Bond Back In Action
Silva Screen Records, 1999
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/01/2000
Every once in a while, I get the urge to give myself an education in all things James Bond, and promise myself that I'm going to start watching all the James Bond films from the start - and by that, I mean by scrounging up a copy of "Casino Royale". But somehow, this personal pledge always seems to fall by the wayside... meaning I have now gone almost 30 years without seeing an entire James Bond film from start to finish. (I also have gone that long without seeing "The Wizard Of Oz" - an admission that usually earns me drop-mouthed stares from those I tell this to.)
There has been a rebirth in interest in the music of the James Bond films - and Bond Back In Action, a collection of selections from scores as recorded by the City Of Prague Philharmonic, helps to capture the Sean Connery years well, though there are times this collection lags. But we'll talk about that soon enough. (This disc also examines the one film from the George Lazenby era, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service".)
This disc is not meant to mimic the soundtracks, nor is it meant to replace them. Instead, with the inclusion of selections labeled as "previously unrecorded," this disc means to present elements of the individual scores the way that composers Monty Norman and John Barry meant them to be heard.
Possibly the one item that should send Bond fans into manic rejoicing is the appearance of Vic Flick on guitar for "The James Bond Theme". Flick was the guitarist on the original version of the theme, and hearing his presence on this new recording gives both it and the entire project much credence.
Interestingly enough, it is the suite of the three earliest films that provide the listener with the most interesting selections. The two selections from "Goldfinger" - "Into Miami/Alpine Drive" and "Dawn Raid At Fort Knox" - provide the listener with almost as much excitement as if they were watching the film. Likewise, the selections taken from "From Russia With Love" (co-written by Lionel Bart) fit the mood perfectly, and suck the listener into a magical experience.
The one selection (save for the title track) from "Dr. No" ("Death Of The Tarantula/Killing The Guard/Death Of Dr. No") should easily be enough to send longtime Bond fans scurrying back to their DVD drives to watch this film again - and to try and differentiate how the score sounds with how it was supposed to sound. The liner notes for this particular track are absolutely fascinating.
What I have to wonder, though, is why the music for the next three films - "Thunderball," "You Only Live Twice" and "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" - doesn't have the same kind of energy and interest level as the earlier works. It's not that these portions of the scores are boring, nor is it that the orchestra does a subpar job on these performances. It's just that they don't pack the same kind of emotional power as the early works - or, for that matter, the selections from "Diamonds Are Forever", which closes this disc. The only thing I can think of - and I'm not claiming this to be gospel truth - is that Barry settled into a comfort pattern, and didn't feel challenged enough by the task. (This would soon change, as we'll see in the review for Bond Back In Action 2.)
Is Bond Back In Action still worth checking out? Absolutely - though I would dare say this is the kind of disc that is aimed towards the diehard fan of James Bond. But who knows? Listening to this disc might pique someone's interest in the early films of the series - and I'm again promising myself I'm going to start renting the films and watching them in order... though now I'll get them on DVD.