For both listening and educational purposes, Hail to the Chief is an excellent collection as it focuses intelligently on the relationship between the United States Marine Band and the presidency. The variety of pieces on this program relate historically to American presidents ranging from George Washington to Ronald Reagan, and by way of illustration brief excerpts from actual Inauguration Addresses of three presidents are included. There is one extraordinary new addition to the recorded repertoire, John Philip Sousa's President Garfield's Inaugural March, a mini-masterpiece running twice the length of the average Sousa march. Likewise included is a recording of Maple Leaf Rag made in 1906, and while we can assume it is by the United States Marine Band, neither this nor any of the leaders used on these recordings are specifically identified.
Hail to the Chief, the official march of the President of the United States, is usually rather difficult to find on a recording. A warning inside this disc goes to some extent to explain why. It reads "'Hail to the Chief' should only be played when welcoming the President of the United States. It is NOT appropriate to play this recording in tribute to another individual." Indeed, it does not advise us what to do about all the stage plays, school pageants, and corporate office parties that might call for the song to be played, but this warning must be taken as official.
The weakest performances here are of the waltzes, revealing strained-sounding passages in the high winds and tending to stammer, rather than whirl. On the upside, one will not find a better recording of Philip Phile's The President's March. Pieces such as Thomas Jefferson March, Listen to the Mockingbird, and The Pride of the Wolverines are played outstandingly well here. Every school library in America should have a copy of this, and others who simply enjoy patriotic American music will find themselves quite satisfied with Hail to the Chief. Just do not use it for the wrong purpose!