Shaken And Stirred: The David Arnold James Bond Project Reviewed

David Arnold

In 1997 somewhat generic film composer David Arnold got his dream job and was installed as the in-house composer for the James Bond series. Arnold, who to my mind has always lacked his own distinctive sound, looked to John Barry for inspiration and managed to ape his illustrious predecessor to a point. Arnold's one original move was an attempt to work in more modern styles into his Bond scores, the addition of techno beats in Tomorrow Never Dies a welcome example.

That same year Arnold gathered an eclectic group of contemporary singers and musicians together and covered some of the old staples and classics from decades of James Bond music. Did he breathe new life into the songs or was it all a pointless exercise? A bit of both probably, but I'd lean towards the latter.

The Songs:

'Diamonds Are Forever' featuring David Mcalmont
(Original Artist: Shirley Bassey)
You may know David Mcalmont from his on-off partnership with guitarist Bernard Butler. Mcalmont can certainly belt out a song although he makes the Bee Gees sound like Liam Gallagher at times. This is a strong start to the album. Mcalmont's arch campness works well with the song and he doesn't hold back. Consequently the song is fun and gloriously OTT. One of the highlights of the record. 
Aimee Mann
'Nobody Does It Better' featuring Aimee Mann
(Original artist: Carly Simon)
The original from The Spy Who Loved Me is one of the best known James Bond themes. Carly Simon was presented with a very simple song and did it more or less perfectly. Aimee Mann approaches the song as if it's completely beneath her. She talks, whispers and generally deconstructs the original to a pointless degree. A deconstruction of an old song can be good if you do something interesting but Mann (who I usually like) doesn't.

'Space March' featuring Leftfield
(Original artist: John Barry)
The trance like quality of some of Barry's You Only Live Twice music serves Leftfield very well. A very solid addition to the album if you like this sort of thing, and very atmospheric just like the original.

'All Time High' featuring Pulp
(Original artist: Rita Coolidge)
Like Aimee Mann, Jarvis Cocker seems determined to put his own stamp on his song...without doing anything especially interesting. The mass appeal of Pulp passed me by in the nineties but if you were a fan you might have more time for this song than I do. They try to build it into a big climax but it just ends up sounding like a bit of a racket. This is a song that is better suited to a female singer in my opinion.
Jarvis Cocker

'Moonraker' featuring Shara Nelson
(Original artist: Shirley Bassey)
Shara Nelson can sing and keeps it simple by sticking closely to the original. The song is all the better for it, capturing some of the spirit and feel of Shirley Bassey's version. A good addition to the album and superior to many of the songs here.

'James Bond theme' featuring LtJ Bukem
(Original artist: Monty Norman)
A bang up to date remix of the 007 theme should be the highlight of Shaken not Stirred but if you can find anything resembling the James Bond music in this you have better hearing than I do! A complete waste of time! Moby did a good remix of the 007 theme around this period and it's a shame he wasn't included on this album instead. This goes on for nearly seven minutes too. They might as well have got John Shuttleworth in to cover this one.

'Live and Let Die' featuring Chrissie Hynde
(Original Artist: Wings)
Sir Paul Mcartney's familiar Live and Let Die theme is thankfully recognisable and the dependable Chrissie Hynde (who had a song featured at the end of The Living Daylights in 1987) does a decent enough job. It isn't tremendously exciting though and around this point in the album you do start to wonder if there is any point in these songs existing when you can buy the originals instead.

'Thunderball' featuring Martin Fry
(Original Artist: Tom Jones)
One of the better contributions. Martin Fry has a good voice and croons out the big, brassy sixties Thunderball theme to good effect. Like David Mcalmont, Fry just goes for broke while sticking reasonably faithfully to the original song.

'FRWL' by Natacha Atlas
(Original Artist: Matt Monroe)
A mildly diverting take on one of the lesser known themes. Belgian singer Natacha Atlas performs the song in a quiet, warbly manner and infuses ethnic strains into the tune. It's a pleasant addition although like much of the album not really essential.

'OHMSS' by Propellerheads
(Original Artist: John Barry)
The saving grace of the album. Propellerheads' monumental take on the On Her Majesty's Secret Service theme is the one song here that sounds new, exciting, vibrant and worthy of release on its own. Great stuff. This is the only song on the album that I still play now and again and one that perfectly combines the spirit of the original with a modern twist. The tune is both very Bondian and an effective update.

'We Have All The Time In The World' featuring Iggy Pop
(Original Artist: Louis Armstrong)
This one shouldn't work but it sort of does. Iggy Pop is at his most restrained and brings a weary air of sadness to the classic song with some throaty vocals. A nice way to end the album although you'd still be better off with the original.


For me there is only one song on the album that was really, truly worth the effort and that is Propellerheads' OHMSS theme. A few more songs are ok but the rest is rather pointless. While Shaken and Stirred has its moments, overall I don't think the album has enough of these moments to make it an essential purchase. Aside from the revamp of OHMSS, the Leftfield, Shara Nelson, David Mcalmont, and Iggy Pop covers probably come off best. James Bond fans and completists will probably be interested or own this anyway, but my advice would be to seek out the Propellerheads' version of OHMSS and give this a miss.

Label: Warner Music UK Ltd.

Released: 1997

- Jake



c 2008 Alternative 007