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Shaken, Not Stirred: Ace Mines “The Secret Agent Songbook” With “Come Spy with Us”

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Come Spy with UsFor many, the sound of John Barry epitomizes the sound of the spy thriller. It’s no surprise – with 12 James Bond films under his belt, the late, great British composer imbued his melodies with the right amount of adventure, humor, tension, sophistication, and well, sex. It’s fitting that Barry opens Ace Records’ superlatively entertaining new anthology Come Spy with Me: The Secret Agent Songbook, collecting 25 samples of swinging music from spies and secret agents (and even a handful of detectives!) released between 1962 and 1968, the heyday of the genre.

Come Spy with Me opens with “A Man Alone,” Barry’s 1965 instrumental theme to The Ipcress File. Perhaps his second-most recognizable spy theme after his arrangement of Monty Norman’s “The James Bond Theme,” it inventively utilizes the cimbalom, a type of hammered dulcimer, to achieve its singular sound. Matt Monro had sung the first-ever vocal James Bond theme with Lionel Bart’s “From Russia with Love” as heard in the second 007 film, the first for which Barry provided the score. “Wednesday’s Child,” from 1967’s The Quiller Memorandum, is all the evidence one needs of the rich-voiced crooner’s deep affinity with Barry’s absorbing melodies. The lyrics, incidentally, were written by Mack David; his younger brother Hal would later collaborate with Barry on songs including “We Have All the Time in the World” from the Bond adventure On His Majesty’s Secret Service.

It was Barry, serving in the capacity of arranger, who gave shape to Monty Norman’s composition “The James Bond Theme” for Bond’s screen debut in Dr. No. It set the template for all spy music to come. While the original of the track, with Vic Flick’s indelible guitar part, isn’t here, a fine stand-in is Johnny and the Hurricanes’ 1963 surf-inspired version with prominent tenor sax and organ adding new colors. The most famous artist associated with the music of James Bond is Shirley Bassey. While her showstopping “Goldfinger” might be the quintessential spy song, she’s instead featured belting Lalo Schifrin and Peter Callander’s theme to “The Liquidator” in her most divinely bombastic style. Bassey wasn’t the only one to mine the success of “Goldfinger,” however. Susan Maughan’s “Where the Bullets Fly,” from songwriters Ronald Bridges and Robert Kingston, hails from the 1966 film of the same name, and incorporates about as much of “The James Bond Theme” and John Barry sound as the law would allow! This rarely-heard nugget is a fantastic treat.

Scott Walker not only sings, but co-wrote The Walker Brothers’ Barry-inspired “Deadlier than the Male” from the 1967 film of the same name which starred Richard Johnson and Elke Sommer. Walker’s resonant, haunting baritone meshes beautifully with Reg Guest’s evocative arrangement. (Spy music connoisseurs take note: Walker made a rare return both to traditional melody and the spy genre with his understated performance of David Arnold and Don Black’s sad, achingly gorgeous “Only Myself to Blame” in 1999. The song was written and recorded for the Bond film The World Is Not Enough, but was sadly unused in the actual motion picture; it did, however, appear on the soundtrack album.

Keep reading after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Release Round-Up: Week of May 7

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HearsayTABU Reborn, Wave 3: The S.O.S. Band, S.O.S. / Cherrelle, High Priority / Alexander O’Neal, Hearsay / Kathy Mathis, Katt Walk (Tabu/Edsel)

The latest wave of Tabu reissues available from the U.K.: all have bonus tracks, with Cherrelle and Alexander O’Neal’s sets presented as two-disc packages. Amazon U.K. links are above; here are U.S. links for The S.O.S. Band, Cherrelle, Alexander O’Neal and Kathy Mathis.

Burt - Anyone Who Had a Heart bookBurt Bacharach, Anyone Who Had a Heart: My Life and Music (Harper)

One of the century’s greatest songwriters tells his incredible story, in his own words! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Varese 35Various Artists, Varese Sarabande: 35th Anniversary Celebration (Varese Sarabande)

A four-disc compilation highlighting the last five years of soundtracks the esteemed score label has released. And check out that amazing gala performance they’re hosting this weekend! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Show Boat 1959Show Boat: 1959 Studio Cast Recording (Varese Sarabande)

Dame Shirley Bassey shines in this recording of the acclaimed Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein II musical. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

There Are But Four Small FacesSmall Faces, There Are But Four Small Faces (Varese)

The band’s first American album, originally released on Immediate Records, gets its first ever unaltered CD release with some bonus stereo remixes. (Amazon U.S.Amazon U.K.)

38 Special - Special Delivery.38 Special, Special Delivery (Culture Factory)

A straggler from last week’s Culture Factory batch, this is the long out-of-print second album from 1978 by .38 Special.

