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Although I'm not usually a fan of film soundtracks, I've been listening to a lot more of them lately, as I find the music without accompanying lyrics to be less of a distraction when I'm doing other things. If nothing else, it prevents me from singing along in my totally out of tune voice that annoys everyone around me, including myself. Although I don't recall paying much attention to the soundtrack when I was at the cinema actually watching "Skyfall", this turns out to be a very good album.
The opening brass notes of "Grand Bazaar, Istanbul" immediately place this as a Bond soundtrack, before the song breaks into a gentle opening which quickly picks up in both tempo and volume. Around a minute in, there is a Turkish sound coming in and the strings become more frantic and excitable, building to a climax with a few familiar bars from the traditional Bond theme.
"Voluntary Retirement" repeats the theme, with a gentle, quite relaxing opening with the brass section to the fore. But around half way through, the tempo picks up, the strings come in and whilst not as frantic as the previous track, you can tell that something is going on before it eases off slightly towards the end of the track.
Next up is "New Tricks", which is a very interesting moment. There is a little more of the Turkish influence of the opening number, although not as obviously and there are hints of an electric guitar through the track, adding a little depth whilst the strings pull it all together overlay it nicely, seemingly holding things at bay a little.
A few slightly shorter tracks follow, with "Severine" being a beautifully understated orchestral work with the strings calming things down after some of the franticness of the earlier works and providing the first fully relaxing moments of the soundtrack so far. However, the woodwind notes that open "Brave New World" with the Bond theme are frequently a harbinger of something about to happen and that proves to be true again as the orchestra comes in with a sweeping movement. The tempo is mostly lower than earlier, but there is an energy to the strings, especially towards the end that gets you keyed up ready for what will come next.
That next is "Shanghai Drive", which opens gently, with strings and some synthesised beats and guitars which in part evokes a 70s cop show theme. This is not a track that does a great deal on its own, but you can feel the restraint here as it builds slowly and leads into "Jellyfish". This is a longer track that opens with busy strings and a brass section swelling in the background with a sense of foreboding. It then quietens down, but you can still feel the tension in the music, especially as the strings sweep back to the fore towards the end of the track.
A few quick tracks again follow, starting with "Silhouette", which is a very busy track with the drums to the fore, reminding me of a Japanese drumming group I saw quite a few years ago. This then moves into the quiet of "Modigliani", which starts as a relaxing piece with the strings before the tension sneaks up a notch with some bass notes coming in underneath. "Day Wasted" again starts quietly, before some drumming comes in and the tempo and tension ramp up once more, with the music giving a sense of something or someone being followed or, perhaps more accurately, stalked.
"Quartermaster" is a more exciting track from the start, with frantic pan pipes moving into drums and the whole thing having a little more of the Turkish flavour from earlier in the album. About half way through the five minutes this track plays for, the orchestra comes in and the pace of the track picks up even more. "Someone Usually Dies" is a return to the quiet opening with the violins to the fore, although as with many of the songs on this soundtrack, there is something just around the corner and the brass section evokes this very well here.
"Komodo Dragon" seems to have a little bit of everything in it, with the early sections having a little of the "Skyfall" theme as well as a snatch of what sounded like an older Bond theme. This eases back a little and the pan pipes come in later on and the song gets a slightly more Eastern flavour, but the two parts combine well. "The Bloody Shot", much like "Quartermaster", is a track that grabs you from the very beginning. The violins are busy and mixed in with the insistent brass, the tension grows and then the drums come to the fore and even without being able to have the film in front of you, it's easy to tell that something exciting would have been happening on screen at this point, especially when you hear a snatch of the Bond theme about half way through.
The tempo drops a little for "Enjoying Death", which is a gentle track largely controlled by the pan pipes, but with a beat underneath that suggests action isn't too far away. "The Chimera" follows and this is where the action is happening. Although it's a slow tempo start, the drums tell you this is a big moment and then the violins become very busy and when the brass section gets involved, the song swells into something much larger before suddenly taking a U-Turn and ending quietly.
