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This is the soundtrack album for the 1963 James Bond film From Russia with Love, composed of course by the incomparable John Barry. From Russia with Love is widely regarded to be one of the best two or three films in the series thanks to a classic villain (Robert Shaw's Red Grant) and a sense of atmosphere, suspense and danger that was largely jettisoned soon enough in favour of chases and gadgets. I don't agree myself with the theory that the early Bond films were somehow grounded and serious and From Russia with Love is certainly not Wild Strawberries but it does seem less fantastical than the films that followed and the European atmosphere and sixties superspy intrigue was absolutely perfect for the sound that Barry trademarked. This was his first Bond score but he quickly became indispensible and one could argue that the Bond series never really recovered when Barry left in 1987. In the next few years he composed the scores for Zulu and Goldfinger and established himself as one of the great composers in cinema. James Bond Is Back/From Russia with Love/James Bond Theme begins the album and is a medley composed for the titles (although this is a slightly different arrangement than the one used in the film). This is a perfect illustration of how fundamental John Barry was in establishing the James Bond template and it would be hard to imagine these Connery films without his music. His string laden James Bond is Back is elegant and bold but also charmingly languid and sixties lounge lizard and perfectly captures the era and atmosphere of the film. Then you get versions of the main title song and the James Bond theme, all drenched in a quintessentially Bondian John Barry aura.
Recent Bond scores have been rather generic at times but once this piece of music starts you are never in any doubt that we are back in the world of James Bond. It's sort of like sonic pop culture, mashing up Barry, Lionel Bart and Monty Norman, and something they couldn't do to save their lives these days. The opening chords foreshadow Barry's superb instrumental for On Her Majesty's Secret Service and the Bond theme here is the original classic version. The musical arrangement of the title song is rather fun too because it's a faster arrangement than the vocal rendition. Tania Meets Klebb is an appropriately moody piece next to signify Bond's encounter with one of the memorable villains in the film - SPECTRE agent Rosa Klebb. Some great work by Barry here. I like the way he slows the music down to create tension and then suddenly amps it up again. Meeting in St Sophia is another classy piece but more of a dramatic composition with a heavy ominous intro that seems to incorporate clanking church bells. Great stuff but probably something that works better in a film than in complete isolation. The Golden Horn is a nice bonus in a sense as it doesn't feature in the film. Again very sixties and Bondian although your patience might be slightly stretched by the somewhat cheesy intro with an abundance of maracas. You can almost picture a bubble machine.
Girl Trouble is another rich atmospheric piece that contains all the trademarks and little moments in time that one would expect from a Barry score. I think the way he would fuse the strings and brass section was always wonderful. So you have a classical backdrop and then all of these brassy effects to lace the music and make it more modern and exciting. Bond Meets Tania is a fine piece that is rife with intrigue and romantic tension and was scored for the scene where Bond first meets Daniela Bianchi's Tatiana Romanova. They are being secretly watched by SPECTRE agents and Barry throws in some ominous piano chords to heighten the sense of danger. This is again positively drenched in Bondian atmosphere and has all the little cues and spikes that would remain an intrinsic part of Barry's work with the franchise. The electric little string cues are wonderful and are similar to the approach he would take with the PTS to Goldfinger. A slow build up to create a sense of atmosphere and then some marvelous flourishes and cues. A classic version of the 007 theme next with more trumpets, trombones, French horn and tubas than you could shake a vodka martini at. This is a master at work and this incarnation of the Bond theme is one of the most timeless and iconic. The Bond theme is a great piece of film music that perfectly captures this new sixties playboy hero and it's rather ironic I think that they barely use it now because it doesn't suit Daniel Craig or the new Bond films at all.