Reissue Theory: “James Bond 007: The Ultimate Collection”

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Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we focus on classic music and the reissues they may someday see. With 50 years of on-screen action and a new film in theaters, the name is Bond…James Bond, and the music is plentiful!

What else is left to say about Ian Fleming’s blunt, British secret agent James Bond? Our 007, licensed to kill, is an international icon of print and, since Sean Connery suavely stepped into Bond’s tuxedo in 1962’s Dr. No, the big screen. Today, the 23rd Bond film, Skyfall – the third to star Daniel Craig as a rougher-hewn 007 and, by nearly all accounts, one of the greatest films in the series – opens in American theaters, guaranteeing the legacy that film producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli created a half-century ago remains as shaken (not stirred) as ever.

Bond soundtrack fans have had much to enjoy in that time period. From Monty Norman and His Orchestra’s brassy, immortal main theme (punctuated by session guitarist Vic Flick’s staccato electric guitar licks), to lush scores by John Barry, Marvin Hamlisch, Bill Conti, Michael Kamen, David Arnold and Thomas Newman, to name a few, to the 23 title themes of varying quality but with boundless cultural currency, music is as vital a part of the Bond experience as martinis, girls, cars and guns. And fans have been lucky: in the 1990s, Rykodisc acquired the rights to much of the Bond soundtrack catalogue (in most cases, controlled by Capitol/EMI). In the 2000s, Capitol itself expanded and/or remastered many of those albums anew. And compilations, from 1992’s rarity-packed double-disc The Best of James Bond 30th Anniversary Collection to this year’s Bond…James Bond: 50 Years, 50 Tracks, have been plentiful as well.

But short of another, even more comprehensive pass at expanding the soundtrack albums to completion (one that seems increasingly like a pipe dream, thanks to the climate of the industry and the varying physical and financial statuses of the scores themselves), one could certainly find worth in a multi-disc box set that would provide the definitive dossier on Bond music. With that in mind, Second Disc HQ’s latest mission file is just that – and you can expect us to talk after the jump!

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Nobody Does It Better: James Bond Turns 50, Capitol Celebrates with New CD Anthology

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When Sean Connery first uttered the immortal words “Bond…James Bond” fifty years ago in the film Dr. No, the template for the long-running movie series was already set.  That soon-to-be-signature phrase was joined in the film by a piece of music that would quickly rival those three words for familiarity.  John Barry’s arrangement of “The James Bond Theme” not only helped cement the silver screen icon of 007 but virtually became a genre unto itself, that of spy music.  The spy film craze may have hit its peak in the swinging sixties, but Ian Fleming’s immortal character of the debonair Bond has endured over some 23 “official” films (including this year’s upcoming Skyfall), plus a couple of unofficial ones.  He has been portrayed by six actors in those 23 films, from Connery to Daniel Craig.  Since Dr. No, James Bond and music have been closely intertwined, and the film franchise continues to attract the very best: it’s been all but confirmed that record-breaking artist Adele will mark her return to music with the recently-leaked Skyfall theme.  Now, 50 years of Bond music is being compiled by Capitol Records as Best of Bond…James Bond, set for an October 9 release in both standard and deluxe editions.  It joins the recent DVD/BD box set, Bond 50, which contains each and every official Bond film to date!

While similar (and similarly-titled!) compilations have arrived on a periodic basis in the CD era, the new set in its deluxe two-disc form is the most comprehensive collection of Bond-related music yet with 50 tracks.  Both versions stand as a tribute to John Barry, the late composer who will forever be associated with the film series.  The disc opens with his original arrangement of “The James Bond Theme.”  Though credited to Monty Norman, Barry long maintained in and out of the courtroom that the composition was, in fact, his own.  (The confusion stems from the fact that Barry was presented with Norman’s theme, and rearranged it in the style of his previous instrumental “Bea’s Knees,” almost wholly transforming the music along the way.  He was reportedly paid under $1,000.00 for his troubles!)  Barry went on to score eleven of the films between 1963’s From Russia with Love through 1987’s The Living Daylights, ceding movies along the way to George Martin, Marvin Hamlisch and Bill Conti.  Since Barry’s retirement from the Bond franchise, the longest-standing composer has been David Arnold, with five films under his belt between 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies and 2008’s Quantum of Solace.  (The score to Skyfall has been crafted by director Sam Mendes’ frequent collaborator Thomas Newman.)  Either consciously or subconsciously, however, every composer has been influenced by the template set by John Barry.  Indeed, his famous arrangement of the Norman theme has been quoted in each film’s score.  Best of Bond also is a reminder of the gargantuan talents of two other contributors, both of whom passed away in 2012: Marvin Hamlisch (The Spy Who Loved Me) and Hal David (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.)