After this, "Close Shave" comes as a surprise, being such a quiet piece, almost feeling slightly whimsical at the start. The pan pipes and the gentle violins give this a relaxing feel and in parts it sounds a little like something Clannad used to do. This lasts for as long as it takes for "Health & Safety" to start, where we are returned to the frantic strings and the sense of a chase or someone being stalked. This latter is a feeling that carries on into "Granborough Road" which is marked again by the excitable string section and the pounding drums. Unlike the previous track, the changes of volume, style and tempo mean it's not the same act repeated over and over and it's a more interesting experience and there is another hint of Bond theme at the end of the track.
"Tennyson" is another piece that starts with a little restraint, with the violins slightly more controlled, but the bass beat underneath just waiting for something to happen. The track builds more as the brass section comes in and it builds to a crescendo before segueing into "Enquiry", which is an action packed piece from the start. Hints of the Bond theme give away that something is going on and it becomes even more frantic towards the mid-point, although it does drop off a little towards the end, which is a little disappointing.
"Breadcrumbs" opens with the traditional Bond theme, with the twangy guitar note underpinned by the brass section and the drumming underneath. About half way through there is a break and the track then picks up again in a slightly more understated way, but one that you can feel the tension in. Next up is "Skyfall", not the Adele theme, but instead a very gentle and relaxing piece with only the strings underneath giving a hint that there may be more here than meets the eye. Or ear.
The title of "Kill Them First" suggests something a little more than the gentle opening with the strings would suggest, but the tempo and insistency pick up before too long. You can again feel the tension as the strings pick up the pace and the drums come in and the brass section swells before it ends gently once again. This leads into the understated opening of "Welcome to Scotland", which you sense immediately is merely waiting for something to happen. The discordant brass section gives way to the drums and strings after about a minute and this again becomes a tense track with plenty going on within it.
The strings lead off "She's Mine" with plenty going on, making this the perfect next track after the climax to "Welcome to Scotland". Once again, the orchestra swells and you get the sense of a big moment happening on screen, even when the tempo eases off slightly for a few moments before building once again. As if there were any doubts, a few moment of the Bond theme towards the end are always a good indicator that Bond is up to something and help to finish the track off nicely. There's more of a synthesised opening to "The Moors", but this does little to ruin the mood, as the violins swiftly join in and once more the strings come in and out and you get the tense feeling again, before the drums kick in about a minute from the end and things really pick up for a moment before rising and falling until the end.
"Deep Water" is one of the longer tracks on the album, but it's certainly one of the more interesting ones. It opens quietly, sounding a little muffled for the first minute or so, before the brass and strings suddenly kick in and it swells into a huge piece of music that has a little bit of everything in it. The violins ramp up the tension and become more frantic and the brass section grows and grows before it all drops back and then builds again to a tense finale. After all this action, "Mother" is a very slow and gentle track, with the brass mostly to the fore as it showcases the emotion on display on screen at this point. Closing off the album, "Adrenaline" almost gives a retrospective of the album, having much of the Turkish feel of the opening track, mixed with some of the synthesised sounds which have marked this album out as a truly modern Bond soundtrack to go along with what was a truly modern Bond film.
This soundtrack is the perfect accompaniment to the film that "Skyfall" was. Whilst the film dragged Bond into the 21st Century with a more technological edge, it also has moments that harked back to earlier Bond films to mark the 50 years of Bond. This album does exactly the same things, with a lot of modern synthesiser influences, but with frequent references back to the original Bond theme and the traditional orchestration not letting you forget that you are listening to the Bond soundtrack.
Containing 30 tracks and running for over 75 minutes, this is fantastic value for money with it being available for £6.49 to download from Amazon, or with copies available from around £5 plus postage from eBay or just under £7 plus postage from Amazon's Marketplace. In terms of having something on in the background whilst you do other things, this is a great album, although it's frequently too busy and action packed to be entirely relaxing. It's certainly an album I can play whilst I'm doing something reasonably active like cleaning, but not one to have on whilst reading, as it doesn't give you enough peaceful moments to let you lose yourself outside of it. If only because listening to the tension and excitement of the album has made me want to lose myself in the tension and excitement of the film once again, which makes this the ideal soundtrack, even if it does take some small thing away from the ability to listen to the album in isolation.
