Bond leaves the competition shaken and stirred.

Shirley Bassey

Round 1 – Group 217:

1.) Best Of Bond…James Bond:  Various
2.) Kamikazi:  Eminem
3.) In The Lonely Hour:  Sam Smith
4.) The Music Of Nashville – Season 1, Vol. 2:  Various

The name’s Bond, Best Of Bond…

Last Christmas I suggested to my 11 yr old that we watch an old James Bond movie. She’s heard of him but never watched any of the movies and I figured they are all pretty watchable for kids, despite the dubious and rampart sexism of course!
Anyhow, as a big 007 fan myself, I naturally have them all on DVD. When looking through the titles, trying to decide which one to watch, the child started insisting we watch the first one (Dr. No.) because she wanted to watch them all, in order. I guess she’s got a bit of OCD like her Dad and likes to be orderly about her entertainment.

I figured, it’s the first one and sure it’s a bit old now, but it still pretty watchable right? So we sat down and watched it and you know what? She loved it! She loved Sean Connery and found all the beautiful girls, bad guys, guns and gadgets as enjoyable as I did. That started a trend of us watching James Bond every other Sunday afternoon this year. As I speak we’ve just got to Timothy Dalton’s first outing The Living Daylights and the child is still as intrigued as she was at the start.

Matt Munroe

All of which leads me into the winning album here, the Best Of Bond, featuring every Bond song up until and including Quantum Of Solace. Watching all the old Bond films reminded me just how good the accompanying songs were, which prompted me to look for this compilation CD. At about £16 on Amazon this looked like an absolute steal and it delivers in spades. I was worried that licensing disagreements, music company greed or plain old copyright laws might leave gaps in such a compilation, especially one spanning some 45 yrs but no, they are all here and the production quality is superb.

Starting with the classic James Bond instrumental theme and then moving chronologically through every Bond film, this is a great 77 minutes of entertainment and with the likes of Shirley Bassey, Tina Turner, Paul McCartney and Louise Armstrong involved, there’s more class here than a secondary school during term time. The classics sound gorgeous, Shirley Bassey’s Goldfinger is powerful yet, exquisitely delivered. Bassey, of course also gives us the iconic Diamonds Are Forever and lesser known Moonraker, both of which still sound amazing.

What’s interesting is how the musical style changes with the times. One of the reason Bond, a Cold War spy from the era of the Nuclear Arms race, remained relevant, is because the stories changed in-line with modern ideals and expectations. The same can be applied to the soundtrack from each film. The early Bond films of the 60’s had songs that were more ‘crooner’, with a sprinkle of Jazz and Swing but as we move into the 70’s, a Rock influence appeared with McCartney’s rumbustious Live And Let Die alongside Carly Simon’s more melodic affair Nobody Does It Better.

Then into the 80’s we see Pop and Electronica come into the arena with Sheena Easton’s For Your Eyes Only, Duran Duran’s A View To A Kill and A-Ha’s The Living Daylights. By the time we arrive at 2002’s Die Another Day, pop icon Madonna’s effort has all the trappings of New Millenium Pop/Dance, a million miles away from Matt Monroe’s From Russia With Love. Yet, at every step, the essence of what makes the series and the character of Bond so suave and sophisticated is retained within each of these songs. Usually by preserving some semblance of orchestral arrangement, John Barry himself had a hand in every song up until 1987 and manages to weave a familiar theme and atmosphere into each distinctive effort.

I remember when Daniel Craig took over as Bond, thinking that the songs had lost something. Chris Cornell’s You Know My Name seemed pretty tuneless at the time with Jack White & Alicia Keys effort Another Way To Die almost bypassing me completely. They certainly didn’t linger long in the memory, however, I’ve given this compilation plenty of listens and even those last two are pretty solid, sure, nothing as iconic as Shirley Bassey but still up to the requisite standard. There’s something about Bond that brings out the best in a song writer and performer, a trend that’s continued with Adele and Sam Smith and while Sam Smith isn’t on this compilation, he’s somehow managed to put in an appearance elsewhere in this group. I honestly don’t think there is a bad track on this compilation, this is a fabulous collection and a celebration of how Bond manages to raise the bar every time, Nobody Does It Better indeed.

True Revival

I found Eminem’s last album a bit disappointing. So did a lot of people apparently and Em didn’t take the critiscism so well, he was so riled up that it prompted him to release another album almost straight away to answer some of his critics. Kamikaze is that album and it’s certainly a welcome return to form. Revival had way too many ‘splice’ tracks with samples, where Em was trying to fit other people’s song choruses into his own raps. We obviously know that he’s usually pretty good at this but on Revival it just didn’t seem to work out so well.

He can literally rhyme ‘rhyme’ with ‘chime’.

Kamikaze takes a different direction to his previous effort, it’s more pure rapping and hardly any collabs. It’s also very good and features some mesmorisingly fast rap and inventive sonics, the opening verse to Not Unlike for instance, which is an hypnotic shower of words. Em has trimmed the fat too, Revival was about an hour long and bloated at that. Kamikaze has no bloat, it’s stripped to its essence and says nothing more than it needs to. Em has also dropped all the political crap, something else that was
a big turn off from Revival, instead we’ve got a song about him praising his own abilities (Greatest), the chaotic omni-directional title track, an autobiographical reminiscence of the end of D12 and Venom, from the film of the same name which is not bad for a sell-out track (sarcasm!).

La La La Lonely

Sam Smith’s debut In The Lonely Hour is an excellent collection of emotional pop tunes, showcasing Smith’s beautiful vocal talent. It has plenty going for it material-wise too. Opener Money On My Mind is a cracking pop tune, making use of Smith’s
high range and creating an interesting vocal riff. The album is laced with quality elsewhere with gospel-esque Stay With Me and ballads like I’m Not The Only One and Life Support. Naughty Boy’s La La La injects a bit of tempo near to end but this album is very ballad heavy and a little bit on the slow side, which may be why it’s not quite made it through this group. That said, it’s probably the strongest album we’ve lost in round 1 since U2’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind back in group 197, five years ago.

“Sue Ellen, you’re a drunk, a tramp and an unfit mother!”

In case you’ve missed it, Nashville is a glossy soap-opera about a bunch of country singers who constantly fall in and out of love with each other and have distant relatives that constantly appear out of nowhere that they’ve never mentioned before. That’s probably what it’s about, I don’t know as I don’t watch it. The wife loves it though!

Basically it’s Dallas but every 15 minutes somebody does some Country karaoke.

The music however is pretty good, extremely solid. The cast and production crew obviously spent a lot of time on the music and the quality of it shines through. This compilation from season 1 features prominent actors from the show, demonstrating that they’ve definitely got some singing chops to go with their acting skills and despicable good looks. An awful lot of these songs sound very familiar, I can’t tell whether that’s because they are covers, knock-offs or because they have to re-use them across different epsiodes, meaning I’m over-exposed already. Ho Hey (Lennon Stella / Masiy Stella) really had me scratching my head because I was convinced it was an old song.

Save The Cheerleader, Save The World Of Country Music

This a wonderful little album to listen to though, quite beautiful really and would have stood a chance of going through in a weaker group. Hypnotising by Hayden Panettiere, backed by solid engineering production is good enough to be a top ten pop hit. You Ain’t Dolly by Chris Carmack & Claire Bowen has a real charm about it and is one of my favourites but honestly the majority of the stripped down numbers like Looking For A Place To Shine (Clare Bowen) and Stronger Than Me (Connie Britton) are all pretty good. This was a most enjoyable group of albums !

 

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