Category Archives: James Bond

Eye Spy Part 2

Here are a couple of new tracks which probably fit together in the “spy mould”.

His Name Is Bond

The first track ‘Clever Girl’ was intended as an underscore building piece. I had some procedural/hacking montage going on in my head whilst composing, one where the main character is cracking a techno-conundrum or uncovering vital evidence. This one came together quickly – helped by the fact I was exploring some of my downloaded Noiiz libraries (recommended to anyone who likes playing with musical loops). I changed some loop pitches and distorted + mangled things for a more grungy feeling, the majority was still composed in a traditional manner.

(direct link:

The second track is actually my most recent track, one which clearly has a James Bond slant. I was just noodling away at the keyboard for fun and this was the end result. I’m going to confess I’m not really a huge fan of the last couple of Thomas Newman Bond scores. He is great at the subtle stuff, but not so great at giving Bond a confident swagger (unless he falls back on David Arnold’s orchestration of The Name’s Bond, James Bond). There is of course usually an exception to a rule, this being the opening track to Spectre. Anyway, I really wanted to bring back a bit of that cool John Barry/David Arnold swagger. Enjoy!

(direct link:
if you haven’t already, check my other Bond track out here)


Spectre soundtrack review

Travelling back in time

One of the things I look forward to is listening to a new Bond soundtrack for the first time. When Sam Mendes announced that he would be returning as the director of Spectre it wasn’t any surprise to learn Thomas Newman would also return.


Before going any further, let’s revisit the Skyfall score (my original Skyfall soundtrack review is here) which seemed to split opinion. On the one hand, it was a classy affair and fit the film well. It certainly wasn’t as bloated as many of the David Arnold scores had become. On the other hand, whilst it worked for the film, it didn’t stand on its own outside of the film as a standalone experience. It felt awkward at times and I sense that Newman felt uneasy tackling the bombastic nature of Bond and incorporating other themes (the traditional Bond theme and Adele’s title song). The Adele theme was only inserted by request of the producers at the eleventh hour (for the track Komodo Dragon). It should be noted wasn’t actually arranged by Newman but by orchestrator J.A.C. Redford (who also did the orchestrations on the Adele song as well as the score). Newman was clearly feeling the pressure and was quoted in Film Score Monthly as saying he didn’t do this because his task “was already so huge and daunting”. Likewise his full rendition of the Bond theme was mostly taken from David Arnold’s orchestration on “The Name’s Bond… James Bond” in Casino Royale. That said, Newman seemed happy to do his own subtle references to Bond theme (those with a slightly musical background – might find some of this interesting), but perhaps this was too subtle for many. Should a Bond score really be subtle? People are still debating whether Newman should remain as Bond composer with arguments both for and against.

Writing’s On the Wall

Moving forward, the first piece of Spectre music was from the trailers. I loved the moody atmosphere of the first teaser trailer (well until that annoying toy xylophone plays the Bond theme towards the end). The second trailer was more action orientated and had some Bond fans salivating thanks to the incorporation of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (nice touch). But these tracks by Jeff Pfeifer do not form part of the soundtrack. The first real piece of music from the film was the Sam Smith Title song “The Writing’s On the Wall”. I don’t think there has ever been a more divisive title song in Bond history (save for perhaps Madonna’s Die Another Day which is now widely regarded as one of the worst). By far the most surprising and controversial element were Smith’s falsetto vocals during the chorus. Not only was it extremely high pitched, it broke away from traditional Bond chorus convensions by become something fragile, delicate, brittle rather than building to crescendo. There were many who were never going to give the song a fair chance just because it was Sam Smith and wasn’t Adele/Skyfall. Love it, like it or loathe it – the song made history and became the first Bond song to reach number one in the UK singles chart. Whilst not entirely convinced at first, I found the song to be a grower after a number of listens. I’m now curious to see how it fits with the film’s main-title sequence.


A few weeks after the single release, John Suchet introduced two new track on ClassicFM from Thomas Newman’s score: action track (Backfire) and romantic cue (Donna Lucia). More on these later, but the interesting point to note was Newman was clealy reusing motifs from his Skyfall score. I recall one very ill-advised comment (no – not that Daniel Craig one about slash his wrists rather than play Bond again) from Sam Smith saying “I wrote the song in twenty minutes”, which only served to fuel the fire of his detractors. It could be argued that Newman has also set himself up by saying “Scores should be unobtrusive” and “if you notice them, maybe they are working too hard”. I can already hear dissention from his naysayers. The character of Bond is of course bold, brash, confident. John Barry clearly understood the necessary pomp of Bond and never shied away from this – in fact he revelled in it. Subtle and unobtrusive? Not a chance, but it was all done with Barry’s impeccable class with an element of restraint where required. Barry also made his scores have a unique timeless quality, with each having it’s own seperate identity (even if some of the later Roger Moore films were getting a bit samey). It no doubt helped that he was actively involved writing the title songs and would incorporate them into his scores. Times have changed and the process is now very different.