Skyfall Original Score Soundtrack CD Album
The Skyfall score was written by Thomas Newman who is perhaps best known for his work and collaboration on other movies with the Skyfall movie's director Sam Mendes.
The score was originally going to be written by David Arnold, who was approached in 2011 and seemed a natural choice having worked on five Bond films previously, including 'Tomorrow Never Dies', 'The World is Not Enough', 'Die Another Day' and the other two movies starring Daniel Craig as Bond, 'Casino Royale' and 'Quantum of Solace'. However Mendes chose to go with his long-time collaborator Thomas Newman and in January 2012 it was announced that he would take over the musical score for the movie.
Arnold is well known for his work on Bond related stuff, including the famous 'Golden Eye' video game. There were stories doing the rounds that he was a little miffed at Newman's taking over the Skyfall score but this is not true as he had already committed himself to working with Danny Boyle on the Olympic ceremonies. So it was not such a hard choice for Mendes to make after all.
The soundtrack duration time is 01:08:49 with an extra ten minutes including the added bonus tracks available on iTunes.
One interesting factor about the score and a surprising one when you first listen to it is the fact that the actual title song by Adele is not included. This has only ever happened on one other Bond soundtrack or score; that being Casino Royale. I actually bought mine on iTunes so I got the Adele track with it. Seeing as this is the twenty-third Bond soundtrack that has been made, and then it being only the second to not include the title track is a pretty big deal among Bond fans and aficionados of everything OO7.
Skyfall Original Score - Track Listing
1. Grand Bazaar, Istanbul (5:15)
Superb opening track, which builds up from a patient orchestra like huddle, where they seem to be lulling the listener into a false sense of relaxation and abandonment. At just over fifty seconds in the drum beats start in conjunction with the chase that ensues on the screen. The drum beats are joined by a Turkish sound, which is made up of bongo drums, cellos, guitars and horns. This moulds into a typical Bond type sound and the chase is on, culminating with a fight atop a moving train. At the end of this track we hear the now legendary hint of the Bond Theme itself, which is a nice touch and sends a tingle down your spine whether you be watching the movie or listening to the soundtrack by itself.
2. Voluntary Retirement (2:22)
After the first track of the score in the movie the movie moves to Adele's title track 'Skyfall'. The score picks up on the CD soundtrack to coincide with M's (Judy Dench) end of meeting with Ralph Fiennes character, in which she is rather pushed into deciding to retire early. It is a sombre little opening to this track for an uneasy part of the movie for M. It soon picks up its beat as M realises that the department is under attack through a firewall breach in their computer system.
3. New Digs (2:33)
I personally love this track, which really puts this brilliant orchestra to use. It's a plucky little number in more ways than one and that's the impression you get at the start; that of an instrument being plucked. This joined by some wavering violins, which are joined by more plucking and galloping beats. There is also a slight hint of the Bond theme again cleverly mixed in there. This part of the film shows Bond, who is assumed to have perished, hiding out in an anonymous recovery hole before he meets up with the agency to be taken to the new digs that the CIA have moved to.
4. Severine (1:19)
Bond is out through his paces in order to be reassigned. A slow track that adds tension to the scene by way of delicate violins and a mild, almost hidden beat of the snare.
5. Brave New World (1:50)
The meeting with the new 'Q' and a seemingly subdued background track in the movie to begin with. On the score it is a joyous version of the Bond Theme again, which starts with an Oboe and picks up pace with cellos and violins screeching along in glorious harmony. As the pace picks up the movie moves to Bond swimming in a beautiful pool on top of a tall skyscraper. The music fits the mood perfectly, even if it is just to show one of the obligatory 'Daniel without a top' shots from the movie.
6. Shanghai Drive (1:27)
Yes, Bond has arrived in Shanghai and is on the trail of a baddie. The music is again a heady mix of woodwind instruments which give way to strings as we move into the next track.
7. Jellyfish (3:23)
The score takes us up the skyscraper with Bond hanging precariously from the bottom of the lift. It is a seemingly gentle ride as the music translates but there is a tension in both the music and the scene as one slip and Bond is a memory.
