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I don't think I will be the only person that fell in love with the music at the opening ceremony and luckily Shazam had already had the music uploaded so I was able to find out most of the tracks straight away. Needless to say however I was delighted when Isles of Wonder was released which is the official soundtrack of the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony. The album is split into two disks, the first is for the ceremony whilst the second is for the athlete's parade and as per usual I will review my favourite tracks from the album.
And I Will Kiss
This is the track right here that made the opening ceremony for me. I am a strong believer of the sound contributing as much to anything as the visual and this is a great examples. It is a track by Underworld and has slight modifications for the opening ceremony but keeps the main parts and is seventeen minutes long. It covered the industrial civilisations which was by far mine and most other peoples favourite parts as well as other sections of the ceremony. There is a heavy melodic beat with the drums. More and more elements of the song get added as the minutes pass by and it really is hypnotic. A few minutes in the middle it eases of with a more quitter instrumental before the drums come back in to full flow for the grand finale of the track.
This is their as it is the exorcist theme tune. One of my all-time favourite movie theme tunes. It is just such a tragic theme and yet so simple at the same time. Whether this was changed from the original for the ceremony I am not sure, but the song does change it to some sort of techno remix which is very cool. It was used from what I remember during the NHS section amongst a few others in the ceremony and is just over 11 minutes long. There is a cool instrumental style jazz in the middle which seems like a throwback to the 60's swing if that is the correct term.
This track is just beautiful. It reminds me a lot of Latika's theme from Slumdog Millionaire and is something a little different. No words, just singing different notes in the background with a soft backing music. I can imagine hearing it in the Olympic stadium would have been something wonderful and unfortunately something not all of us got to experience.
One of the tracks from the second CD, this is similarly a song with no lyrics, but just one that the athletes could walk out to. It starts of at a mid tempo with the bass guitar and drums but the track really takes off when the piano comes in. It is very effective and up tempo and completely suits the optimism from the beginning of the Olympics.
Overall if you enjoyed the opening ceremony, I can guarantee that Isles of Wonder is a must have album. There are a lot of enjoyable tracks here which take you back to the spirit, plus also a lot of commercial previously heard tracks like tunes from the Chemical Brothers and Emile Sande who gave some excellent live performances at the ceremony itself.
In 2008, the common soundbite doing the rounds after the Beijing Olympic games was "How are we going to top that?" At the time, it did seem a daunting prospect, none more so than the spectacular opening ceremony the people of Beijing put on. We all had a certain amount of worry heading into the 2012 Olympics in London, and a lot of this focused on our very own opening ceremony. Apart from the show itself, the music that accompanied it had to be right out of the top drawer, and as we all know now, the show was an utterly brilliant triumph. The soundtrack, which was mostly put together by the progressive dance outfit Underworld, had a CD and download release the day after the ceremony. Here are my thoughts on this excellent soundtrack that played such an important part at the start of the London 2012 games.
--Seedy Drug Dens, Teenage House Parties and The Greatest Show on Earth--
When Danny Boyle was commissioned to organize and direct the 2012 opening ceremony, it shouldn't have been a surprise that he turned to Underworld to head the music selections and produce original compositions. He previously had worked with the band to write the soundtrack for his hit film Trainspotting, and the title track 'Born Slippy' became a massive hit as a result. Underworld are the duo of Rick Smith and Karl Hyde hailing from Romford, London. (Very close to the actual Olympic site as it happens). They are known for their movie soundtrack work as well as their huge underground dance scene following. Apart from Trainspotting, their track have featured also in the movies Vanilla Sky and Kevin & Perry Go Large. Predominantly an experimental techno sound, they also have a unique ear for rhythm and the ability to use choirs and strings in their work. This aspect was key in the creation of some of the music used in the opening ceremony, particularly the soundtrack for the Pandemonium sequence.
Working closely with the other music directors of the show, they also had a big say in the other music used such as Mike Oldfield and Dizzee Rascal. Rick Smith was the overall music director, and the London Symphony Orchestra were also used in many of the original tracks and versions of classics such as 'Chariots of Fire'.
--Packaging and Price--
Depending on which version of the release you buy, prices are between £8.99 and £15.99 both on-line and in the shops. This is the two disc version and cost me £10.95 the day after the ceremony. In the typical CD case you get a nice booklet with words about the soundtrack written by both Danny Boyle and Rick Smith, and the usual band profile photographs and track details. The dark blue cover contains one of the images from the 2012 Olympics that will be remembered for all time. A silhouette of gold and white depicting the image of the Olympic flame coming together to form the cauldron, headed by the 2012 logo and matching typeface that became all to familiar in those brilliant two weeks.
