November 1999 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

THE ESSENTIAL JAMES BOND A Symphonic Survey from Dr No to Goldeneye   various composers City of Prague PO/Nic Raine  recorded in Prague 1993 and 1997 19 tracks James Bond Fan Club SILVA SCREEN FILMCD 007 [68:13]

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This is a survey of the orchestral music written for the James Bond films. The recordings are newly made in arrangements which strive (generally with success) to recreate the soundworld of the original scores. All the Bond films (except the loony Casino Royale) are represented. Some are accorded two tracks. Three of the tracks are suites.

The music and of course the songs reclaim many memories for this reviewer. This is aided by the attention to authentic detail to emphasise and intensify the original 'broad band' sound with all orchestrations (except For Your Eyes Only which is the work of Bill Conti) by the conductor, Nic Raine, who should 'know his onions.' He has, after all, worked as orchestrator and assistant with John Barry on The Living Daylights and View to a Kill.

Dr No - The James Bond Theme (Monty Norman, 1962). The film which launched the series was an absolute cracker. It was stunningly violent in the new and blackest manner of The Killers. The ruthlessness mixes with glitzy sophistication. Electricity and muscularity are the hallmarks and both qualities are very well conveyed in the performance and recording.

This atmosphere carries over into From Russia With Love (Barry, Bart, Norman, 1963), the music for which adds another characteristic: a very romantic sweep. The similarities with Lara's theme from Dr Zhivago should be noted. The third track is also devoted to the film and the music has the driven energy of a thundering train. Chubby horns howl triumphantly and the strings shriek.

4 Goldfinger (Barry, Bricusse, Newley 1964). That rearing theme does not have the bruising abrasion of the original; far too languorous. However the unwinding romance of the strings is well done.5 Thunderball (Barry, Black 1965) has that rearing theme but also a deep Axminster violin magic carpet and a clean trumpet solo cleanly played here in pristine purity. As music it is not so impressive overall. 6 You Only Live Twice (Barry, Bricusse, 1967) has an oriental sweeping theme criss-crossing with the big theme in a score with the sea in its blood. 7 OHMSS (Barry) and A View to a Kill (Barry/Duran Duran) offer black-hearted brass, a ruthless theme (and mark you OHMSS is one of the best). This relaxes in this suite into the almost elegiac View to a Kill and that serene sadness is played to the hilt. We Have All The Time In The World (8) is a symphonic strings version of the song: a step onwards from You Only Live Twice. 9 Diamonds Are Forever has a mysterious iciness and a powerful swing with brass tones heavy with foreboding. 10 Live and Let Die is all New Orleans jazz mixing in with the shrillest hints of Obeah black magic. 11 The Man with the Golden Gun is pretty unimpressive as music. 12 Nobody Does It Better from The Spy Who Loved Me is played as if by a soupy salon Palm Court ensemble eventually joined by an equally somnolent full orchestra. 13 Moonraker comprises more gauzy soft-focus candle-lit romance but is contrasted with For Your Eyes Only (14) with its Copland-inflected chanting and piano thuds. In the following track All Time High (Octopussy) the unfolding of the big theme is done with a glycerine smoothness that falls over the edge into gloopy Mantovani-territory.

Coming almost up to date The Living Daylights is vigorous with a big bold slightly restless brassy sound and Licence to Kill has affectionate hints of Goldfinger, a shady sax solo and a Spanish classical guitar sketching in the theme. Goldeneye (soon to be televised in the UK - of course the new Bond film is soon to be released!) has electric guitar and modernistic sound. It is rather flimsy with some of the accustomed Bond hoops duly leapt through but little conviction.

Everything is rounded off with the James Bond theme in the original version by Monty Norman with the squat and burred sound of the brass section, metallic-silk strings and an electric guitar making that scratching threateningly.

The notes by Graham Rye of the James Bond Fan Club are good providing an introduction to the birth of the Bond theme and scores. There is a brief profile for each of the films. There is also a useful profile of Nic Raine.

The design of the disc is around the bullet hole, blood-drenched iris typical of the Bond films. The CD cover (back and front) carry the bullet-hole and so does the booklet. The notes are printed around the hole. The print is photo-reduced white on black or graphite grey and can be difficult to read.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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