The Gordon Highlanders- The Very Best of Sousa

This was $2, only 99 cents less than its original extra special selling price at Sam Goody.  As much as I love listening to marching band albums (sarcasm), I bought this so I could post the three witty insights below (well, I think they are witty anyway).

No one signifies marching band mus, not just universally but here in America like John Phillip Sousa (1854-1932).  As the leader of the US Marine band as well as his own band, “The March King” composed some of the best known marches in history.

At the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, there is a section in the American instrument exhibit for both Sousa and marching bands.  On display, they have a sousaphone, a light weight tuba designed by Sousa to make it easier to march or stand with than a regular concert tuba.  From that time on, I cannot get the image out of my head of Sousa and his counterparts, staying up late at night in a creative frenzy, perhaps driven by the cocaine infused Coca-Cola they had at the time, just riffing out ideas for new instruments.  I wish I could see some of the rejected ideas.

Somehow, the story reminds me of a Mr Show skit of “The Battle of the Megaphone Crooners”.  Mr Show also combined marching band music with Amadeus for this bit as well.

Sousa’s most famous work perhaps is “Stars and Stripes Forever” (hopefully not forever).  But his second famous piece of work you may ask?  I would say “The Gladiator March”.  Unfamiliar with this you say? You probably would recognize it when you heard it as it was the theme of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Why did they go with this song? For the simple reason that it was in the public domain.

Anyway, here is this collection of songs from his marches to his operettas, performed by the Gordon Highlanders under the direction of Douglas Ford.  I believe this was a British army regiment that got Incorporated into the Queen’s Own Highlanders in 1994, to form one group simply named the Highlanders.  Or maybe they are totally unrelated.  Who knows?

For a sample, I went with “Invincible Eagle”.

As far as the record goes, it all really started to sound the same after the third song so meh.


University of Notre Dame Band- Songs of the Fighting Irish

dscn5559This was 25 cents. I meant to post this at the beginning of College football season but forgot.  By the time you read this, my holiday is well underway.  I am also rush writing today’s post. I am in Amsterdam until Monday.  Probably more on that in next months blog.  The weather is starting to pick up a bit.  Also, as a side note, I saw the Chet Baker Bio movie on the plane over.  Really good.  More on that, probably in January.BAND v USC Pregame 10.19.2013

After UH’s win of Oklahoma, I had big hope for this season.  However, those hopes have vanished.  Oh well.  At least they are not as dashed as Notre Dame’s prospects this year.  The difference is, I guess, is that Notre Dame has a higher bar set for them year in and year out.

I was planning on writing more, but due to vacation mode, facilitate your own learning on the band

This album was released  in the 1970’s I believe and is a collection of songs that have become traditional for the band.  The band director at the time was Robert F. O Brien.  The music is great.  The only problem is that we miss the visual aspect of a marching band on a record.  dscn5560

For a sample, I went with a couple choices.  First off is the traditional Irish tune, “The Rakes of Mallow”.  Second, keeping with the Cole Porter theme of the month, we have “Begin The Beguine”.  Finally, I am posting the famous “Victory March”.bandformsmonogramnd

Satisfactory Record. I really wanted to do more with this post but vacation calls.


The German Army Chorus- ST

dscn5280-800x782I actually have had this record for around a year but decided to dust it off for this week’s build up to Oktoberfest, which is tomorrow (or Sept 17th depending on when you read this).  I enjoyed the Russian Army Chorus records immensely so I figured why not try this?  It was $3.20.col-8276-1l

Looking to do something for Oktoberfest but can’t jet over to Munich?  Search your local scene as most cities have their own smaller festivals.  Our festival (in which I mean Houston’s) is next week.

Link to Houston Oktoberfest

First right off the bat, my biggest criticism of this album is there are no breaks.  The songs segway into each other so there is no clean start or stopping point for songs.  This makes my job harder as not only can I not make a clean recording but I get confused as to what song is what as I can not translate German.  So I am not a fan of this album.dscn5281-800x773

As far as the music goes, it is alright.  I guess it is what you would expect from Germans.  The Russian Army is more rousing.  The German Army sounds more patriotic but slightly restrained. Also, very precise. But overall, it is okay. I guess it is what I would imagine a German Army chorus would sound like.military-uniforms-of-the-german-army-and-navy-german-empire-lithograph-bxha20

For a sample, I went with a selection of songs from the beginning of the record. Here is “Westerwaldlied”, and “Ein Schifflein sah ich fahren”. The first song, the Westerwald Song, is about a low range of mountains by the Rhine.  It is a famous folk song about marching into this land.  The other song translates into a small boat I saw.  Not sure what its back story is but it seems to be about a boat of soldiers.bundeswehr_-_10th_anniversary_of_multinational_corps_northeast

Meh on this .  Seriously, no breaks equals no fun for me.

