The Best of Bond… James Bond Music Review

     November 18, 2008

Reviewed by Jackson

The Best of Bond… James Bond is the latest incarnation of an ongoing 007 movie theme song anthology that is updated and re-released roughly every couple of Bond films. The current version, timed to coincide with the theatrical release of Quantum of Solace, is a twenty-four-track collection, which, oddly enough considering that drop date, does not include the titular track from the latest 007 adventure.

Much like the films themselves, the various Bond theme songs range in quality. Some are timeless (John Barry’s “James Bond Theme”, Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger”, Paul McCartney & Wings’ “Live and Let Die”), while others are very much products of their time (Rita Coolidge’s “All Time High” from Octopussy and A-Ha’s “The Living Daylights”). But as the series closes in on its fiftieth anniversary (the first film, Dr. No, was released in 1962), even a song being a product of its time has its place, conjuring up filmic recollections even if the music itself isn’t that memorable.

As might be expected, with the evolution in style of the series, the music has also transitioned stylistically over the years. The 60s theme songs are marked by Bassey’s jazz tones and Barry’s scores. But by the 80s, Bond themes had morphed into Duran Duran’s pop rock “A View to a Kill” and, by the new millennium, Madonna’s dance track “Die Another Day”. Whether one like the different musical genres or not, one can’t fault 007 for not keeping up with the times.

As I mentioned above, The Best of Bond… James Bond is a twenty-four song collection, despite the fact that there have only been twenty-two films (so far)—and Quantum of Solace is not even included. The other inclusions are Louis Armstrong’s last recorded song, “We Have All the Time in the World” (from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), k.d. lang’s “Surrender” (from Tomorrow Never Dies) and a rerecording of the “James Bond Theme” by John Arnold. Although I’m not sure what the rational was in the selection of the Armstrong and lang songs over other songs from the films, at least they are logical inclusions. But the “James Bond Theme” remake is boring, uninspired and a waste of space. I have nothing against covers, but I simply don’t see the point in remaking a great piece of music with an uninspired synth track when there is so much other music from the actual movies that could have been put on the disc instead.

Surprisingly, where the CD is sorely lacking is in the liner notes. Considering the wealth of material available, there is no reason that the eight-page booklet contains nothing more than a track listing and two pages of miniaturized 007 posters. Where is the history of the series, of the songs included? Bios of the performers? An analysis of the Bond phenomenon? Anything? Sure, any album is first and foremost about the music, but there’s simply no excuse for putting in a minimum of effort to flesh out the supporting materials.

In the long run, a lack of liner notes is a minor point. Most importantly, twenty-two movies in 007 is still going strong, with Daniel Craig injecting new life into the series. Hopefully future theme songs—and the films that contain them–will continue the great legacy of artists who have contributed to moviedom’s longest-running franchise.

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