A place with no mercy

So the big questions on my mind: will Spectre be a new sound from Newman, will it incorporate the title theme, how will the Bond theme be used, how many more Skyfall references will be included, will I actually like it? I was somewhat underwhelmed by samples from ClassicFM. After much grappling with the terrible Sainsbury’s online site – my questions would be answered (or so I expected)! I’ll be frank here: whilst I didn’t outright hate it, it was perhaps the first time I failed to get excited by a Bond soundtrack. Harsh words!! I only listened to it once on the release date (Friday 23rd October). And then I pretty much forgot about it – unprecedented for a Bond score. Yesterday I decided to revisit and give it another listen and I’m really glad I did. As before, Newman’s material rarely hits me between the ears on a first listen. As I relistened, I decided to write a breakdown of my thoughts for each track as it played. I’ve posted these comments below – I don’t think there are any major spoilers – but if concerned, you should perhaps skip to my final thoughts.


01. Los Muertos Vivos Estan
We kick off in true Bond style: Mexican percussion set to the Bond theme: sexy woodwind, low strings, throbbing brass, twang guitars. It’s pure Bond and a great kick off to start the album! Newman seems particularly confident here. The orchestrals, percussive and electronic elements are all nicely mixed (without overloading things in the way David Arnold has in the past). However you could argue this is a bit of a false start for what follows. There isn’t really another track quite like this on the album. I can see it being a favourite track for many, Bond is clearly doing something cool and spy-like onscreen whilst this is playing.

02. Vauxhall Bridge
It starts with a couple of notes which feel familiar from Skyfall. About half a minute in we get a new motif, I’ll call it the “snooping theme” as this is what it sounds like to me. There is some noticeable restraint on the brass usage on this track. Nice referencing of the Bond theme using woodwind at the end.

03. The Eternal City
There are some lovely eerie Rome influences here. In particular there is good use of choir. However it isn’t long before “Brave New World” from Skyfall is referenecd. About halfway through we also get the Skyfall house theme (not the Adele title theme) which plays pretty much to the end. It’s a bit of a shame as I rather like the haunting new material and choir usage but the recycling of Skyfall material takes me out of the track.

04. Donna Lucia
A lush romantic theme, but one which is clearly indebted to Severine on Skyfall. Whilst this is a more complex track, I prefer Severine for it’s simplicity. A lovely if not entirely unfamiliar track.

05. A Place Without Mercy
Mostly unmemorable mood music. Cymbal percussion throbs urgently against some tremelo strings, with some subtle brass and electronics. It’s all rather subdued and unmemorable, I don’t think this will ever be a favourite.

06 – Backfire
It is apparent this is the way Newman intends to score his action scenes, which comes as a disappointment! The whole thing is frantically paced but there is little in the way of exciting Bond moments here. I feel this track should be screaming “Bond” but it doesn’t.  It feels like nothing more than some percussive 16th arps set to standard action staccato strings and occasional punchy brass – generic and at home in any action film. Newman quotes heavily from his track Grand Bazaar in Skyfall towards the end. There is one standout moment at the two minute mark where the Bond theme builds and then a lovely choir kicks in. Sadly this is the only fleeting 30 second highlight before everything returns to sounding generic.

07. Crows Klinik
Around half way through there is a nice lush motif (let’s call this the “travelogue theme” for now). It is the type of music which introduces us to a lovely sweeping vista to showcase the next location in the film (I might be wrong, but that’s my guess).

08. Pale King
It begins dramatically before falling off into mostly mood music. It has an impressive waterphone/strings stinger about half way through which was rather unexpected. Hopefully this will keep us all on our toes when watching the film. It doesn’t necessarily make for a pleasant listening experience, but it is clear something will be amiss and tense during this tracks film placement.

09. Madeleine
This is one of my favourite tracks. Whilst Lucia receives the more traditional John Barry major/minor romantic arrangement, Madeleine seems a more mysterious character. There is more than a touch of Danny Elfman’s Batman (“Love theme” from the first Tim Burton film) about this track. And I for one absolutely adore it. At last I feel we aren’t merely retracing Skyfall material! One of the standout tracks.

