I was a bit let down by the ninth symphony, considering the vamp it is given on the cover, being the GREAT American ninth. It did not amount to great. It wasn't exactly bad either, just... average. Harris most certainly wrote better symphonies. The third, fifth, and seventh are indeed hallmarks of his symphonic career (you'd think with the odd symphony numbering the ninth would join the ranks also). The ninth could be The Mediocre American Symphony. It is themed after the Gettysburg address, so it gets the American qualification. However, it's not in the familiar Copland or Grofe American style, but it doesn't have to be to be American. It is Harris, but it's doodling Harris, Harris not going anywhere in particular, not finding a great climax or any great theme. It doesn't have to be climatic or have a great theme to be great, but the ninth doesn't qualify as "great".
The eight is a bit more appealing, being broken up into more shorter sections. Here Harris clearly gets his ideas across in each movement. The gem, I feel, on this CD is the Child's Sunday. These three works are captivating, somewhat in the way Hovhaness' music is, but still retaining Harris' trademark style.
But as for the "Great American Ninth," I'm not sure America has one. Most composers never got to nine. David Diamond wrote one, which I haven't heard. So did Hovhaness, which I have also not heard. Naxos recently produced the first recording of William Schuman's ninth. Nice, but also not the "great" symphony. Perhaps in America we should stick with our thirds instead of our ninths: Schuman's, Harris', Copland's, Hanson's, Ives', Piston's... works all deserving of the "great" title.