The Best Of Bond... James Bond (2008)

Various Artists

Capitol Records, 2008

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


This newly updated collection of James Bond theme songs is as good as it gets in the world of popular music. It goes without saying; it’s like taking a high-octane journey through the years. And where else can you find the mediums of film and music blended so dynamically? From Matt Munro crooning to the 1963 chestnut “From Russia With Love” to Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell on the balls-out 2006 rocker “You Know My Name,” there are 23 delicious cuts to be found here. All the artists involved are bound to tell you what an honor -- and what a challenge -- it was when they were first called upon to record a theme song for the lucrative Bond franchise.

To date, there have been six actors to play the coveted role of the dashing British spy James Bond. It was all started by Sir Sean Connery in 1962’s Dr. No, which had the signature instrumental “James Bond Theme” performed by the John Barry Orchestra. Connery also had the likes of Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, and Nancy Sinatra provide the music for his subsequent Bond films, and all of them are fondly remembered classics in their own right. The second James Bond was George Lazenby, who only made one film before deciding it just wasn’t for him. Personally, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is my favorite Bond film. Maybe it’s due to the fact that it was released in my birth year -- 1969.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Next up was, of course, the sly dog himself Roger Moore, who released the most Bond films -- seven to be exact. During the ‘70s and ‘80’, his Bond themes really made impressive showings on the Billboard charts. We had “Live And Let Die” by Paul McCartney and Wings, “Nobody Does It Better” by Carly Simon, and “For Your Eyes Only” by Sheena Easton. However, nothing could match the achievement of Duran Duran, which has the dubious distinction of being the only act to bring their James Bond theme all the way to #1, with “A View To A Kill.” Ending the ‘80s on a solid note --and with yet another effective James Bond at the helm, Timothy Dalton -- were offerings by a-ha (“The Living Daylights”) and Gladys Knight (“License To Kill”).

The ‘90s brought much more box-office success for the Bond film series, when popular actor Pierce Brosnan was tapped to become the fifth James. In the course of four films, he seemed to bring the action to a new level. Unfortunately, controversy ensued when it came to the choice of musical selections. Tina Turner’s “Goldeneye” fared the best of the lot, but Sheryl Crow, Garbage, and Madonna didn’t exactly impress a whole lot of people. Such artists gave off the impression that they were either a.) trying too hard or b.) foolishly deviating from the script entirely. Madonna got the hugest amount of scorn thrown her way for “Die Another Day,” which was her completely deconstructed take on a typical James Bond theme -- a risk that didn’t exactly pay off in the end. Elton John deemed it the worst James Bond theme ever. Ouch.

With fair-haired Daniel Craig as the sixth James Bond, a new generation of fans have come onboard the exciting multimedia Bond train. With both Casino Royale and Quantum Of Solace under his belt, it appears that Craig will be likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future. The new direction that the theme songs seem to have taken has been called into question, though, especially since the orchestra has been traded out for electric guitars. Sure, it plays to the more intense action that the newer films seem to provide for younger audiences, but the taste level and sophistication seem to have been sadly left behind. I’m a traditionalist at heart, so I much prefer the campy, double-entendres that made themes like Lulu’s “The Man With The Golden Gun” so fun and memorable. I prefer my Bond stirred, not shaken.

The high production values need to be brought back if the James Bond themes still have any hope of staying relevant. If this should be the end of the road, so be it. It was a terrific run of some top-notch hit songs. As they say, it’s better to burn out than fade away.

Rating: A

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© 2008 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.