Shaken And Stirred: The David Arnold James Bond Project Reviewed
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.
'Diamonds Are Forever' featuring David Mcalmont
(Original Artist: Shirley Bassey)
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.
'Nobody Does It Better' featuring Aimee Mann
(Original artist: Carly Simon)
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)
'Space March' featuring Leftfield
(Original artist: John Barry)
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)
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.
'Moonraker' featuring Shara Nelson
(Original artist: Shirley Bassey)
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
'Live and Let Die' featuring Chrissie Hynde
(Original Artist: Wings)
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)
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)
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)
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.