Cleveland Pops orchestra to have 007 music program

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

The Cleveland Pops orchestra on Nov. 12 will have a program titled “The Name is Bond…James Bond!”

The program includes various James Bond film songs, including Goldfinger, Skyfall, Diamonds Are Forever and Nobody Does Better. Some non-Bond selections are also part of the program, including Secret Agent Man and Mission: Impossible.

The Cleveland Pops is conducted by Carl Topilow and performing will be Rachel York, an actress and singer.

The Cleveland Pops will perform at Severance Hall starting at 8 p.m. Ticket prices range from $21 to $95.

More details about the program, including how to order, can be found by CLICKING HERE.

 

The 007 (like) song in The Jungle Book

One of the big hits this spring has been The Jungle Book, Jon Favreau’s remake of Walt Disney Co.’s 1967 cartoon version of the Rudyard Kipling story. In the new version, live action is combined with a lot of computer generated effects.

Anyway, in the movie’s end titles, Scarlett Johansson, who’s also a voice performer in the film, does a rendition of “Trust In Me,” that sounds very James Bond like. Here’s an audio-only version on YouTube. Thanks to @maycausefunny on Twitter for tracking it down.

 

 

We weren’t the only one who felt the song had Bond-like qualities. After the above video was posted on the blog’s Facebook page, a poster provided the following link on Vimeo where Gregory Bertrand combined the Johansson-performed song to SPECTRE’s main titles.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/163940708″>Spectre (2015) – Opening Credits &quot;Trust in me&quot;</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/gregorybertrand”>Gregory Bertrand</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

UPDATE: Over on Facebook, a commenter says the Scarlett Johansson version doesn’t sound like a Bond song and it “reminds me of the original sung by Sterling Holloway” in the 1967 cartoon version. You can view that below and make up your own mind. It’s definitely the same song (the Sherman brothers get a credit in the 2016 movie) but to our ears it’s a much different arrangement.

Live And Let Die: a soundtrack to listen without earmuffs

Design for LIve And Let Die's soundtrack album

Design for LIve And Let Die’s soundtrack album

By Nicolas Suszczyk, Guest Writer

George Martin was the first composer to face the challenge that would later come to Marvin Hamlisch, Bill Conti, Michael Kamen, Eric Serra, David Arnold and Thomas Newman: to replace the role of John Barry in a James Bond movie.

The soundtrack is an important part of every movie, and the James Bond films are not an exception. From Dr. No to Diamonds Are Forever, Barry had put his talent to the service of Eon Productions and set the standard for “the spy music,” either with dramatic sounds for Thunderball, funny melodies for Goldfinger or an Asian flavor for 007’s incursion into the east with You Only Live Twice. No matter what vibe he took, the John Barry cues always fitted the words “spy music.”

But in 1973, John Barry was busy composing a musical and unable to score Roger Moore’s debut in the franchise, Live and Let Die. He suggested George Martin, who had been producer of The Beatles.

It was a huge challenge: a new Bond had to be introduced and a new era in the series had begun. And every time a new actor is seen in the 007 gunbarrel logo, the composer has to adapt his tunes to the interpretative style of the new Bond and other topics of the movie: the script, the settings and the period of time.

George Martin was the first to take up the challenge of following in Barry’s footsteps and passed with flying colors. The score for Live and Let Die is explosive, adrenaline filled and exotic.

Tracks like “Trespassers will be Eaten,”, “Bond to New York” and “Whisper who Dares” capture the adventurist feeling of Roger Moore’s Bond adding an atmosphere of thrills and excitement. “Bond meets Solitaire” and “The Lovers” accentuate the delicateness of Jane Seymour’s Solitaire.

The Caribbean flavor of the film is transpired in tracks like “San Monique,” “Sacrifice” and “Baron Samedi’s Dance of Death” while the main motif of the title song is repeated often through the album, either to cue action sequences like the boat chase or as a source music, in a soul version performed by B J Arnau as James and Felix visit the Fillet of Soul bar.

The main title song, Live and Let Die, was also produced by George Martin who insisted to producer Harry Saltzman to hire Paul McCartney for the title song, warning him he’d drop the project if he refused.

