In this, the seventh installment in Naxos' outstanding Sousa: Music for Wind Band series, Keith Brion and the Royal Artillery Band take on some of the lesser investigated aspects of John Philip Sousa's activity, mainly concentrating on works Sousa composed in the 1880s and 1890s. While much of the most popular music of Sousa is concentrated into works written between 1889 and 1901, Sousa: Music for Wind Band, Vol. 7, demonstrates that the decade before that wasn't half bad, either, with such fine entries as The Rifle Regiment March and The Presidential Polonaise (both 1886), the latter written at the request of American President Chester A. Arthur as an alternative to "Hail to the Chief," a ditty Arthur felt was less than dignified. The Presidential Polonaise carries with it an appropriate amount of pomp and sense of occasion and is just as catchy as "Hail to the Chief," so one wonders why it didn't stick. Among great marches drawn from Sousa's operettas, one may find El Capitan (1896) and The Bride-Elect (1897) here, along with fine late works such as America First (1916) and The Black Horse Troop (1924). Among non-marches included are two extended topical fantasies, and both of these appear to be new to recordings. Sounds from the Revivals (1896) is a medley of hymn tunes popular in revival services such as "Nearer My God to Thee" and "Hold the Fort" featuring a generous amount of soloing for the cornet, whereas Sheridan's Ride (1891) is a gallant and electrifying Civil War tone poem, complete cannon shots, numerous bugle calls, and a scored cheer for the boys in the band. Sheridan's Ride is perfect fodder to wow one's guests at a Fourth of July picnic or other summertime event; Naxos doesn't usually trumpet the inherent audiophile qualities of its discs, but this one certainly has them.
As is his usual wont, Keith Brion realizes Sousa with an absolutely serious sense of purpose, and the Royal Artillery Band is very well-drilled, proving once again that complete surveys of the work of a composer needn't consist of uneven or make-work styled performances; Sheridan's Ride palpitates with excitement, whereas the Intaglio Waltzes (1884) glide with assured grace and lightness of step. It's great that Naxos has gotten this out well in time for the summer; don't get those hot dogs, brats, and beef patties ready without having this along for the barbecue as well.