November 13, 2008

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

It's that time again. It seems like every time we get close to the release of a new James Bond adventure the market gets hit with all manner of Bond merchandise. The approaching Quantum of Solace is no different. A number of Bond films, spanning the franchise's history have been released in what appears to be separate two-disk releases that were only available in the boxed collections the last time around allowing you to pick and choose if you don't want all of them. I have only picked up one so far, From Russia with Love, which happens to be among my absolute favorites of the series. In addition to that there is a new release of The Best of Bond... James Bond, a title that gets refreshed each go around to include the more recent title songs alongside long time favorites.

This edition includes 24 tracks covering all 21 of the films released thus far, with three films receiving double representation. The good, the bad, and the instrumental are all here in a collection that is well worth picking up for any Bond fan. Of course, you probably already have one of the prior incarnations, so why should you pick this up? Well, it has the first Bond soundtrack appearance of Chris Cornell's "You Know My Name" from Casino Royale, as well as David Arnold's take on the classic theme for the end credits of the same movie.

In addition to the CD only release there is also a CD/DVD set that you could choose. The DVD includes music videos, a live recording, and a documentary. The review disk I received was only the music disk, so I cannot comment on the disk's quality, but here is a listing for the DVD:
  1. A View To A Kill - Duran Duran
  2. For Your Eyes Only - Sheena Easton
  3. GoldenEye - Tina Turner
  4. The Living Daylights - A-Ha
  5. All Time High - Rita Coolidge
  6. Goldfinger - Shirley Bassey (Live at Royal Albert Hall, 1974)
  7. Documentary: The Music Of James Bond
As for the music disk? It is an absolute blast to listen to from start to finish. Sure, there are a few songs that are not all that great, but when placed into the context of the James Bond pantheon, they are perfectly listenable, even when you know full well that they will never make it to your iPod unless accompanied by the rest of the album while others could find their way into a series of playlists. Then there are the times you will want to escape with a little trip through the history of the Bond franchise, allowing each song to take you back to the film from which they came.

The collection runs chronologically from Dr. No through to Casino Royale. It begins with the Monty Norman scored theme, a piece that is as iconic and recognizable as the character. Even if you have never seen a Bond film you will know this music. This is followed up by Matt Monro's wonderful singing of "From Russia with Love." That is such a beautifully sung song that it is hard not to get wrapped up in it.

The Sean Connery era continues with Shirley Bassey taking on "Goldfinger" in another memorable number with accompanying music that has John Barry's finger prints all over it. Continue the string of great themes with Tom Jones' "Thunderball." He brings a lot of power to his performance, just listen to his closing note. Nancy Sinatra steps up for "You Only Live Twice." It is not nearly as powerful as early themes, but it has a nice, laid back pace that is easy to listen to.

John Barry returns to the front, composing an instrumental theme for the sole George Lazenby outing as Bond, On Her Majesty's Secret Service. It is a great piece, meshing nicely with the classic Bond theme. A second song from the film also appears here, Louis Armstrong performing "We Have All the Time in the World" in the way only he can.

Moving on to the Roger Moore era, Paul McCartney & Wings rock it up with the memorable "Live and Let Die." Other memorable themes include Carly Simon's "Nobody Does it Better" from The Spy Who Loved Me (which I do not believe I have seen, yes there are a couple) and Duran Duran's "A View to a Kill." Frankly, while the songs from the Moore era are decent, they are not nearly as memorable as the early Connery films.

Timothy Dalton was the next Bond, appearing in two films. Only one of his two themes is good. He began in The Living Daylights, which featured the lackluster title song from A-Ha. License to Kill fared much better with Gladys Knight with that great opening two note horn intro. The horns on this song are fantastic.

Pierce Brosnan's first two films did well with Tina Turner on GoldenEye and Sheryl Crow stepping in for Tomorrow Never Dies. Unfortunately the back half don't fare nearly as well with forgettable turns from Garbage and Madonna.

The album closes with a strong turn from Chris Cornell whose voice is amazing, of course it does not hurt that the film is excellent. The album closes with the David Arnold (who is curiously credited as John Arnold) remix of the Bond theme that was used to close Casino Royale, and was the only use of the theme in the film (something that will change with Quantum of Solace). It is not a great mix, but it is nice to have as it did not appear on the score album.

Bottomline. If you don't already have a collection, do yourself a favor and get your hands on this. Some of the tunes are a mixed bag, but more often than not they will trigger warm Bond related memories, and that isn't a bad thing.


Complete Track List:
  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 and Let Die - Paul McCartney and Wings
  10. The 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
  24. Bonus Track - James Bond Theme - John Arnold


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