Saltzman, a man hard to convince, went for the deal and Martin wasn’t wrong: the song, written by Paul and his wife Linda the same day they finished Ian Fleming’s novel, was the first Bond theme to get an Oscar nomination and it’s widely admired by Bond fans, brilliantly striking with Maurice Binder’s terrifying and colorful main title sequence.

Just like You Only Live Twice’s Asian feeling, Goldfinger’s swinging melody and Diamonds Are Forever’s luscious sound, Live and Let Die lets the influence of the new decade (the 1970s) fill into the soundtrack in a clever and representative way.

George Martin proved indeed the golden sound of Bond, established by John Barry, could be provided by many talented composers.

Writing’s On The Wall’s Oscar triumph

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE's main titles

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s main titles

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes got the Oscar award for Best Original Song in 2016 Academy Awards edition. It was the second triumph for the James Bond series had in that category.

In the 20th century, Bond songs were beaten by the likes of “The Way We Were” (winning over Live And Let Die) or “You Light up My Life” (winning over Nobody Does It Better from The Spy Who Loved Me) and “Arthur’s Theme (The Best You Can Do),” which won over For Your Eyes Only. For that matter, 007 classic songs such as Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever weren’t even nominated.

The spell was broken three years ago when Skyfall received the academy’s nod over songs like the solid “Suddenly,” from Les Miserables.

In September 2015, when Sam Smith introduced his performance of the song “Writing’s On The Wall” for SPECTRE, it divided the Bond fans between the ones showing appreciation and the ones turning a big thumb down – not to mention a great deal of bullying towards the 23-year-old singer for his falsetto voice, hidden under the shadows of the social networks.

“It’s the quickest song I’ve ever written,” Smith said, claiming he and Napier finished the job in just 20 minutes. (Later Eon Productions co-boss although Barbara Broccoli said it took much more time than that.)

Despite Smith’s vocal register, “Writing’s On The Wall” featured an unmistakable Bondian sound reminiscent to “Thunderball” with a touch of the recent “Skyfall.” A melody so accurate that it looks like composer Thomas Newman barely retouched the original instrumental for the scene where James Bond and his love interest Madeleine Swann get steamy on a train going through the Moroccan desert.

The song that supposedly took Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes less than half an hour to write described a vulnerable state of the rebooted James Bond. Bond lives with the memory of his beloved Vesper (Eva Green’s character in Casino Royale) and his boss-turned-mother figure M (Judi Dench, who bid farewell at the end of Skyfall).

It takes a lot for a man to admit his weakness – particularly a man like James Bond– and this song achieves to do it in a powerful way, as Daniel Kleinman’s main title visuals show our hero naked, wrapped around octopus tentacles coming out of the villain’s back while kissed by beautiful women.

While the artist voice sounds fragile, the seven main notes of the tune explode in power. A power expressing enough strength that the instrumental intermezzo (around the three minutes of the full version of the song) wasn’t cropped out during the usual editing to make a four minute composition fit into a short main title sequence. It was masterfully used to emphasize the artistic visuals.

Sam Smith had the coveted Oscar statue on his hand and dedicated it to the LGBT community he is part of. Among other contenders, he triumphed over Lady Gaga’s “Till It Happens to You,” introduced by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden during the ceremony.

Some people may not agree, not even Bond fans, about this recognition. But it is truly deserved because the song isn’t focused in the victorious figure of agent 007, but in the depths of the hidden soul of James Bond: his fears, his vulnerability and his overdue need for love.

And this was done with a melody that synthetizes the film, twisting like the sinuous octopus tentacles that symbolize the effect of SPECTRE wrapping into the soul of the man behind the spy, and a voice that shouts what the spy covering the human being will never openly tell.

The emotional complexity of the lyrics, the music and the voice is something that a spectator with an artistic eye can appreciate and enjoy while listening to “Writing’s on The Wall.” When accompanied by Kleinman’s ravishing main title sequence, it’s the way the song was meant to be appreciated.

 

Writing’s On The Wall wins Best Song Oscar

SPECTRE LOGO

Writing’s On The Wall, the title song for SPECTRE, won the Best Song Oscar on Sunday night.

The award marked the first back-to-back Academy Awards for the James Bond franchise since Goldfinger won a sound award (Norman Wanstall) and Thunderball won for special effects (John Stears) in the 1960s. 2012’s Skyfall also won for Best Song as well as receiving an Oscar for sound editing.