~~Disc One - The Isles of Wonder~~
It is kind of difficult to know where to start when talking about the music of the opening ceremony, because it was just so fitting to the event and such a high quality to boot. Well, mostly. (Thank you Paul McCartney!) Thankfully, the album does not contain his poorly performed 'Hey Jude', but focuses on the music that accompanied the show played out. It generally runs in sequence to the show's order, starting with Frank Turner's song that was played at a live event separate to the main show just before. If I were to put the track into a specific catagory that would be difficult, as the likes of LSO, Bach, AR Rahman and Dizzee Racsal is not something that can be put together. The opening children's choirs of the show make lovely renditions of 'Flower of Scotland', 'Danny Boy' and 'Jerusalem'. The latter really tugging my heartstrings as a proud Englishman. The London Symphony Orchestra have much involvment in many of the tracks, including Elgar's dreamy 'Nimrod' and Blanck Mass's 'Sundowner', which was the music that was behind the Olympic torch coming into the stadium. It's classical, but modern in the same breath, and wonderful to listen to away from the awful chart and pop stuff of today's society.
This aforementioned chart crap does of course make several appearances in the show, but is blissfully missing from this album, and only contains either the backing tracks or live performances on the night. While this keeps the content down to manageable levels, i feel a few of the linking music and mix tracks should have been included. The introduction music that accompanies the following of the river Thames sequence is missing, as is Muse's 'Map of the Problematique' which is the track that enters the stadium in the beginning. However, the delights that are on the album make up for this. I highlight a few underneath, but listening to 'Chariots of Fire' and 'Abide with Me' is all very good for the soul, warming and emotional.
~~Disc Two - Welcome~~
This is the mixture of tracks that backed the athletes entering the stadium one by one, proudly following their countries flag. Starting with one of my personal favorites 'Galvanize' by the Chemical Brothers, the mix is mostly comprising of Underworld tracks with many from Drum & Bass artist High Contrast. These tracks are not hard dance or techno by any means however, the more lighter music from these artists. Mixed in with these are a few classics too. David Bowie's 'Heroes' speaks for itself, and the Pet Shop Boys' 'West End Girls' make it's first on many hearings during the 2012 Olympics. More for a dance fan this disc, not as far reaching as the primary disc one, but a nice addition nonetheless.
I Still Believe ~ Frank Turner - This was not a piece that featured in the actual show, but before at a live event in London to get the ball rolling so to speak. It's a jolly guitar driven folk/rock track, that's got a lot of sing-along aspects and is a pretty generic track. References in the vocals to familiar peoples and events with a good string riff make it a nice opener to the album. Turner's voice maybe a little grating for some, kind of reminding me of indie bands like Scouting for Girls, but it's all in good fun and non-threatening to the ears. [7/10]
And I Will Kiss ~ Underworld - Right, deep breathe! This, and I will not be lying when I state this, is the most brilliant piece of music ever written I have ever heard! That sounds like a huge sweeping statement, but let me tell you why I find this music so good. I once thought that it would be difficult to beat my former favorite track (The Box by Orbital) in terms of sheer depth, originality, emotional stirring etc. 'And I Will Kiss' has all the aspects of a genius modern composition, both in live instruments and electronic sound, it has a balance, class and execution I have never heard so excellently played. Taking it's name from a line in Shakespeare's 'The Tempest', I could talk about this track until time runs out, but I'll try and keep it short. It's basically 17 minutes of emotional heaven. This is the track that backs the best part from the show, the transition from quiet green lands to industrial empire, culminating in the forging of the 5 fire rings in the sky. From the first single drum thumps and crowd shouts, to the deep flowing and penetrating bass line and that euphoric synth sequence that runs throughout the track, its captivating and spellbinding. When the chanting of the choirs blends in and fades to the whistle bridge, you are blown away, but that is only half of it. The musical interpretation of a minutes silence plays out so wonderfully, and brings a tear to my eye every time. Just as you are gathering yourself from this, the 1000 drums hit back in and the track continues in building angst and passion. It finally climaxes with a bang of drums and the whistles fade out into silence. Its 17 minutes of bombarding of the senses, and that's exactly what Boyle told Underworld to create in the brief he gave them. He wanted the audience to be scared, absorbed, but mostly be thinking "How are we going to put up with this emotional pressure for 4 hours?" It worked. It's worth buying this album alone for this track, that's how good I think it is. A real modern masterpiece. [11/10]
