The music of James Bond has topped the charts around the world, as evidenced by this rare Japanese 45 RPM release of John Barry's famous theme song.
By Lee Pfeiffer
Last Friday's tribute to the music of James Bond at Carnegie Hall was a magnificent evening of entertainment. The New York Pops, under the direction of conductor Carl Davis, did justice to the canon of great film themes that have characterized the 007 movies. To the relief of Bond fans, the Pops did nothing to "soup up" the arrangements of the familiar songs, opting instead to perform the traditional arrangements. The two hour-plus event managed to incorporate almost all of the main title themes which were played more or less in sequential order, and it was especially rewarding to hear Burt Bacharach's The Look of Love included, despite the fact that it derived from the mostly-detested 1967 slapstick version of Casino Royale. Carl Davis proved to be an amiable and entertaining emcee, as well as conductor, providing fun anecdotes in between every song. He did make one minor mistake however, by claiming that the first Bond song to hit the charts in America was A View to a Kill. Of course, almost all of the previous songs had charted to some degree and several were smash hits, with three earning Oscar nominations. Davis was aided and abetted by two superb talents who alternated singing the title themes: Mary Carewe and Simon Bowman. Both brought passion and excitement to their renderings of the songs, and I confess that even the weaker ones (i.e The Man With the Golden Gun) seemed to resonate better than they do in the actual films. Happily, Davis provided some much-appreciated "bonus" tracks including John Barry's Dawn Raid on Ft. Knox from Goldfinger and Marvin Hamlisch's Journey to Atlantis from The Spy Who Loved Me. The Pops' performance of the latter made me appreciate this particular theme more than I had in the past. Most intriguingly, Davis opted to perform an extended musical sequence from perhaps the least-popular score of the series, GoldenEye. Curiously, Eric Serra was the only composer not acknowledged by Davis in his introductions. (Could it be because it's been said that the music from this sequence- the tank chase- was actually inserted into the film by uncredited composers?)There were some omissions that were disappointing: Davis included We Have All the Time in the World from On Her Majesty's Secret Service but unfortunately did not include John Barry's brilliant main title theme for that film, which is arguably the best of the series.While Bond fans were probably grateful the Pops skipped Die Another Day, one wishes they had included Barry's beautiful theme song for Octopussy (All Time High). Similarly, the decision to close the show with the dreadful Quantum Of Solace theme proved that all the Pops' women and all the Pops' men couldn't make this sound like anything but the wail of a banshee. (The "composer" Jack White bragged that he came up with the song in twenty minutes, which makes one wonder what took him so long.) Among the encore tracks was a most-welcome performance of k.d lang's Surrender, the closing song from Tomorrow Never Dies. Davis correctly pointed out that this was to be the film's opening song until it was bumped by Sheryl Crowe's composition (of which it can be said that I seem to be the only person on earth who expresses admiration for her contribution to the series.)
The Maestro: Carl Davis
I was a bit dubious that the Carnegie Hall regulars and season ticket holders wpuld be very responsive to the Bond tribute, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Three elderly women in front of me said it was one of the best evenings of entertainment they had witnessed in the legendary venue. I concur - and I will also say that it's one of the few times I was able to enjoy a major James Bond event without having to fly to London.
(For more on the New York Pops, click here to access the official web site)