Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Music Review: The Best of Bond... James Bond

Bring Bond Home
3/24/09




Read the Quantum of Solace Blu-ray Review






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During the phenomenally successful forty-six years of the James Bond franchise which has released twenty-two movies since our first introduction to the British Spy in 1962's Dr. No, a wide variety of musicians have all contributed to the Bond landscape. As the gadgets grew more high-tech and the clothing changed with the times, so did the musical genres via an increasingly diverse group of artists as the old fashioned swinging sounds of the legendary Shirley Bassey (who performed three tracks for the series) were replaced by Paul McCartney & Wings' stadium-rock approach, the easy listening ballads by Sheena Easton and Carly Simon, 80's smashes by A-Ha and Duran Duran, Madonna's techno driven inclusion and many others.

While some were far more successful than the rest, every time a new Bond title track was released to be played over the ridiculously expensive, masculine Playboy style credits, fans couldn't wait to check it out. Now, today with this wonderful collection of twenty-four solid tracks from the series (including one previously unreleased "James Bond Theme" by John Arnold) available on CD, CD/DVD and digitally, it's the ideal way to build up anticipation for the next film--Quantum of Solace-- arriving in theatres on November 14. Additionally, it offers a great chance as well to look back on the many ways in which the series has evolved.

However, this time you get the unique chance to do so primarily with your ears instead of the immediate differences you notice visually with your eyes (when comparing Goldfinger with Goldeneye, for example) as the Capitol Records/EMI album opens with the original, instantly recognizable "James Bond Theme" by the John Barry Orchestra.



One of those awesome and unforgettable themes that one can place within seconds such as the opening notes of Jaws, The Godfather, Pink Panther, Star Wars, Psycho, and Indiana Jones-- the theme not only begins the album but sets the mood for the 60's portion of the disc. From Matt Monro's lush and underrated "From Russia With Love," we move right into the show-stopper, Ms. Shirley Bassey's first Bond track and arguably her greatest-- "Goldfinger"-- which would later be followed by her performances of "Diamonds Are Forever" and "Moonraker."

While the rest of the 60's and early 70's tunes are fun but slightly forgettable including Tom Jones's "Thunderball," Nancy Sinatra's "You Only Live Twice," the John Barry Orchestra's second piece "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," the otherwise magnificent Louis Armstrong's "We Have All The Time In The World" doesn't quite fit the Bond oeuvre. Similar to the way that the decades-later Madonna's track "Die Another Day" seems out of place as well, we realize that Armstrong's and Madonna's offerings would've been better off on the artists' own albums instead.

However, Paul McCartney and Wings pick things up considerably with "Live & Let Die" that still sounds extraordinary by today's standards. And after that song, the success of the pieces are kind of off and on as the tunes begin to reflect more of what was happening musically at the time-- sometimes helping to keep James Bond "in fashion" and other times calling to much attention to the works themselves as opposed to the man we're all paying to see.

For my money, Carly Simon's "Nobody Does It Better" for the film The Spy Who Loved Me is quite possibly the best Bond song ever created and certainly the best one since Bassey's sultry "Goldfinger" matched her voice to the sounds of her brass band. While Sheena Easton's "For Your Eyes Only" has power-ballad written all over it, it's a lovely feminine number that managed to stand out in the 80's when the series would score greater hits on the Billboard Charts with Duran Duran's "A View To A Kill" and a-ha's "The Living Daylights."

And while the 90's found some intriguing numbers and worthwhile contributions by Tina Turner (who along with Pierce Brosnan helped resurrect the dwindling popularity of the franchise following Timothy Dalton's films in Goldeneye), perhaps the most underrated song on the album is the gorgeous and sweeping epic "The World is Not Enough" performed by Garbage or more appropriately, another Shirley who managed to recall the elegance and orchestral movements of the big sounds of the earliest Bond songs.

Following Madonna's skippable "Die Another Day" which worked about as well as that particular film, Chris Cornell provided a healthy dose of adrenaline straight into the heart of Bond with his rockin' and masculine "You Know My Name." One of the few songs on the album not to be titled after the film it's written for, "Name" makes perfect sense for its particular soundtrack-- specifically Casino Royale-- chronologically the first James Bond story as he earns 00 status and a film that stood head and shoulders among the rest, introducing us to our newest Bond, Mr. Daniel Craig.

A solid album filled with some songs you may not recognize by name and artist alone but Bond devotees will be surprised to discover how they come flooding back once you pop the album into your player. While I was kindly sent the CD for review, the CD/DVD combo provides a documentary on the Bond legacy and also numerous video performances you can stream below for your listening and viewing pleasure.

Duran Duran “A View To A Kill” Video Streams:

a-ha “The Living Daylights” Video Streams:

Tina Turner
“Goldeneye” Video Streams:


The Best Of Bond… James Bond (CD, CD/DVD, Digital Album)
1. “James Bond Theme” - John Barry Orchestra
2. “From Russia With Love” - Matt Monro
3. “Goldfinger” - Shirley Bassey
4. “Thunderball” - Tom Jones
5. “You Only Live Twice” – Nancy Sinatra
6. “On Her Majesty's Secret Service” - John Barry Orchestra
7. “We Have All The Time In The World” - Louis Armstrong
8. “Diamonds Are Forever” - Shirley Bassey
9. “Live & Let Die” - Paul McCartney and Wings
10. “Man With The Golden Gun” – Lulu
11. “Nobody Does It Better” - Carly Simon
12. “Moonraker” - Shirley Bassey
13. “For Your Eyes Only” - Sheena Easton
14. “All Time High” - Rita Coolidge
15. “A View To A Kill” - Duran Duran
16. “The Living Daylights” - A-Ha
17. “Licence To Kill” - Gladys Knight
18. “GoldenEye” - Tina Turner
19. “Tomorrow Never Dies” - Sheryl Crow
20. “Surrender” - kd lang
21. “The World Is Not Enough” – Garbage
22. “Die Another Day” – Madonna
23. “You Know My Name” – Chris Cornell
Bonus Track
24. “James Bond Theme” - John Arnold (previously unreleased)

DVD
1. “A View To A Kill” - Duran Duran (music video)
2. “For Your Eyes Only” - Sheena Easton (music video)
3. “GoldenEye” - Tina Turner (music video)
4. “The Living Daylights” - A-Ha (music video)
5. “All Time High” - Rita Coolidge (music video)
6. “Goldfinger” – Shirley Bassey (Live at Royal Albert Hall, 1974)
7. Documentary: “The Music Of James Bond”


Check Out the Newest Bond Song
By Alicia Keys & Jack White



The World of James Bond:
An Amazon Product Slideshow
(Click the Item to Explore)