Gypsy Camp is another atmospheric composition written for the evocative gypsy camp scenes in the film. I love the strings here and there is some great guitar work. This feels like the first inclusion on the soundtrack so far that (in a sonic sense) is trying to mimic the style of the location that Bond finds himself in. Apparently John Barry had intended his entire score to be Turkish themed but he changed his mind and decided that approach ultimately didn't enthuse him enough and perhaps might be rather constrictive. Death of Grant is fantastically John Barry and begins with subdued brass infused drizzle of the Bond theme meshed with the title song. It's very James Bond and has that vague element of melancholia that is detectable in a lot of Barry's Bond cues. This is Spinal Tap trademark John Barry turned up to eleven. We move onto From Russia with Love's title song - sung by Matt Monroe. This was composed by Barry but written by Lionel Bart - who, on a note of arcane trivia, couldn't actually read music in real life. It's a great tune and works wonderfully when used as an instrumental in the body of the film but despite the high reputation it has I've never been that excited or charmed by Monro's crooning of the title theme song (played over the end credits in the actual film). This is a borderline dirge. Classy but fairly dull with a generous helping of cheese sprinkled on top. It's falling asleep on a Sunday afternoon. I feel that maybe the song could have been jazzed up more or given a female vocalist.
Spectre Island is again very moody with Barry's expert use of strings to establish a sense of unease. I like the chiming effect here. Very evocative of the era and great for the more tense sequences in the film. Guitar Lament is a shortish piece (about a minute) and I don't believe it was used in the film (although it would have fitted in well). As the title suggests, this is a soft guitar piece with a few fleeting snatches of the Bond cues and a weary air or sadness. Man Overboard/SMERSH In Action is a pivotal piece of music in the film because it's played while Kronsteen and Klebb are being questioned by Blofeld and covers Bond's escape on the train. Barry comes up trumps and once again atmosphere is the key (rather than action cues for example although action cues would feature more as Barry got his feet under the table and scored more Bond films). Not the most spellbinding piece of music in isolation but a great one if one is aware of the context of the piece. James Bond with Bongos is a sprawling intoxicating composition of the Bond theme, just perfect for Sean Connery arriving at some exotic far flung locale and gliding out of the airport in a spiffy suit. Stalking is another atmospheric piece of music that stresses suspense and danger.
Leila Dances is another piece that wasn't included in the film but is very easy to imagine fitting in somewhere. It's a jaunty more Turkish sounding piece of music. The sort of thing they play in old films when a belly dancer appears. Good stuff and a reminder that Barry was more versatile than sometimes given credit for. Death of Kerim is a rather dramatic piece that highlights the big brassy sound that Barry trademarked. It's excellent but by this point you feel like you've already heard it before. I love the drumroll at the start. Finally, 007 Takes the Lektor has a gorgeous string laden fusion of Barry's Bond action beat and stattaco punctuations with just a hint of the 007 theme. The soundtrack is unavoidably rather samey at times but there is always something unique and wonderful in each composition if you listen carefully enough. This is a great film score that captures a blossoming talent right at the beginning of his stint in Bondage all those years ago. Maybe not quite my favourite Barry Bond score but certainly a superior and very classy one all the same.
The James Bond theme is one of the most widely recognised pieces of film music in the world. As soon as you hear the music it is instantly recognisable. The theme was composed by Monty Norman for the first James Bond film, Dr No, in 1962. When it came time to make a second James Bond film, the makers turned not to Norman but to a composer known only for his Jazz Group at the time - John Barry. Born in York in 1933, Barry had been interested in working in film as a boy when his father was working in the film industry. When Barry served in the British Army in the 1950s, he took a course that led to him working in the military band. After leaving the army, he and some of his friends formed the John Barry Seven Jazz group, having a fair amount of success and making a variety of TV appearances. Around this time, Barry began to work with other artists as well. It was at the start of the 1960s that Barry began to compose music for films, his first project being Beat Girl (1960) followed by Girl on a Roof (1961). Then, in 1962, Barry was hired by the producers of a little film called Dr No to arrange the James Bond film theme, written by the composer of the