10. Kite in a Hurricane
A moody piece which sees the Skyfall house motifs return again, which builds to a rather intense finish.

11. Snow plane
Lots of fast tapping arps again. A fast paced piece does not however equal an exciting listening experience. Occasionally some Bondian brass flourishes pokes through, but once again this is generic action film music. Again this is exactly where the Bond score should be shining! The best material is when the arps are given a break and the brass grows. And once again, this feel like a complete missed opportunity.

12. L’American
Aha, I see the “snooping” theme from track two makes another welcome reappearance. Nice to see Newman reusing more of his Spectre material rather than recycling Skyfall motifs! There is also a nice variation on the Bond theme at the end.

13. Secret Room
Another nice track. Presumably this is the piece which will emotionally connect Madeleine with Bond. After a minute the melody makes itself known with a lovely piano motif which evolves into some beautiful string flourishes. I suspect this is the “emotional crux” of the film. It is also the type of piece where Newman sounds most confident – this is what he does. After this theme we get some electronic and Arabian/ethnic flavourings before building to a climax with the “travelogue theme” again.

14. Hinx
A Moody start before strings weave furiously try to and create some tension and brass cuts through. That said, it’s not a particularly memorable piece. Probably works okay in the film.

15. Writing’s On the Wall
Don’t get me wrong, this is a nice addition but it sticks out like a sore thumb on the album. It might have worked best at the start or end of the album rather than the middle. I have no idea if this will be used in the film, but it feels at odds with Newman’s material. It is an abridged instrumental version without the Sam Smith’s vocals. I prefer it when composers weave the title theme in and out. This is nothing more than a direct quote from the Smith version. When the soundtrack was announced, it seemed the marketing team were also conflicted whether it would feature the instrumental or Sam Smith version (see an early marketing image below). An oddity!

SP-WithSamPic: Marketing dilemna – will it, won’t it? An alternative album cover prior to the release suggested we would get the Sam Smith Title song. Ultimately we only get the instrumental version on the album.

16. Silver Wraith
This track begins with a moody opening minute which doesn’t add up to much outside the film. After this it gives way to perhaps my favourite theme on the soundtrack. My guess is that this is the “sinister” Spectre or Oberhauser theme. Some nice minor chords. Arabian chants echo in the background to give the piece a rather haunting feel. Bravo, at last – I feel I’m in a Bond film again! One of my favourites.

17. A Reunion
A rather long track, mostly moody. Just under a minute in and lovely strings/brass come in, but the chord progressions feel more like an epic Sci-Fi film than a Bond film. Will there be some kind of Doomsday device in this film? Half a minute goes by before some electronic percussives take over. After a minute or so – we repeat this: subtle introversion followed by electronic percussion. There is a hint of the Skyfall house theme creeping back again. This all no doubt works well in the film, but as it listening experience outside of it – it doesn’t really work terribly well.

18. Day Of the Dead
Another track which sticks out like the other sore thumb (like track 15). Presumably this one is source music (ie. background) from the film. Lots of percussion, clapping and cheering vocals. I’d love to know what they are actually singing!

19. Tempus Fugit
An atonal string riser kick things off before more Skyfall themes are back with a few eerie overblown staccato flutes echoing in the background. This feels like it will be used for a “count down to destruction” scene, but that is just a guess on my part. If it was much longer it would wear out its welcome – thankfully it just about makes it!

20. Safe House
One of the standout tracks. It starts off rather energetically and segues into a lively version of the “travelogue theme”. After this finishes, it goes a little bland for a moment until the beautiful motif from “Secret room” reappears again. The travel theme comes back afterwards as do some nice nods to the Bond theme which build to a lovely crescendo!

21. Blindfold
The track begins with some electronic underscoring, around half way through the brass comes in with strings. It’s all rather dramatic, if not entirely memorable. It hints at material from Skyfall but we will hear even more of this in the next track.

22. Careless
The guitar strumming from The Moors in Skyfall is back and kicks off the track and plays throughout. This is largely a forgettable and seemingly long track however.

23. Detonation
Begins with some more electronic underscoring before hitting a sinister note and the obligatory percussive banging comes back in. Just at the point I’ve lost interest we get a few nice brass blasts at 50 seconds in. That guitar riff and exhausting string and percussion arp then keeps throbbing away. Around the three-minute the Bond theme kicks in but it’s a bit late by now and I’ve lost interest again. Let’s hope I don’t feel the during the film.

