn of the Republic ("Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory," words by Julia Ward Howe; music attributed to Steffe)