This recording of 19 marches of John Philip Sousa immediately joins the classic recordings by Frederick Fennell as a leading all-Sousa compilation. Jerry Junkin conducts the Dallas Wind Symphony, one of America's finest professional wind orchestras ("military bands," in British terminology). His readings are alert and precise and primarily keep the same tempo throughout (as Sousa himself habitually did).
The sound of the ensemble is rich and strong, with the low and middle brass providing a firm foundation, yet mixing seamlessly with their woodwind opposite numbers to make a rich and blended sound.
The resemblance to the classic Fennell recordings is heightened by the fact that for the most part, the selections on the disc are in Fennell's own editions. There are a few arrangements by Brion & Schissel.
The selection of marches from among Sousa's 160 or so is also canny: All the "big name" marches (Semper Fidelis, Stars and Stripes Forever, The Thunderer, King Cotton, The Washington Post, and The Liberty Bell) are present, mixed with other well-known and a few rare marches. The prevalence of the favorite marches increases toward the end of the program, a nice pay-off to those who listen straight through.
The official conclusion of the program ends with Sousa's wind version of Walter Damrosch's standard arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner (the composition of the tune incorrectly attributed to Francis Scott Key).
Then comes an alternate take of The Liberty Bell. Producer J. Tamblyn Henderson Jr. acquired a 2,000-pound bell that was a replica of the Liberty Bell to use in this march. This amusing outtake documents something that went excruciatingly wrong at the session. The glorious sound was recorded by Keith O. Johnson in the Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas, TX, on July 16, 1998.