This is a very good time to be a James Bond fan. Not only does next month see the theatrical release of the newest Bond film, Skyfall, but MGM is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the franchise with a 2-disc release of the best music from the series. Not only does it include every title track, ranging from Dr. No on through Quantum of Solace, but it also includes several additional songs featured throughout the franchise as well as some of the series most iconic orchestral tracks.
In listening to these discs, I was struck by just how integral the music of these films it to the franchise. Of course, it’s the title tracks that get all of the attention, but there is a lot of great music besides those pieces. It’s really interesting to listen to this set and be able to track the sonic evolution that has served as a backdrop over the years. While I loved revisiting the classics, such as Goldfinger or Live and Let Die (my personal favorite), I was equally enthralled getting to hear the tracks that have disappeared into obscurity.
So many of these pieces just never quite caught on, but they all feel like quintessential Bond. It’s surprising how instantly recognizable a Bond song is, even if you’ve never heard it before. In fact, I was surprised by just how many tracks I didn’t even know, several of which are performed by the legendary Shirley Bassey, the singer behind Goldfinger.
In addition to the individual songs, the pieces of the scores that are included are incredible as well. The majority of these tracks are from the John Barry orchestra, but there are several lesser known themes that I enjoyed just as much. In addition, there are couple of exciting tracks from David Arnold, a medley from the George Martin Orchestra, and more. Again, the music of the series has obviously evolved significantly over the last 50 years, and the work in the score is no exception.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed these tracks. While they are great pieces of work on their own, there is something to be said for having a way to listen to them all together in one set. While the tracks are not chronological, there is enough of a distinction to identify approximately where a piece falls in the timeline just by the style of the music. This set really puts the franchise into a greater overall perspective, and solidifies the changing tone of the series over the years.