music for the film, Monty Norman. Barry went on to score two more films that year, The L Shaped Room (1962), which starred Richard Attenborough, and The Amorous Prawn (1962). Dr No did well enough to merit a sequel, and so it was in 1963 that Barry was asked to come back and this time write the entire score for the next film, titled From Russia with Love. From Russia with Love dealt with Sean Connery's 007 travelling to Russia in order to steal their Lektor code machine in what may or may not be a trap. On the way he encounters the lovely Tania, SPECTRE's professional killer agent Grant (played by Robert Shaw), a journey on the Orient Express and the deadly Rosa Klebb. Barry's eventual score was totally refreshing and a major improvement over Norman's
score for Dr No. Whereas Norman's score evoked films of the previous decade and made little impression, Barry's score arrived with a bang, containing memorable themes written with flair, using European cultural music from foreign countries that successfully tell you that Bond is far from homely England. The CD album release of the music for Dr No was disappointing; it consisted mostly of unfamiliar Jamaican style music, and precious little of Norman's score (see my review for that). Things turned around completely for the CD album release of the music for From Russia with Love. Most of the score can be heard on the 18 track album, including Matt Monroe's title track. This is where Bond music really began and laid down the tradition of what was to become an epic franchise that still goes strong today. 1: Opening Titles: (James Bond is back; From Russia with Love; James Bond Theme) Barry starts off proceedings with a wonderful 10 second orchestral stab to tell us that James Bond is indeed back, and then segues into an instrumental of the title song (which comes later), a romantic piece. This is the music that accompanied the opening credits, rather than the title song, rare in Bond history. At the end, Barry uses the Bond theme again. 2: Tania Meets Klebb. Barry's fondness for Brass and guitar shows itself here as Tania encounters the traitorous Rosa Klebb (and her lesbianistic tendencies!). The xylophone even gets rolled out in this one. 3: Meeting in St Sophia. This is an evocative brass piece as Bond finds body of Shilenko, a Russian agent, in a Moscow cathedral. The first sign of a European feel to the music which cropped up in many later tracks. 4: The Golden Horn. Not featured in the film. What the Golden Horn actually is remains a mystery! Still, it's another brass piece with a European feel (the tamborine features quite prominently too - he'll use anything). 5: Girl Trouble. This
is one of the more memorable scenes of the film as Bond visits a Gypsy camp and watches a battle between two girls fighting over the same man. Barry uses a fast drum beat that becomes ever louder as the fight goes on, before it is interrupted by SPECTRE's attack (see 7) 6: Bond Meets Tania: A slow romantic piece of From Russia with Love with strings and the harp (Barry is one of the few composers to use the harp in some of his scores). 7: 007: Now this is real Bond. Barry's fast moving action piece makes its first appearance as SMERSH attack the gypsy camp. It's fast pace and memorable theme ensured it was used again. Again the fast drum beat, intermingled with brass and strings, and strangely what sounds like a fog horn halfway through! It was so good it cropped up in later Bond films (remember the underwater battle at the climax of Thunderball?) 8: Gypsy Camp. The camp battle is over and Bond recovers with 2 gypsy beauties to some nice slow guitar music. 9: Death of Grant. Which is odd, because no music accompanies that film sequence! It's not in the film anywhere, in fact. The music is clearly written by Barry especially for the film so perhaps it wasn't included in the final edit. It's hard to listen to as it's closely allied with the film sequences, though the Bond theme does crop up. 10: From Russia with Love (sung by Matt Monroe): The first Bond song, proper. Composed by Lionel Bart (not Barry) its a winner, with Monroe's sultry lingering voice ("I've travelled the world, I must return, to Russia, with Love," he croons). 11: Spectre Island. This piece of music is near the beginning of the film and introduces us to SPECTRE's deadly organisation. Barry uses a slow string motif to introduce Blofeld and his deadly underlings. 12: Guitar Lament. Similar to Gypsy Camp with a longer guitar sequence and the harp and tambourine beating out a slow rhythm i