Brass Band of the Army of the German Federal Republic- 25 National Anthems

DSCN1151This was $3.

I am not really sure what I was looking for with this purchase.  So I really do not know what to say about it.  Maybe this is signaling the onset of a mental disease.  Either way, this album is what it says it is; a collection of National Anthems.

Maybe not this generation or the next, but within three generations, I predict that the traditional National Anthems will be replaced because most of them are no longer relevant as far as music goes.  I predict they will be replaced by modern compositions.  In turn, some of the younger anthems will follow suit.

There was not much I could find on the conductor, Gerhard Scholtz, born in 1913.  According to users on Youtube, he was one of the conductors of Bundeswehr military bands.  His work with the Heeresmusikkorps 6 was among his best.  He also  influenced his contemporaries such as Major Hans Herzberg, Oberstleutnant Wilhelm Stephan, Major Hans Friess.  This according to Marchfan876, anyway. Scholtz would die in 1991

Lack of diversity is one of the things that disappointed me about this album.  Other than the two superstars of the genre (Great Britain and France) as well as the freshest songs (US and Canada), the rest of the anthems (with the exception of Japan) really sound the same to me.  I was disappointed that the music was not more reflective of the country they are intended to nationalize.  I excepted the anthems to embody the stereotypes I envision of those nation’s people. DSCN1152

One the positive side, the album has a real Ramones feel to it as most of the songs are around a minute.  And there are some big composers including Mozart and Haydin.  Flag_of_Czechoslovakia_svgFor a sample, I wanted to go with a country that is no longer in existence.  This album had two (USSR does not count); Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.  I went with the Czechoslovakia.  Their national anthem is a combination of two tunes the Czech “Kde Domoj Muj” (Where is My Home) and the Slovak “Nad Tatru Sa Blyska”.  The Slovak tunes talks about a lightening storm over the Tatra mountains which signifies a threat to the Slovaks.  The Slovak people in turn, rise up to answer the call.  I was slightly disappointed to find out after the fact that both countries adapted their component as their national anthem after the split so this song really is not defunct.  However, I am not listening to this album again.  Once is enough.

The High Tatras
The High Tatras

Meh.  I will wait for the next batch of modernized anthems. I will also get my head examined in the meantime.

Deutschmeister Drums and Brasses

DSCN1008This album was $2.00. I have been trying to figure out why I bought it and all I can come up with is the onset of a mental disease. The uniforms reminded me of the guards in Cloud City in Empire Strikes Back. It may have also been “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” on the track list as well.

I had to use a web translator to research. Besides the oddness of reading about dead people in present tense, it can be a struggle to get the accurate information in broken English summaries. Regardless, the Hoch Und Deutschmeister band seems to be a regimental unit from Austria that might have been formed in 1695 or 1741, depending how you translate it. Most sources state that the band’s instruments are custom made to produce a semitone higher than standard instrumentation, thus allowing it to be heard over great distances. According to thier website, they were still active in 2014 . Besides performing concerts here and there, they also provide musical accompaniment during the changing of the guard weekly in Vienna. Of what I could understand of the bandleaders, Julius Herrmann, the leader on this album, seems to be the most dominate conductor in the band’s history. He joined in 1910 at the age of 20. In 1918, he became the leader. In 1938, during the Annexation of Austria by Germany, all bands were placed under the direction of the Third Reich and as a result, the HOD disbanded. However, Herrmann set about reforming the band in 1945. He continued to lead until his death in 1977.

Translated History

So this album led me to ask the question, how would I be able to distinguish great band music from good or mediocre? I attempted to answer this question but seven minutes into it, I gave up. So this is my summary: Ken Alford is great; John Phillips Soussa is the best; the playing on this album is good. I feel I can go to my grave in peace with this rudimentary, even if not completely accurate understanding of marching band music. In regards to the album, it delivers what it promises: marching band music. It is not terrible. I am guessing it is quite good but it does not radically change my views on the genre. The more I listen to this, the more unsure of I am of what I was looking for with this purchase.DSCN1010

This was a tough one to pick but I went with the “Deutschmeister March“, which may or may not be written specifically for the band. Listen at your own risk.

Meh. I hope I never listen to this again.