The James Bond movie series has featured some of the most memorable and some of the most wretched songs in recent pop music history. Early Bond anthems like “Thunderball” and “Goldfinger” were cheesy schmaltz with corny lyrics and overly dramatic vocals. As music the songs are simply ludicrous. But of course this is movie music and the value of it can not be measured like your average pop song. The point is it is impossible to listen to Tom Jones mangle the lyrics to “Thunderball” without conjuring up an image of Odd Job hurling a steel-brimmed hat at a bewildered Sean Connery. Most of the early Bond songs successfully conveyed the over-the-top esthetic of the Bond movies of that period and in that sense work well as icons of those films.
As the series aged and became more tame the Bond producers moved toward more rock-oriented artists in an attempt to inject some life into the opening credit sequences in which the theme songs are featured. Sometimes this worked (Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die” being the prime example) and sometimes it failed miserably (a-ha’s “The Living Daylights” was probably the musical nadir of the Bond movies.) The problem with even the best of the latter Bond theme songs is that they seem separate and distinct from the movies. I mean who really wants to hear a pop song called “A View to a Kill” unless it creates a connection to the movie in which it appears. (By the way I have yet to figure out what “A View to a Kill” means. Duran Duran’s odd lyrics for the theme song only make things murkier.)
The producers of this CD obviously understood the disparity in quality between the old Bond themes and the more recent ones because they chose not to present the songs in chronological order. This creates an unsettling listening experience as one veers from the pleasures of listening to a classically quaint Bond anthem like Nancy Sinatra’s “Diamonds are Forever” to the horrors of hearing Tina Turner croak through the Bono penned “Goldeneye.” In the end it is the uneven quality of the material that ultimately dooms this CD to be of interest to only the most hardcore of James Bond fans.
// Notes from the Road
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