n the background. It's quite listenable despite not being the film. 13: Man Overboard/Smersh in Action. Man Overboard is another brass piece as Bond and Tania try and escape SPECTRE. The second part shows SPECTRE's punishment for the failure of the Lektor plan as is killed. It's similar to SPECTRE Island with the slow piano music used to signal the appearance (or non appearance, as you never see his face) of Blofeld. 14: James Bond with Bongos - All kinds of fun here as Bond arrives in Istanbul. A good rendition of the theme with some really jazzy guitar. And of course the aforementioned Bongos! 15: Stalking. The first piece of music in the film, featuring a SPECTRE training exercise to test Grant's capabilities. Barry uses the strings to great effect as Grant apparently stalks Bond in a garden at night before finally strangling him (and it is revealed to be another man wearing a Bond facemask). Barry uses the Bond theme in places. 16: Leila Dances. The fourth track not featured in the film, though it is similar to the music actually used. Bond uses drums here and a flute to provide a Gypsy feel to the music. 17: Death of Kerin. Bond, Tania and friend Kerin start their journey from Russia on the Orient Express. It's almost a suite of music for the film as we get the FRWL romantic instrumental, the SPECTRE string motif as featured in track 11 and finally some brass stabs as Bond discovers Kerin's body. 18: 007 Takes the Lektor. This track utilises the 007 theme, and is fairly similar to track 7, but at a faster pace, and all for the better. Aside from Thunderball mentioned above, the theme cropped up in Diamonds are Forever and Moonraker. Apparently David Arnold included it on his score for Die Another Day but it's somewhat elusive on CD. The CD is not without its mistakes. The music on the album is jumbled and mislabelled. For example, 'Stalking', which takes place in
the pre credits sequence, is track 15 on the album. Some tracks titles are incorrect (implying they are from one part of the film when they are from elsewhere or nowhere at all). I'd gladly jettison some of these extra tracks for the rest of the score. As heard in the film, the correct track order should be: 15, 1, 11, 2, 14, 5, 7, 8, 6, 3, 18, 17, 13, 10. On a more trivial note, some tracks from Dr No are reused in the film - as the helicopter crashes, and when Bond destroys the SPECTRE boats. These are from Monty Norman's score and are not included on the CD. There are some Barry cues missing of course (very few album releases contain the entire score of a film), for example during the Orient Express sequences, the ever elusive gunbarrel sequence (a common omission on many Bond albums) and a few short cues overlapping scenes. Despite this, the CD is well worth a listen. It's not the best Bond score that Barry ever wrote, but gives a sign of what was to come in his subsequent scores, and gives an idea of just how he went on to become a world famous film composer. Overall then, it was a step in the right direction for Bond music; and things were about to get better with the release of Goldfinger and Barry's next score, but that's another review entirely... On the 31st March 2003, 16 Bond soundtracks are being re-released. This is great news as some of these scores desperately needed a full release. All are being re-mastered, so the sound quality should be a massive improvement on previous releases. Five soundtracks are expanded and feature virtually complete scores. The 16 re-releases are the following: DR NO (remastered, same as previous release) FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (remastered, same as previous) GOLDFINGER (remastered, expanded) THUNDERBALL (remastered, expanded, nearly complete score) YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE - (remastered, expanded, complete score) ON HER MAJESTY'S S
ECRET SERVICE (remastered, expanded, nearly complete score) DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (remastered, expanded, complete score) LIVE AND LET DIE (remastered, expanded, complete score) THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (remastered, same as previous) THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (remastered, same as previous) MOONRAKER (remastered, same as previous) FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (remastered, same as previous) OCTOPUSSY (remastered, same as previous) A VIEW TO A KILL (remastered, same as previous) THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (remastered, same as previous) GOLDENEYE (remastered, same as previous) The sound quality is reportedly brilliant on these new releases. The albums, while keeping the same covers, will have new liner notes inside. From Russia With Love will have the same tracks as listed above, and no new music, but with stunning new sound and as soon as I get my hands on a copy I will be updating this review. You can order the brand new release of From Russia with Love for 7.99 from Amazon. http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000087DS1/qid=1048000775/sr=1-1/ref= sr_1_3_1/026-1881524-5427647
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 James Bond Is Back/From Russia With Love/James Bond Theme
2 Tania Meets Klebb
3 Meeting In St Sophia
4 Golden Horn
5 Girl Trouble
6 Bond Meets Tania
8 Gypsy Camp
9 Death Of Grant
10 From Russia With Love
11 Spectre Island
12 Guitar Lament
13 Man Overboard/Smersh In Action
14 James Bond With Bongos
16 Leila Dances
17 Death Of Kerin
18 007 Takes The Lekto