24. Westminister Bridge
The Moors guitar strumming is back, but the opening has by far the best and most muscular use of it. Why? Well mostly this is down to the Bondian brass which screams in the opening part of this track (in fact the second brass blast references John Barry’s Jetpack scene climax from Thunderball – lovely little nod). Before long however we’ve lost these Bondian flourishes. The last-minute is moody music, clearly the core of the action has ended at this point and things now more psychological. I enjoy the first minute or so of this track, but could easily skip the rest!

25. Out of Bullets
A welcome and less exhausting/introspective track with that lovely “Secret Room” piano motif again. As suspected earlier on, the emotional musical backbone to the film.

26. Spectre (End Titles)
This is perhaps my favourite if only because it contains two of the best new themes. It opens with the sinister Spectre theme from Silver Wraith (a slightly longer version). Two and a half minutes in we get a reprise of Madeleine’s theme from track nine. The “Secret Room” piano motif makes an appearance at the very end – but without the lush string part. What a lovely way to end.

…And Finally, Here We Are!

Final thoughts? Well as you can tell I am a little conflicted! Much like the film’s title song, I think this is a grower (to be fair Skyfall’s score was also). There are some lovely themes in here: the sinister Spectre/Oberhauser theme, Madeleine’s theme, the travelogue music, the emotional piano “Secret Room” motif and the “snooping” theme.

On the flip side I am somewhat disappointed there is so much Skyfall material being reworked here. Mendes goes on record as saying whilst the film is a continuation “Spectre is a very different film to Skyfall”. Why recycle so much material from that film then? I might accept this if Mendes was expanding the subtext/themes between Skyfall and Spectre, but the musical choices and timings seem too random to  entirely justify this argument. I don’t believe Newman is being lazy, it feels more like this is used as a safety crutch (I may be wrong). My other gripe is that Newman is clearly not understanding what the audience wants during the action side of a Bond film – which is where this score falls flat. The music is fast, but generic, repetitive and largely unmemorable. I suspect this will open him up to criticism from members who like that John Barry (and to a lesser degree David Arnold) Bond sound. To be fair, he is an introverted composer and does the emotive character stuff wonderfully. I will also give kudos for showing restraint where David Arnold would most probably throw everything but the kitchen sink in. It’s a real shame he didn’t work the title song in (he had time unlike Skyfall), and there is an awful lot of mood music which I suspect fits the film like a glove but doesn’t make for an exciting soundtrack listening experience (and sounds like sonic wallpapering). According to Sam Mendes, Newman has composed over 100 minutes of music for the film, so it will be interesting to see if the missing 20 minutes contains any other surprises!

On the album side, it is very well produced (maybe the mix isn’t quite as strong as Skyfall’s), the track programming is random to say the least. I was originally going to be harsh and award this only two stars out of five, but like other Newman material this is at times dense and takes a couple of listens to fully appreciate. Being as I am warming to some of it after subsequent listens – let’s make that three stars. John Barry this ain’t, but times have moved on! If you disliked the Skyfall soundtrack, there is little here which will make you change your mind. If you loved Skyfall, this is essentially more of the same. I think on some levels I prefer this score to Skyfall with several reservations. Perhaps I was expecting something fresher from Newman who now seems settled in his approach. For the future I’d be keen to see someone new tackle the Bond 25 score – none more so than up and coming British composer Daniel Pemberton (personal favourite The Game, and more recently Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Steve Jobs which I suspect will raise his profile significantly) – a talent to keep an eye on!

Meanwhile I’m really looking forward to catching the film this evening, I’ll hopefully have a review of that shortly!

World Domination

There are only a couple of weeks until the new Bond film is released and I’m now at that ridiculously hyper but impatient stage. One of the things which keeps me going is analysing some of the score before seeing the film, but so far we haven’t had a peep out of Thomas Newman (or from his other spy score for that matter – Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies).

I therefore decided to write my own take (something contemporary but classic – without real orchestra/brass – just to make life difficult).

russian satellite killer
Being as the title is Spectre – I was clearly thinking along the lines of Volcano lairs, deadly satellites and “laser beams” with this one. Enjoy! Click here to listen to it on Soundcloud.

Best James Bond Songs (part three)

Here is the final instalment. What will be number one? Did you predict it and will you agree? Here are what I consider the crème de la crème of Bond songs:

9. Surrender (KD Lang, from Tomorrow Never Dies)
After Play Dead with Bjork (which sounds suspiciously like it’s trying to be a Bond song) and his Bond cover album Shaken and Stirred, David Arnold seemed a natural fit to take over the composing reigns. He wrote Surrender as the title song for Tomorrow Never Dies, turning to former collaborator David McAlmont to sing the demo version (ultimately performed by KD Lang). Sadly the studio favoured a more popular artist to do the main title song (but this did make the end credits). I think most would agree that this is a far better Bond song (and David Arnold never bettered this effort).

