Various Artists

America the Beautiful [Columbia]

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As patriotism peaked about a couple of years after George W. Bush took office, Columbia issued this collection of 13 patriotic songs, apparently selected from its catalog with all the imaginative attentiveness of an intern assignment. Certainly the songs include many of the most well-known patriotic standards: "The Star-Spangled Banner" (by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir), "Amazing Grace" (Tramaine Hawkins), "America the Beautiful" (Charlie Rich), "My Country 'Tis of Thee" (Mahalia Jackson), "Battle Hymn of the Republic" (the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, again), "Stars and Stripes Forever" (the New York Philharmonic), and "God Bless America" (by perhaps its most noted interpreter, Kate Smith). With the notable exception of Pete Seeger's cover of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," however, the performances veer toward the saccharine and maudlin. That's the case even for some tracks by great performers, such as Jackson, Rich, and Johnny Cash, the last of whom's represented by the unnotable "Ragged Old Flag" and "Song of the Patriot." Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." and a fragment of John Wayne's delivery of a Davy Crockett speech from the 1960 film The Alamo round out a disc so top-heavy with flag-waving bombast that it threatens to topple the CD player over.

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