Co-writer and performer Sam Smith gave a short acceptance speech. The award went to Smith and his co-writer, Jimmy Napes.

Meanwhile, songs from James Bond movies played a prominent part of the Oscar proceedings. Live And Let Die (nominated but which didn’t win) and Diamonds Are Forever (not even nominated) were played at various spots in the telecast on ABC. Also played was the main theme from 1967’s Casino Royale, a comedy that’s not part of the 007 film series produced by Eon Productions.

Also during the show, stand-up comic Sarah Silverman introduced Sam Smith’s rendition of Writing’s On The Wall. It became a forum for Silverman to tell James Bond jokes. Here’s a sample from the JUST JARED website.

“I guess I was a Bond girl, in that I had sexual intercourse with James Bond and never heard from him… I know he has a cell phone – he has four!” Sarah said. “He loves sleeping with women with heavy Jewish boobs.”

“Oh here’s something. James Bond – not a grower or a shower. I don’t want to say he’s terrible in bed… but he’s slept with 55 women in 24 movies and most of them tried to kill him afterwards.”

The show’s In Memoriam segment included Christopher Lee (including a brief clip from The Man With The Golden Gun) and mogul Kirk Kerkorian, who bought and sold Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer multiple times. It was under Kerkorian’s leadership that MGM bought United Artists in the early 1980s, a move that still affects the Bond franchise to this day.

Also in the segment was character actor Theodore Bikel, who auditioned for the role of Auric Goldfinger but lost to Gert Frobe.

Finally, related to 2015 spy-related films, Mark Rylance won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Bridge of Spies.

UPDATE: They’re playing the theme from Goldfinger (another Bond song never even nominated for an Oscar) going into the final commercial break.

REVIEW: a look at SPECTRE’s soundtrack

SPECTRE promotional art

SPECTRE promotional art

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer
Thomas Newman became the third composer to do more than one Bond album after John Barry (11 007 scores and David Arnold (five). It happened when Sam Mendes returned for the 007 director chair for SPECTRE, after the success of Skyfall.

With the son of the legendary Alfred Newman being one of Mendes’ favorite musicians, it was almost predictable that Newman would be coming back as well.

By the beginning of October, two tracks from SPECTRE were released through the British radio, disappointing many people as they sounded too similar to Skyfall.

Of course, both Barry and particularly Arnold repeated some of their previous films cues into the Bond film in hand, yet the SPECTRE soundtrack seemed almost a remix of the Skyfall score.

However, when watching the movie, the soundtrack effect grows.

The gunbarrel –back at the beginning for the first time since 2002’s Die Another Day – has a sound reminiscent to Tomorrow Never Dies and The World is not Enough, with the last bars of the James Bond Theme as the blood drips down. It was, unfortunately, discarded from the commercial album, which starts with a track titled “Los Muertos Vivos Están” (The Dead Are Alive).

Track 1 is a pretty cool rendition of the James Bond Theme accompanied by the drums of a Mexican band known as Tambuco.

Something very important to say is that Newman, this time, seems more confident when using the Bond Theme, using it prominently and in full, unlike his previous job where he seemed a bit afraid to repeat his predecessor’s expertise in handling the piece attributed to Monty Norman.

Thomas Newman

Thomas Newman

More effective uses of the James Bond Theme are heard during the last seconds of “Detonation” (track 23) and “Westminster Bridge” (track 24, very similar to Skyfall’s “The Moors”). An unreleased Bond fanfare is heard at the end of the helicopter fight during the pre-credits sequence, with a piano orchestration leading us to Smith’s theme.

As Vauxhall Bridge (track 2) reminds us to “New Digs” from Skyfall (funnily enough, Bond points out the CNS building as “C’s new digs” in the scene), the third track is almost a cut and paste version of “Brave New World,” also from Skyfall. Yet, Newman manages to change the epic Hans Zimmer-esque sound for a lyrical chorus to enhance Bond’s arrival to Rome aka “The Eternal City,” which is the title given to the track.

The use of the chorus, also present in “Backfire” (track 6) and the end titles (track 26) were perhaps the best thing Newman did and one of the strongest points of the score.

“Donna Lucia” (track 4), used for 007’s seduction of Monica Bellucci’s character, reminds us a bit to Die Another Day, particularly the scene where Pierce Brosnan’s Bond is visited by Peaceful Fountains of Desire.

