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CD: Crotchet

The Best of Bond
The James Bond Theme from Dr No (1962)
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Thunderball (1965)
Goldfinger (1964)
Dawn Raid On Fort Knox from Goldfinger (1964)
A View To A Kill (1985)
The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
Nobody Does It Better from The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
From Russia With Love (1963)
Licence To Kill (1989)
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
The Journey To Atlantis from The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Live And Let Die (1973)
You Only Live Twice (1967)
You Know My Name from Casino Royale (2006)
Surrender from Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Mary Carewe (vocalist); Simon Bowman (vocalist)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Carl Davis
rec. Angel Studios, Islington, London, 15-16 July 2008
RPO SP017 [52:39]
Experience Classicsonline

The world’s retail CD shelves are not short of Bond collections. This used to be the province not just of OST-owning companies but also of the many who could get together a studio orchestra, a studio, an engineer and a designer to re-record themes from … or highlights. Silva Screen used to produce such anthologies in prodigious numbers. Silva’s star collaborator-arranger-conductor, usually of Prague-based orchestras, was Nic Raine. He is in fact a common link with this RPO own-label collection. While the LSO seems to be the orchestra favoured by studios and independents for OST sessions, the RPO are a luxury item and proclaim as much here. They are joined by Carl Davis - the CiC of countless film music and seasonal concerts, a composer in his own right (Pride and Prejudice, Mayor of Casterbridge, Cranford), a flamboyant presence on many a film music CD and a far from negligible player in the revival of British film music and music for ‘silents’ as a freestanding art-form.

Nic Raine and Carl Davis appear to be of a single mind here. They know that a half-hearted approach to these scores spells torpor. You need brazen. You need guts and gusto. Not merely big but stupendous. Raine and Davis, together with the RPO and the control room team, deliver here in spades. A choice needs to be made with Bond efforts. Do we go for Theme-song or Theme-minus-voice or Theme-song-plus-incidental music? The RPO here give us a permutation of these. The spine of this collection is a selection of the Theme songs given the full treatment by vocalists Mary Carewe and Simon Bowman; not together. We do get two purely orchestral tracks: the propulsive-dramatic Dawn Raid On Fort Knox from Goldfinger and the aquatic Journey To Atlantis from The Spy Who Loved Me. Not every film is represented but fifteen are. All of the Bonds are present and correct apart from Niven and Lazenby. The handiwork of Monty Norman, John Barry, Marvin Hamlisch, Paul McCartney and David Arnold can be heard courtesy of Nic Raine’s respectful and skilled arrangements. If you are worried, this arranger’s art does convey the feel of the original soundtrack.

While Bowman is superb in You Know My Name (Casino Royale) there are a few moments elsewhere where I am marginally less than convinced. In View to a Kill he is magnificent; so much better than his unsteady tremble in the song from Thunderball. The clunky original words foisted on him do not exactly help: “In this ever-changing world in which we live in”! from Live and Let Die!- Aaaaaargh! No doubt it helped with the scansion of words and music but at a bitter price.

Mary Carewe can only be held to account for not always sounding enough like the original singer. What she does not do is half-hearted. She knows she is not Nancy Sinatra or Shirley Bassey and she is not going to attempt a facsimile. What she does do is to find the right style and delivery and then punch that home with heroic blast or tender caress. Whether its sixties brazen, seventies tinsel, eighties trashy, nineties grandeur or latter-day dramatic and word-clever we get a no-holds-barred approach. The production team knew they had a winner in Carewe. The correct manner is assumed without a blush or a concern for PC values and it is given with total commitment. She is good in Thunderball. After the opening chamber textures of Nobody Does It Better she sings with a smile and a seductive yawn … and you know she’s not tired. Diamonds are Forever glints and writhes in the neon light - irredeemably Ratners-trashy but dazzling all the same. Total commitment is not quite enough for the song You Only Live Twice which needs more smoke in the throat and an even more golden harvest in the strings. Carewe’s tigerish propulsion and vocal colouring in delivery of Licence to Kill is lush and utterly committed. There’s no holding back and the panther claws are fully unsheathed. That assumption is discarded for a dreamy For Your Eyes Only that is all honeyed croon. Carewe re-creates a different distinctive world for each song. Why do we not hear her more often? She is magnificent in this collection. Outstanding!

Turn up the volume and settle back into a nostalgic experience stunningly recreated.

Rob Barnett 



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