British bands, the superbly fine military bands and such civilian ones the more renowned factory bands (though it is more the all-"brass" bands of this part of the U.K.'s musical tradition that have attained fame), pride themselves on their precision, body of sound, and virtuosity, and they certainly have "delivered the goods" admirably over the decades so far as doing justice to Sousa's marches is concerned.
This collection makes a good introduction to Sousa's marches, nicely balancing the very familiar ones with others less often heard. However, one should bear in mind that the Band of H.M. Grenadier Guards is playing these delightful works very much in a field-marching style, suitable for regimental use by military troops in parade and on other military occasions, military "tattoo" mega-field events, and (in civilian or military use) for "half-time shows" of sporting events, and so forth. The timing is strict, the dynamic level unvarying, and there is a lack of the kind of nuance and loving touches of interpretive individuality or humour by a director and his players that one would find in the best "concert band" renditions of these and other such works, e.g. the great recordings of Sousa's marches led by Frederick Fennell in the very best concert hall manner, or the dramatic, charming, and nuanced performances of orchestral versions of this band music that Arthur Fiedler led so memorably.
The articulation of the supremely fine bandsmen of the Grenadier Guards is accurate, but there is a lack of the rhytmic "snap and crackle" of other bands, e.g. the vitality of the great official bands of the branches of the U.S. military services, of leading North American university and concet bands, and so forth. The playing of the Grenadier Guards' military musicians sounds just a bit "logy" in their lack of real verve in music that thrives upon just that added factor. However, too much musical individuality can hamper the real-life marching suitability of band music, so the sameness and mild uniformity of approach is authentic in its own way and on its own terms. The marches play off in quick succession, all safely under four minutes, indeed many under three minutes, in duration; these are not extended versions of the marches chosen.
Recommeded, so long as one accounts for the field style that this disc typifies, and makes a good acquistion for a basic selection with which to launch a CD collection of Sousa's extraordinarily inventive and varied marches.