Tubular Bells/In Dulci Jubilo ~ Mike Oldfield - The part of the show focusing on the NHS and GOSH was highlighted by four Mike Oldfield tracks mixed together, two of which are my favorite Tubular Bells tracks. I title tune, the one used in 'The Exorcist' features prominently, with the others following in. Growing up with my fathers interest in Oldfield it's not music I haven't heard before, but you cannot deny the excellent organisation and melodies that Oldfield creates. The original Tubular Bells is always haunting, and the fun jolly tone of 'In Dulci Jubilo' broken up by the dark techno infused 'Far above the Clouds' is a unexpected combination. The bells ring out loud and the sublime guitar work by Oldfield is top drawer. A bit cheesy for the casual listener, but a fine piece of work and well used in the show itself. [9/10]
Bonkers ~ Dizzee Rascal - Ah, grime music! Developed in the east London area, it's a mixture of rap, dub-step, techno and hip hop, and Dizzee Rascal has skill in delivering it. I'm not a big fan of rap/hip hop in general, but the dirty bass lines, clever lyrics and catchy riffs are quite fun and enjoyable. I have liked most of Dizzee Rascal's material, and 'Bonkers' was one of his more extrovert tracks, but grabs the attention and good mood of the show and plays out well here. Not everyone's cup of tea granted, but good for this to be included for a somewhat modern feel. [8/10]
I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor ~ Arctic Monkeys - You would have to be living in a cave for the last 6 years if you have never heard this track, the breakthrough tune of the Arctic Monkeys. Typical English rock as it's best, the monkeys have that knack on combining great lyrics and loud guitars, all made into a very likable song. This recording is a live studio version, but very similar to the live performance of the show. It's a got all the elements of good music. Sing-a-long chorus, head banging drums and memorable guitar riffs. It was another good choice to be used as it's instantly familiar and popular. [9/10]
Caliban's Dream ~ Underworld feat Alex Trimble and other artists - Written specifically for the torch lighting sequence, this track is mostly an ambient tune, vocal hums and choirs aplenty with a subtle bass and plodding quite percussion line. Vocals are done very well by Trimble, who sings in an almost silent state but would it be significant if his voice was missing. Backing vocals are key to this track too, creating a heart pulling and dramatic tension to it all. The strings and synth lines build on this emotion to the track, making to a perfect fit to the ceremony that accompanied it. The chimes of 'la laa la la laa laa laaaa laaaaaaaa' ring into the mind as you picture the cauldron coming together in all it's glory. Wonderful. [9/10]
Music Director - Rick Smith
Associate Music Directors - Pete Cobbin, Allan Jenkins and Kirsty Whalley
Mixed by - Pete Cobbin and Kirsty Whalley
Music Supervisor - Mike Gillespie
Published by Universal UMC
Released by Decca Records
Total Length - 150:02 minutes (2 disc)
Without going out and buying the DVD of the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, this is the best reminder of that fabulous show that made us again feel proud to be British. Although there are glaring emissions from the whole show's soundtrack, the highlights are included on this disc and brings the feel good factor back into the body. Not all the tracks are some peoples thing, but I can't think that anybody could listen to 'And I Will Kiss' and not be taken aback by how emotive and deep it is. Images of poignant meaning are conjured up by this album, to make you remember what we displayed to the world in such wonderful skill and class. You may beat your chest, wipe a tear or hold your head high whilst listening to the music that made one of the best show's ever held for an Olympic games. An excellent compilation of music.
Thanks for Reading. © Novabug
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Frank Turner - I Still Believe
2 Four Nations Choirs - Jerusalem, Flower of Scotland, Danny Boy, Bread of Heaven
3 LSO On Track Orchestra & François - Xavier Roth ? Nimrod
4 Underworld feat. Dame Evelyn Glennie and the Pandemonium Drummers - And I Will Kiss
5 Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells / In Dulci Jubilo
6 LSO - Chariots of Fire
7 Blanck Mass & LSO ? Sundowner
8 Dizzee Rascal - Bonkers
9 A.R. Rahman feat. Jaspreet Jasz - Nimma Nimma
10 Emeli Sandé ? Heaven
11 Emeli Sandé - Abide With Me
12 Arctic Monkeys - I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor (Live)
13 Arctic Monkeys - Come Together (Live)
14 Underworld feat. Dockhead Choir, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Only Men Aloud, Elizabeth Roberts, Esme Smith and Alex Trimble - Caliban?s Dream
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 Chemical Brothers ? Galvanize
2 High Contrast - Moon Watcher
3 Underworld - Always Loved A Film ? Instrumental
4 Underworld - Dark & Long (Dark Train) (Remix)
5 Pet Shop Boys - West End Girls
6 Underworld - Minneapolis (High Contrast Remix)
7 High Contrast ? Reach
8 High Contrast - Ghost Dance
9 Underworld Confusion - The Waitress (Darren Price & High Contrast Remix)
10 Wretch 32 feat. L ? Traktor
11 F Buttons - Olympians (High Contrast Remix)
12 High Contrast - Can?t Stop This Fire
13 Underworld - Moon In Water (Instrumental Remix)
14 Underworld - Crocodile (High Contrast Remix)
15 U2 - Where the Streets Have No Name (High Contrast Remix)
16 High Contrast - For Years
17 Underworld - Dirty Epic (Darren Price & High Contrast Remix)
18 High Contrast - The Long Way Home
19 Underworld - Dark & Long (Darren Price & High Contrast Remix)
20 Underworld - Rez (High Contrast Remix)
21 David Bowie ? Heroes
22 Chemical Brothers - Galvanize