Glenn Miller

The Best of the Army Air Force Band

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For those fans on a budget, this 14-track CD is a great gift from RCA/BMG, distilling down many of the best and most interesting sides from RCA's four-CD box of the complete Army Air Force Band sides (which has the same cover art but is, of course, a box). These 14 sides come from among the dozens of live broadcasts, V Disc sessions, and other performances by Glenn Miller & the Army Air Force Band, all from the period before they were transferred overseas. In doing so, the CD captures the highlights of what had heretofore been regarded as a "lost" chapter in the legendary bandleader's history, when he was, of course, no longer making commercial recordings, but performing to boost morale and the war effort. At the time, Miller was leading what was arguably the best band he ever had, consisting of dozens of the top musicians in the country -- draftees and enlistees alike -- he not only had an outsized complement of players, but room for a string section as well. The sides here include re-recordings of classic Miller hits such as "In the Mood" and "Tuxedo Junction," interspersed with new repertoire such as the "St. Louis Blues March." Producer Barry Feldman and the RCA engineers have outdone themselves, the remastering creating a loud, powerful sound to these sides with exquisite detail and a nice, close immediacy. This is helpful not only in terms of appreciating the hotter numbers here, but the "sweet" numbers as well: Johnny Desmond's singing on "Along the Santa Fe Trail" may be a long way from jazz, but it's one of the most sublimely beautiful songs ever recorded by anyone.

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