8. You Only Live Twice (Nancy Sinatra)
Those lush opening strings, so good Robbie Williams stole them for Millenium. Nancy Sinatra wasn’t a natural vocal fit and I believe they had a few issues honing her performance. Thankfully everything worked out okay in the end. This song was quite a change of pace for Bond songs at the time. The song has a lovely haunting quality and plays up the exotic nature of the film’s location without ever slipping into cliché.

7. We Have All The Time In The World (Louis Armstrong, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)
I know, I know – I said only main-titles or end-credits would be considered. I’m going to cheat this entry being as it is the emotional heartbeat of the entire film. Technically an instrumental version of it closes the film “when that thing happens”, so it’s allowed! This tune is made all the more poignant by the fact Louis Armstrong was seriously ill and didn’t have all the time in the world when recording it. The tune didn’t make either the US or UK charts at the time, but 25 years later it was used for a Guinness advert and soared to number 3 in the UK. Clearly like a fine vintage, the song only improves with age.

6. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (John Barry)
Following on from the song above is this amazing instrumental from John Barry (doing his usual Bond thing). For this track (and the score) he used a Moog Synthesizer and it holds up even today (unlike most synth music). It was covered by David Arnold and breakbeat artists The Propellerheads in 1997. Their version reached number 7 in the UK charts, but it already sounds more dated which proves you just can’t top the original! I just wish the studio/producers would feel brave enough to do another instrumental track – but I suspect this will never in today’s commercially driven world!

5. Live and Let Die (Paul McCartney and Wings)
Despite the fact that Bond himself admits he isn’t a fan of the Beatles, Paul McCartney lends his talents to create this song (along with support from “Wings”). The song is a hodge-podge, which also perfectly fits in with the film’s tone. What makes this song is the amazing chorus/instrumental.  Interestingly McCartney based the song on the book (which is rather different to the film). There are a number of covers floating around including versions from Guns and Roses, Chrissie Hynde and even Geri Halliwell (not quite as shocking as I suspected it might be). The song did pretty well at the time making it to number 2 in the US Billboard chart and receiving an Academy Award nomination.

4. A View To A Kill (Duran Duran)
Who would have thought this would work? Not only that it is perhaps the best thing about the whole film. Duran Duran’s John Taylor is a huge John Barry fan (indeed he seemed to know more about John’s music than he did himself). Rumour has it that it came about when Taylor, a bit tipsy at a party, asked Bond producer Cubby Broccoli when he was going to get someone decent to do the song again. The band was on the verge of splitting up when this song was made, so it’s their last hit before they split in the 80’s. It can be argued that this one is a bit more “of its time”, but it is still a great tune. It only just missed out on the top spot in the UK (thanks n-n-n-n-nineteen!), but it went straight to the top of the US Billboard chart. Following John Barry’s death in 2011, the band paid tribute by playing the track by playing it as their encore with Simon Le Bon dressed in a tuxedo. John Taylor would tell the crowd at the 2011 Coachella Festival: “We lost a dear friend of ours this year – English composer John Barry. This is for him.”. It would be interesting to let them have another crack at a theme song in the future.

3. Goldfinger (Shirley Bassey)
Own up, who thought this would be the top entry? Entirely justified being as it is the prototype and epitomises what the many Bond songs aspire to be: sexy, confident, big, bold, brash and brassy. It’s easy to forget this song is over 50 years old (it is still regularly referenced in pop culture). After those huge opening blasts, the trump card is revealed – Shirley Bassey’s incredible vocals. It seemingly references the opening of Moonriver by Barry’s composing pal Henry Mancini (you know the “Goollldfinnnnggerrraaa” part – you could equally sing “Mooonnriivvver” there). Ironically Bond producer Harry Saltzman absolutely hated the tune and wanted it replaced. Luckily there wasn’t time so it stayed in – close call!

2. Diamonds Are Forever (Shirley Bassey)
This one has it all: A dramatic tune with explosive and classy orchestrals, some wonderfully suggestive lyrics from Don Black (which producer Harry Saltzman called perverted and who once again wanted the song replaced) and  seductive/powerful vocals from the only performer who seems to get asked back. Simply wonderful, it sparkles and shimmers, I can feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end as it plays. As a rule of thumb – if John Barry writes it, Shirley Bassey sings it and Harry Saltzman wants it replaced – you probably have a winner on your hands!

