John BARRY; Marvin HAMLISCH; Bill CONTI; Monty NORMAN
Bond Back in Action 2
SILVER SCREEN RECORDS
FILMXCD 340 [65:38]
The second volume of music from the various action-packed adventures of super
spy (or should that be superstud?) James Bond.
A suite from The Man With the Golden Gun (1975) opens up with 'Kung
Fu Fight/Let's Go Get 'em/In Search of Scaramanga's Island' and features
Oriental shadings that prelude a brief snatch of what is a truly catchy and
memorable main theme. Despite the sleeve notes telling us that composer John
Barry himself was not overly fond of the theme song, personally I think very
highly of it. And as the rest of the track is high-class musical suspense
and intrigue, we're off to a good start.
'Chew me in Grisly Land/Hip's Trip/Return to Scaramanga's Fun House' has
a brief nod to the infamous Bond theme, amidst more Middle Eastern atmosphere,
although the rest is dedicated exclusively to low-key tension building. 'Slow
Boat From China/Nick Nack/The Man With the Golden Gun' follows with a wistful,
romantic variation on the main theme that becomes faintly sinister as it
progresses and then almost playful. This builds toward a big, spirited finale
to round things off.
Because of its original disco trappings (very fashionable at the time) Nic
Raine has adapted Marvin Hamlisch's music for The Spy Who Loved Me
(1977) and given it a more orthodox orchestral approach. 'Ride to Atlantis'
is a rather likeable, semi-romantic melody that lingers in the mind, while
'The Tanker' is all action and suspense and is given quite a new spin due
to the new arrangement with particularly strong brass work. Hamlisch's score
actually stands up very well as opposed to other experimental composer choices
such as Bill Conti, Eric Serra and Michel Legrand (although of course Legrand's
Never Say Never Again was a rival Bond production).
Barry was back for Moonraker (1979), although the opening piece
'Arrival at Chateau Drax/Freefall' is mostly variations on Monty Norman's
familiar theme. 'Miss Goodhead Meets Bond/Bond Lured to the Pyramids' on
the other hand is a fine example of soft Barry romanticism, bolstered by
some gentle choral backing. 'Flight into Space' also uses voices to subtle
effect as the music becomes progressively bigger and bolder. This is the
kind of the thing that this composer does so well. Full of suspense and drama.
When Barry was unavailable, Bill Conti stepped in to replace him on For
Your Eyes Only (1981), but to my mind his 'Main Theme' is rather weak
when compared to Barry's sterling work. The song (sung by Sheena Easton in
the film) was popular enough at the time though, but Conti's music lacks
that underlying edge that distinguished most of the early Bond themes. Thankfully
this was a brief flirtation with what can only be described as mushy Bond.
When John Barry returned for Octopussy in 1981 he quickly got back
into the swing of things and the suite included here, 'Bond Meets Octopussy/Bond
Look Alike/The Palace Fight' heavily features his theme song 'All Time High'.
It's a typically rich, emotionally resonant Barry composition and the rest
of the cue showcases his usual brassy suspense work, all of a high standard
and nicely realised.
A View to a Kill (1985) featured Barry's last memorable Bond theme
song, co-written with successful 80's pop group Duran Duran and 'Wine with
Stacey/Fanfare/Snow Job' has a lovely, light version of that pumping theme
that eventually transforms into a brass fanfare and finally becomes distinctly
rocky with the inclusion of then modernistic (now dated) wailing electric
Barry's swan-song The Living Daylights (1987) had a far less successful
collaboration with another pop group, the undoubtedly talented A-Ha and this
spawned the slightly shaky title song, here given a brisk instrumental version
in 'Koskov Escapes/Hercules Take Off'. Far better though is
'Mujahadin/Afghanistan Plan', a very strong latter day Bond incidental piece,
beautifully evocative and deceptively gentle. What impresses most is the
undercurrent of what seems to me to be a sense of melancholy (something that
features in all of his very best work). 'Air Bond/Necros Attacks' cleverly
uses the title theme to far better effect than in the actual song itself
and the 'End Title (Alternative Version)' is one of Barry's romantic offerings
in the middling range for him (but very pleasant all the same).
To conclude we have the film version of 'Tank Drive Around St. Petersburg'
from Goldeneye (1995) which mainly consists of a variation on Monty
Norman's theme adapted by John Altman. Apparently the producers felt that
Eric Serra didn't use that key motif enough and instructed Altman to rework
it for one of the movie's major set pieces. To be honest I've always felt
that the actual Bond theme was probably the least impressive of all the music
associated with the early movies and despite the fact that it's given a very
professional work-out here, it remains somewhat lacklustre.
It's always fun to hear new versions of familiar music. But it's incredibly
hard to improve upon something so recognisable. The best that can be hoped
for is a fresh, vibrant approach. Here The City of Prague Philharmonic under
the direction of Nic Raine give a generally good account of themselves, although
(apart from The Spy Who Loved Me) they try to stick too closely
to the original arrangements for my liking. Others though may appreciate
This is actually a pretty good compilation and while admittedly there are
a large number of other Bond related CD's on the market, for 007 fans this
is worth adding to your collection.
The original Bond Back in Action Vol. 1, SILVA SCREEN FILMCD 317, with its
distinctive red cover, included music from Dr No, From Russia With Love,
Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty's Secret
Service and Diamonds Are Forever. Some of the tracks have never
been previously recorded and the whole is a feast for Bond fans. Both Rob
Barnett and Ian Lace gave this collection a four star rating.