Romantic pieces are Newman’s strong point as he proves in “Madeleine” (track 9) and “Secret Room” (track 13). The piano notes and the strings make us fall in love with the leading lady and feel some empathy for the death of her father, as she observes her childhood photos on Mr. White’s hidden room in an African hotel. A choral version of Madeline’s theme is reprised during the end credits.

The North African sounds combined with Hoyte Van Hoytema’s shots of the train through the desert are perhaps one of the best audiovisual moments in the whole franchise.

Track 15 is the only time when we hear a rendition of Sam Smith’s theme song, “Writing’s on the Wall”. Newman made his own instrumental version (the first minute sounds very similar to the original) for Bond’s intimate moment with Madeleine Swann on the train.

As Bond escapes a horrid torture by Oberhauser, a piece titled “Tempus Fugit” (track 19) is heard for the second time. Closely similar to another track from Skyfall titled The Bloody Shot, this track first appears as Bond fights Sciarra inside an helicopter atop Mexico City, at the very beginning of the film.

Perhaps the least interesting piece is the atonal “Snow Plane” (track 11), where it seems Newman tried to imitate Bill Conti’s For Your Eyes Only disco score. This scene – where 007 chases Hinx and his goons with a plane across the snowy Austria — needed a more John Barry or David Arnold like sound, a closer feeling to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, way more darker.

Apart from that, it was a nice nod of Newman to add a source piece in the score. Track 18, “Day of the Dead”, features Tambuco and has the actual chorus from the festive mourners, cheering up for the “resurrection” of their deceased ones.

Before the end titles, the composer closes with “Out of Bullets” (track 25), which is a very beautiful version of the romantic piano cue from “Secret Room” and “Madeleine”, combined with a lush sound reminiscent to David Arnold’s romantic sounds from his Tomorrow Never Dies and Die Another Day scores.

In conclusion, the SPECTRE score is indeed special and fits with the conclusion of the story opened in Casino Royale, almost ten years ago. A needed criticism has to be made to the way Newman made that cut-and-paste to the Skyfall score (he should have used the cues in a more subtle way), but it indeed achieves the objective of transporting us to the magic atmosphere of the film’s locations –from the lyrical Rome to the exotic Tangier– in a very pretty way.

Authors discuss 007 title songs on NPR

Cover for The James Bond Songs

Cover for The James Bond Songs

The authors of the new book The James Bond Songs Songs were interviewed on NPR’S WEEKEND EDITION today.

Among their conclusions: Bond songwriters sometimes are inhibited from doing their best work, Goldfinger still sets the standard and SPECTRE’s title song generated mixed results.

Here’s a sampling.

On Goldfinger: “This is the song that everybody’s been trying to copy ever since, and it’s the standard that listeners hold these songs up to on whatever level of consciousness,” co-author Adrian Daub told NPR’s Scott Simon.

On the quality of Bond songwriting: “(W)hen you’re writing a Bond song, or singing a Bond song, that you have to feel yourself compromise — kind of pulled in two or three directions at once,” co-author Charles Kronengold said in the interview.

“I mean, if you’re a lyricist, having to use a ridiculous word like “Moonraker” or “Thunderball” is not going to make your life any easier or pleasanter. It’s not necessarily going to be your best work, so the records don’t necessarily add up,” he said.

On Live And Let Die’s autobiographical elements for Paul McCartney:  “And the idea that Paul McCartney is going to be still around, still making music, but not with The Beatles — what does that mean?” Kronengold said. “Why does he even come to work? Why does he have to do this, and what’s the point of it? And the song brings that out in a really nice way.”

On SPECTRE’s “Writing’s On The Wall”: “Well, not enough menace and danger for our taste,” Kronengold said. “It seems like they forgot about the swagger and the bite that the best Bond songs have.”

On the other hand, Daub said: “(T)here’s one part of it that we really like, and it seems to be the one that everyone else hates — which is when you get to the chorus….The song builds to this amazing crescendo, and then just kind of ends with this whimper.”

You can read an edited transcript of the interview BY CLICKING HERE. The full audio from the interview will be made available there starting about 12 noon New York time.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in the book (subtitled Pop Anthems of Late Capitalism): CLICK HERE for the Amazon.com listing.

UPDATE: If you click to the website, the full audio of the story is now up. It runs 6:21.