8. Silhouette (0:56)
This is a raucous track for an exciting fight between Bond and the band. They are high up in the glass skyscraper and it is dark, hence the title of this track. Kettle drums boom and drums pound as the two men fight. As the action heats up, so do the drums and we feel like a marching band has joined the actors on screen and are trying to drown out the punches and kicks. It must have been a lot of fun for the orchestra to record this part of the movie.
9. Modigliani (1:04)
Bond travels up river on a boat towards a casino and we hear more of the Bond theme mixed in with Skyfall, the title song. It is nicely done and blends in well with the tension of what Bond expects to find at his destination.
10. Day Wasted (1:32)
Bond sees a familiar face in the casino and makes a vow to help a damsel in distress. The music here is subtle and is a build-up to what is to come.
11. Quartermaster (4:58)
Bond makes his way out of the casino and the music builds up the tension ready for a fight. The build- up is subtle and gives us a hint along with the scene that something is about to happen. Again it is a nice mix and use of melodic violins and slowly rumbling beat.
12. Someone Usually Dies (2:30)
The tempo is slowly raised yet keeps itself in check as it gradually builds up to the major action scene in the movie that we know must be about to come. Newman is a master at pacing the score so it lulls you into a false sense of security, even though you know something major is about to happen, before slapping you in the face with a tantalising break-neck beat.
13. Komodo Dragon (3:20)
This is an integral part of the score and it becomes evident that the Violins, Cellos and flute at the start of the track are treating you to a slower version of the movie title track in without the voice of Adele. Adele actually collaborated on this instrumental version with Paul Epworth, the producer of the track. The build-up to the hot spot in the scene is still evident even with this apparent lull. Have no fear as it is just the calm before the storm.
14. The Bloody Shot (4:46)
Another action and fight sequence. This track has lots of pace and it soon gathers into a whirlwind of drum bashing and silky smooth guitars. It has that marching element to it again and is akin to a superhero fight scene more than anything but I suppose Bond is a kind of hero after all.
15. Enjoying Death (1:14)
A fight with henchmen and Komodo Dragon's. The orchestra creates the tension of a fight and manages to still keep the scene rolling with some subtle eloquence.
16. The Chimera (1:58)
Bond escapes the casino and ends up on a boat. He also ends up getting the girl as usual. This is a slower track and beautifully composed. The violins are again evident, as are the cellos. This is one of those tracks that goes about its business and once you listen to the soundtrack you realise just how much of these slower tunes matter and gel the movie together.
17. Close Shave (1:33)
Bond meets with the classic Bond Villain played by Javier Bardem. 'Silva' is an interesting character to say the least and the music conveys a steely grit with that somehow perfect mix of evil and mystery to it that you only get in Bond villains. I love the way the score really makes the mood of each of Bardem's scenes that much more creepy.
18. Health & Safety (1:30)
Silva is plotting his escape from the CIA building and the music creates the perfect tension for the scene.
19. Granborough Road (2:33)
Bond and Q try to crack the encrypted code that Silva has laid in his computers. It is amazing how in Bond films, the music actually does convey the techy parts really well and all the flashing screens and computer imagery is shown along with a score that makes you feel like you're in the lab with the characters.
20. Tennyson (2:14)
Silva is on the run and Bond is on his trail. The orchestra is again locked on the eyes of the conductor as it weaves up and down in tempo and an array of instruments is exposed.
21. Enquiry (2:50)
M and many of the big-wigs from the CIA and the judiciary are in the courthouse for an enquiry into how the security at the CIA was breached. Silva breaks in and tries to kill M. The music reaches a crescendo as Bond tries to protect her and once again an action scene opens with crashing symbols and pulsing guitars and synths.
22. Breadcrumbs (2:02)
Good old Monty Norman's Original Bond theme bursts onto the screen at the start of this track and it sounds as good as ever. It sounds rough and smooth all at the same time. It smashes onto the speakers and makes you want to shout 'Yes, this is Bond' and let's remember I am not a Bond obsessive or even a massive fan. Daniel Craig has re-enlightened a childhood lust for adventure in me and I loved the music in this movie; this part gave me some odd nostalgic feeling, probably born out of growing up with Bond films over the last four decades. Bond takes M to safety as Q leaves a hidden trail for Silva to follow in order to lure him into a trap.