1. The James Bond Theme (The John Barry Orchestra)
We all know this one of course! Without getting all political on “who” actually wrote it (we’ll never know – although having studied it a bit I have my own thoughts) it’s clearly the orchestration which makes this (and this part definitely *was* John Barry). Most notably that twangy surf guitar and the jazzy bee-bop section, both of which are now synonymous “cool” Spy movies. This is the very first Bond song we ever here and it nails all of the confident swagger, danger and excitement of the Bond character. It has an edge to it even now and has endured the years. I suspect everyone reading this is able to hum it because it is simply brilliant!

Hope you enjoyed this countdown (click for part one and part two). If Bond songs are your thing – I also highly recommend the entertaining documentary “James Bond’s Greatest Hits“. I haven’t seen this in ages, but recall it was excellent (even if it covers much the same sort of ground).

Right, so where on earth is Sam Smith going fit in? 🙂

Best James Bond Songs (part two)

After covering the bottom of the pile in part one, let us now turn our focus to the middle of the table. Quality is definitely improving, everything here is perfectly respectable if lacking some of the “wow” factor which seperates them from the top entries (in part three). Without further ado:

18. If The Was A Man (The Pretenders, from The Living Daylights)
Like the other Dalton film, The Living Daylights ends on a love song. This theme is integrated throughout the main score. It’s technically the last Bond song we get from John Barry and whilst its lush and romantic, it isn’t necessarily that Bondian.

To be honest, I preferred their other collaboration with The Pretenders on the film – Where Has Everybody Gone which definitely is very Bondian. In fact this song just “SCREAMS” Bond with its muted wah-wah brass. The track is technically exempt from this list being as it’s not used during any titles (I’d place it higher). That said I’m going to post it here anyway because it is one of my absolute favourites (even if it isn’t a song which is widely recognised):

17. Moonraker (Shirley Bassey)
Whilst not one of the more popular entries, it has grown on me over the years. There are two versions: the more common mellow opening titles and an upbeat disco version for the ending which isn’t anywhere near as effective (even if I do like the funky opening part). The falling string motif on the opening version is absolutely sublime. However this is clearly not a song written for Shirley Bassey’s booming vocal talents (indeed both Frank Sinatra and Johnny Mathis were initially considered). I suspect there is a reason you don’t see Shirley Bassey perform this one as often as her other Bond songs but it’s classy entry nonetheless.

16. Thunderball (Tom Jones)
Expecting to get some heat for the low-ish placement of this song. The track is actually a late replacement for the film’s original song (Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang sung by Dionne Warrick, Shirley Bassey also recorded a version of this song). This song was dropped because it didn’t contain the title of the film in it (but you can hear it played all over the film’s score). Back to what we got: Thunderball has a masterful opening/ending and Tom Jones clearly is belting it out here. Whilst these elements are powerful and bombastic I would not consider this one of Tom’s better songs (and indeed the same applies as a Bond song). That end vocal note though is mighty impressive and you have to give Tom top marks for holding it (rumour has it he almost passed out)!

15. Nobody Does it Better (Carly Simon, From The Spy Who Loved Me)
Again, expect some heat for this. Never really been a favourite of mine- despite the nice piano intro. I can’t quite place why this one doesn’t work for me as it is clearly loved by so many. It was the first time a main-title song wasn’t named after the film (a sign of things to come).  The song went on to receive an Academy Award nomination.

14. Goldeneye (Tina Turner)
I wanted to like this one more. Perhaps it is the fact it isn’t woven into the score. Perhaps it’s the fact that I expected better from U2 members Bono and The Edge. To be honest their earlier effort for Batman Forever: ‘Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me‘ was a superior song. I do love the opening strings, the piano motif and Tina’s voice however. And if nothing else it is better than The Experience Of Loving!

13. The Living Daylights (A-Ha)
John Barry and A-Ha notoriously fought during the making of this track – despite being initially excited at the prospect of working together. The end result is better than it probably should be, but is a little bit hodge-podge. It lacks the bite of the previous film’s song (A View To A Kill) and is seemingly rather mellow in some parts. Considering all the conflict involved making this record it is interesting to compare the film version with A-Ha’s album version.

12. For Your Eyes Only (Sheena Easton)
I think this one surprised many people. Scottish Singer Sheena Easton also has the honour of being (to date) the only Singer to actually appear in the title sequence. This was also the first Bond film I saw in the cinema, so I have a soft spot it!