The first CD (also available as a stand-alone disc) features 23 tracks: the theme to every one of the films from 1962’s Dr. No through 2008’s Quantum of Solace, plus the “secondary” theme to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), Louis Armstrong’s “We Have All the Time in the World.”  This CD includes Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name” from Casino Royale (2006), the first main Bond theme to not appear on the movie’s soundtrack album.  Other highlights include the very first vocal Bond theme, Lionel Bart’s “From Russia with Love” as performed by Matt Monro; Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley and John Barry’s “Goldfinger” from the iconic Dame Shirley Bassey; Barry and Don Black’s booming “Thunderball” from Tom Jones; Paul and Linda McCartney’s Wings-performed “Live and Let Die;” Carole Bayer Sager and Marvin Hamlisch’s “Nobody Does It Better” (from The Spy Who Loved Me); Barry and Duran Duran’s “A View to a Kill;” and Barry and Pål Waaktaar’s “The Living Daylights,” performed by Waaktaar’s band a-ha.

What’s on Disc 2?  Hit the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 27, 2012 at 09:49

Shirley Bassey Goes Beyond “Goldfinger” On BGO Reissue

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Dame Shirley Bassey first blazed into the American consciousness in 1964 singing the immortal theme to Goldfinger. Bassey’s full-throttle take on the John Barry/Anthony Newley/Leslie Bricusse song became her first and only American Top 10 single, and helped the film’s soundtrack recording climb all the way to the top spot. Bassey returned to both John Barry and James Bond with the themes to Diamonds are Forever (1971) and Moonraker (1979), but she never again scaled the heights of commercial fame on our shores. Yet Bassey’s recording career (which began in the United Kingdom in 1956 with the risque “Burn My Candle (At Both Ends),” a song promptly banned by the BBC) still thrives, and Bassey has retained a loyal, worldwide fan base on both sides of the pond.

U.K. label BGO (also responsible for recent reissues from The Hollies, among other artists) will next week be releasing the eleventh (and perhaps last) volume in its long-running series bringing Bassey’s back catalogue for United Artists Records back into print on CD. The Magic is You/Thoughts of Love collects Bassey’s 1979 swan song at UA plus a 1976 “love songs” compilation focusing on the contemporary pop side of the UA years. The Magic is You, chiefly arranged by Nick DeCaro, followed the template of most of Bassey’s albums in the 1970s, combining current pop covers (Neil Sedaka’s “You Never Done It Like That,” popularized by Captain and Tennille), theatre songs (“Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” from Evita) and classics (Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “How Insensitive,” which had already become a jazz standard despite its relatively recent origin). The Magic is You also featured an early version of Linda Creed and Michael Masser’s “The Greatest Love of All,” which a few years later would become a standard itself in the hands of Whitney Houston. The Magic is You opened with a new version of Bassey’s 1968 “This Is My Life,” still one of her signature songs. The 12-inch disco versions of “This Is My Life” are much sought-after today, and BGO states on its website that “the sought-after U.S. and European 12-inch disco versions of ‘This Is My Life'” will be included on the new reissue.

Thoughts of Love is a grab bag of contemporary pop material and features Bassey bringing her volcanic pipes to an array of material made famous by others. The British have always had a soft spot for compilations, and this was no exception, going gold and reaching the Top 20. The oldest track was Bassey’s recording of Jacques Brel’s”If You Go Away” from 1967, while the most recent were three songs from the very same year as the compilation, 1976: “What I Did For Love” from Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban’s A Chorus Line, Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)” and Loulou Gasté’s deathless “Feelings,” made famous by Morris Albert. A second Hamlisch song appears in the form of “The Way We Were,” and Stephen Sondheim is represented with “Send in the Clowns” from the musical A Little Night Music.

Since her departure from United Artists in 1979 after a nearly 14-year tenure, Bassey hasn’t had another longterm label association. She has, however, returned to the recording studio with more frequency in recent years. 2007’s Get The Party Started was highlighted by a unique treatment of Pink’s song of the same name, and marked Bassey’s first album to receive an American release in many years. Its follow-up, The Performance, was an even more impressive feat, Bassey’s first album of all original songs in over three decades. Spearheaded by David Arnold, John Barry’s successor on the James Bond series of films, The Performance brought together an amazing array of writing talent ready to pay homage to Bassey: Rufus Wainwright, Gary Barlow of Take That, Manic Street Preachers, KT Tunstall, Richard Hawley and the Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe among them. Arnold himself contributed new songs as did the legendary John Barry, whose “The Time Is Now” co-written with Don Black is one of his last recorded compositions.

Hit the jump for pre-order information, a track listing for both albums with discographical annotation, and a fun (if slightly surreal!) video link of Shirley Bassey with some of rock’s royalty! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 20, 2011 at 11:35