American Spirit

Mannheim Steamroller / C.W. McCall

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American Spirit Review

by Aaron Latham

American flag-waving hit a fever pitch following the events of 9/11, and along with it came a flood of Americana-related merchandise and music that utilized the Stars & Stripes in just about every way imaginable. As this patriotic sentiment was still riding high on amber waves of grain, Chip Davis chose to exhibit his American Spirit from atop his famous Mannheim Steamroller. Not unlike most superstar acts, Mannheim Steamroller has become more of a corporation than a musical entity with recent discs and related products that seem to focus more on theme and sales rather than the intricate and fascinating sounds of the early Fresh Aire and Christmas series. American Spirit feels like such a product and less like the musical reflection of "what it means to be an American," as Davis has quoted on his website; however, it should be noted that it is the American way to commercialize and overtly promote one's product, and to that end, American Spirit is an excellent disc. Popular American songs, sentimental spoken word recitations, and even a couple of old hit songs are all tied together with a big red, white, and blue bow to craft a perfect patriotic gift. Unfortunately, when this package is unwrapped it reveals a lackluster and uninspired musical tribute to the American Spirit. Several of the songs are either re-recorded or taken directly from previous releases, like the track "Yellowstone Morning," here celebrating its third incarnation; or the mystifying inclusion of "Convoy" and "Wolf Creek Pass," Davis' early hit collaborations with Bill Fries (aka C.W. McCall), that seem more like an attempt to pad the disc rather than create new Steamroller-ish arrangements for real America-themed songs. In fact, the Davis original "Mt. McKinley" is one of the few tracks that feature the signature Mannheim synthesizer/orchestral sound. Most songs employ a traditional orchestra and choir that perform pleasant but nondescript readings of songs like "America the Beautiful" and Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man," both of which could have benefited from an inventive Davis/Mannheim arrangement. Had Davis retained the winning Mannheim formula and applied it to a set of patriotic standards, American Spirit might have been a disc that garnered attention and adoration like the original 1984 Christmas disc. Instead, Davis offers a product that will make a nice addition to any corporate gift basket along with some processed food product, of which neither one is fully consumed and eventually thrown away.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 C.W. McCall / Mannheim Steamroller 02:41 SpotifyAmazon
2 C.W. McCall / Mannheim Steamroller 02:38 SpotifyAmazon
3 C.W. McCall / Mannheim Steamroller 03:44 SpotifyAmazon
4 C.W. McCall / Mannheim Steamroller 03:53 SpotifyAmazon
5 C.W. McCall / Mannheim Steamroller 03:48 SpotifyAmazon
6 C.W. McCall / Mannheim Steamroller 02:53 SpotifyAmazon
7 C.W. McCall / Mannheim Steamroller 04:40 SpotifyAmazon
8 C.W. McCall / Mannheim Steamroller 04:02 SpotifyAmazon
9 C.W. McCall / Mannheim Steamroller 04:18 SpotifyAmazon
10 C.W. McCall / Mannheim Steamroller 02:54 SpotifyAmazon
Grand Canyon Suite, for orchestra
11 C.W. McCall / Mannheim Steamroller 09:31 SpotifyAmazon
12 C.W. McCall / Mannheim Steamroller 04:49 SpotifyAmazon
13 C.W. McCall / Mannheim Steamroller 04:45 SpotifyAmazon
blue highlight denotes track pick