11. Skyfall (Adele)
It’s getting painful now, so many good tracks remaining, only a limited number of spaces. It was nice to see Bond songs return to their former glory after the Another Way To Die/Quantum of Solace mis-step. Adele does – well – her Adele thing to good effect. The end result is good, if somewhat lacking in terms of originality. Special kudos to Epstein for his lovely arrangement in the background accompanying Adele’s sultry vocals. This was the first Bond song to win an Oscar, it also nearly won the UK chart battle.

10. You Know My Name (Chris Cornell, from Casino Royale)
Speaking of chart battles, I have no idea where things went wrong for this song. In fact I’m not even sure if a single ever even released (I remember looking at the time) and it wasn’t on the album soundtrack either . This is a real shame and wasted opportunity as now we are rocking! It is a harder edge sound for a harder edged Bond and former Soundgarden frontman gives it his all. I always love the bolder Bond songs. The lyrics are very fitting for the film and it is all woven into the main score – the way things should be for Bond!

With tomorrow drawing close, I look forward to covering my favourites (no doubt you can work out what’s still to come). Also looking forward to finally hearing the latest song for the first time. Click here to read part three (the top entries in the list).

Best James Bond Songs (part one)

Sam Smith is performing “The Writing’s on the Wall”, which is the new James Bond title song for Spectre. This week a lovely 15 second instrumental clip (presumably from the opening) was posted online. It had the lush orchestral feel of a classic Bond song (with some similarities to Thunderball’s opening).

Since the announcement there has been the usual mix of vitriol and fan-raving about the artist choice. As ever I’m on the fence until I’ve actually heard the song! The song will be available on iTunes (Friday 25th September). In the run up to this I’ve decided to do a countdown of my favourite Bond songs (and then ultimately suggest where this latest entry might sit on the list).

Before going any further I should mention only main-title and end-credit songs will be ranked. I’ll break these down into three posts (starting at rock bottom and working up). There will be some casualties along the way being as this is a subjective list. Feel free to post comments or set me straight!

28. The Experience of Loving (Eric Serra, from Goldeneye)
Perhaps the fact I haven’t considered Madonna as the worst comes as shock to some. Goldeneye has always been the Black sheep when it comes to music. Eric Serra wrote the score which includes this track on which he also sings. Whilst his electronic industrial underscore works well on mid-90’s Luc Besson movies, it doesn’t really fit with Bond. He even rehashes one of his themes from Leon into the score! This said I’ll give Serra kudos for using timpani drums to play the Bond theme with (inspired). Largely the score is understated where it should be bombastic (action scenes), bombastic where it should be understated (eg. the casino scene) and occasionally just plain wrong (the Aston Martin/Ferrari chase). He saved the worst for last, but by this point people could thankfully leave the cinema!

27. Die Another Day (Madonna)
Sigmund Freud, analyse this! Oh my – where to begin? By far the biggest title-song travesty! Incidentally the mix during the end credits is arguably worse – if that is possible! The intro starts promisingly with nifty orchestrals. Then everything goes electric/glitchy and Madonna starts singing. It falls apart in spectacular style. I get what you were trying to do Madge – be edgy – it just doesn’t work! The music video is fun, but there is very little redeeming about Die Another Day so let’s move quickly on!

26. Another Way to Die (Jack White and Alicia Keys, from Quantum of Solace)
Odd this one. This is the only Bond duet to date (ignoring backing singers). Like the previous entry it has a strong intro with some nice punchy guitars and great drumming. Yet again it fails as soon as the singing begins. The biggest issue I have with this song is not that it doesn’t sound Bondian, it’s the terrible lyrics – including such gems as “I know the playa wit da slick trigger finga fo’ her majesty” and “shoot ’em up – bang bang”. It’s not quite the travesty of the previous two but these vocals don’t really belong in a Bond song. Moving on…

25. If You Asked Me To (Patti-LaBelle From Licence to Kill)
This one plays over the end credits of Licence to Kill. There is nothing particularly irritating nor memorable as a Bond song regarding it. It ends the film on a romantic note in the same way as the other Dalton movie. It has had a recent resurgence thanks to Celine Dion covering it.

24. Tomorrow Never Dies (Sheryl Crow)
I was quite the Sheryl Crow fan in the mid 90’s. I wouldn’t have said she was suited for Bond however (turns out my hunch was correct). Whilst I like elements in the song (most notably the Perry Mason-esque swagger), the biggest gripe I have is the fact it was vastly outclassed by a superior end-titles song (which most agree should have been the main title track to the film instead of this).

23. All Time High (Rita Coolidge from Octopussy)
Musician John Barry and Lyricist Tim Rice. Sounds like a marriage made in heaven – right? Sadly not the case! It could be argued that this song is an ugly duckling. The melody is classy (and used to good romantic effect throughout the film) and the lyrics are good. But it just doesn’t gel and feels dated/uninspired. The choice of title artist was a last-minute replacement for Laura Branigan. This song clearly has fans though, including Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker who did a cover of it.

22. From Russia With Love (Matt Monroe)
Expecting heat for the low placement of this one. Again, there is nothing wrong with this song, it’s actually a rather classy affair but it’s just never been a favourite of mine. Matt Munro has strong vocals, the tune is haunting and memorable. I have to say I much prefer the instrumental arrangement of this song which plays over the actual main-titles which sounds more exotic and exciting to my ears.

21. The World Is Not Enough (Garbage)
I was a huge Garbage fan at the time, but this one fell short and feels rather dated (in a bad way). It also feels like a sub-par version of Surrender which never really catches fire the way it should. Shirley Manson’s voice also felt like it was struggling to break through. That said, frequent lyricist Don Black writes some delicious lyrics here. This one is a bit of a pity!

20. Licence To Kill (Gladys Knight)
Much like the film, this one has grown on my over time (mostly thanks to Gladys’ wonderful voice). I remember having a few issues with it back in the day because it basically steals the opening bars from Goldfinger! I’ll forgive it because they do give a song-writing credit to John Barry for this. Interestingly the video for this song was directed by Danny Kleinmann who is the “go-to” person for those wonderful silhouetted main title sequences since Pierce Brosnan inherited the role.

19. The Man With The Golden Gun (Lulu)
Keeping with the rushed-out feel of the film, John Barry had a notoriously short schedule with which to compose the score to this film. This seemed to extend to the title song also. Part of the problem is Lulu isn’t quite firing on all cylinders (it’s documented that she wasn’t well when it was recorded). Whilst this perhaps isn’t a classic, I rather like it (particular the dodgy lyrics from Don Black and the lively swagger of the “Love is required, whenever he’s hired” part).

Phew! I’m now looking forward to covering the “middle” entries for Part two. Stay tuned!

Eye Spy

If you are a fan of the spy genre (which is my favourite) you are in for a treat this year. We have been spoiled with three new trailers just within the last week or so:

Spooks: The Greater Good
Based on the TV series (known as MI5 in the States). Great to see the wonderful Peter Firth back as Harry Pearce (plus Tim McInnerny playing the shifty Oliver Mace). Those familiar to the series will know no-one is ever safe, which should keep the audience on the edge of their seats.

Mission Impossible 5: Rogue Nation
Rather aptly as abbreviated as MI5. This one was a bit of a surprise, looks great fun. Yes, Tom Cruise did that plane stunt for real! It was also filmed at nearby Blenheim Palace. I just hope it hasn’t given all the best bits away. It also has the original Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) who will hopefully add an additional degree of class.

Last but definitely not least – the new Bond teaser. This one also filmed at Blenheim. I must confess, I was worried it would be eclipsed by the MI5 trailer. I needn’t have worried! It is very much its own beast and wisely takes and entirely different (and more broody) approach than the usual slam-blam antics of other trailers. It does exactly what it should – it leaves you wanting more. Fantastic to see a washed-up Jesper Christensen spouting some lovely dialogue in amongst all of the stunning cinematography (which I think looks even more impressive than Roger Deakins efforts for SkyFall).

The only thing I wasn’t entirely convinced about were the toy-chromatics at the end, followed by familiar trailer blasts (I would have opted for something more creepy/less cheesy). But hey, it works well enough.

I should also give an honorary mention to The Man From Uncle.

This looks like Guy Richie keeping his lighter tone and substituting Sherlock Holmes with the 60’s TV series – much like his former collaborator Matthew Vaughn did with violent comic-books (Kickass’ superhero antics vs Kingsmen gentleman spies – yet another spy film which was released this year). For me it offers the opportunity of watching short-listed Bond candidate Henry Cavill in action.

There is also Steven Spielberg’s cold-war thriller “Bridge of Spies” starring Tom Hanks which I can’t wait to see. Also nice to see the ladies get a shout as well in the comedy “Spy” (which stars Rose Bryne who made the short-list for Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale). But right now for me – it’s all about that Bond teaser!

It looks like 2015 is shaping up to be the year of the spy.