23. Skyfall (2:33)
We visit Bond's childhood home 'Skyfall' in the Scottish highlands. The score slows once more into a lull that fits in with the setting really well.
24. Kill Them First (2:22)
M, Bond and Kincaid, Skyfall's old gamekeeper, prepare to protect the house from Silva's imminent attack.
25. Welcome to Scotland (3:21)
Silva and his cronies arrive and the music blasts into action for an immense battle scene. The orchestra is used to its full potential and we get to hear an array of instruments to numerous to name or at least to decipher. Another robust and kicking track that fits the scene perfectly.
26. She's Mine (3:54)
The music really pumps up as M and Kincaid move into the underground passage and as the fire rips through the house the horns section rises to a crescendo.
27. The Moors (2:39)
M and Kincaid are followed across the moors by Silva and the violins continue to dip and rise as if in their own race against time.
28. Deep Water (5:12)
Bond falls through the ice with one of Silva's henchmen and the music dulls into a muffling under water experience that bangs back into focus as Bond fights for his life while running out of air.
29. Mother (1:49)
A touching scene from Dench and Craig or M and Bond and a touching track to go with it that rides into a roof top scene with Bond looking out over the city of London. A great tune to relax and listen to on your headphones.
30. Adrenaline (2:19)
The credits roll and after being treated to the Bond theme again, in the movie, we are thrust into another upbeat Turkish influenced track which seals the movies end with a metal edge. The Bond theme is not part of the soundtrack score for this track and it begins with the Turkish influenced track.
31. Old Dog, New Tricks (1:48)
The main credit sequence tune ends and we are treated to a beautiful slow track that is a conglomeration of a few of the scenes from the Shanghai sequence in the movie. This is a bonus track on the score or soundtrack CD.
A lot of soundtracks or specifically scores are quite difficult to listen to as they contain very few lyrics. If you like to listen to classical music then you will appreciate a lot of them. Let's be honest though, when you have been really touched by a movie, how often most people actually consider the importance of the score; not enough people in my opinion. Next time you feel that your gut has been ripped out by a movie and you are sitting in the cinema transfixed to the screen and the music playing over the end credits, and you realise everyone has left; just take a moment to think back on the music. Skyfall is by no measure of the imagination a movie that will make you feel like your guts have been ripped out but the score is divine. It is everything that encapsulates Bond, whether you are a fan or not and I for one have thoroughly enjoyed listening to it. I fully intend to listen to it over and over and I am looking forward to relaxing and lying down with it on my headphones. Some of the faster tracks are probably a little too loud and lively for relaxation but there are some beautiful tracks on there that suck you into their mood.
The Score can be picked up between eight and sixteen pounds from most good record stockists and online music retailers.
I would give the Skyfall soundtrack four out of five stars for the quality of the work and its ability to carry the story forward during the movie itself.
I love movie soundtracks! I had quite a few in the days of vinyl and some of the best songs are hidden on them. With Bond I did own every single one on vinyl but didn't get into CDs and so stopped around the Pierce Brosnan years. There were a lot of reasons to stop doing Bond during the Peirce Brosnan years. But when it comes to the Bond soundtrack you don't really expect anything special as it sticks fairly strictly to the Bond code and keeps it samey, as is the case with Adel's somewhat boring and droning on theme tune. If you could mix up all the previous Bond theme songs in a washing machine I reckon that song would be what came out and pegged out on the line. It's as generic as they come, all very disappointing. Adel is young talented gal and, by-the-sounds, simply penned some basic lyrics on the back of a fag packet in the pub and blew Shirley Bassey acrid smoke on it and job done. Why - o - why she didn't use her stunning voice to really belt one out here is a mystery. Shirley from the Valleys will always remain the queen of Bond for me. What an incredible sex of sexy lungs she had! Amazingly, Skyfall is odds on favorite (1/7) to win the 'Best Original Song' at this month's Oscars, the first Bond tune to be up since 'For Your Eyes Only' by 'where are they now' artist Sheena Easton. I reckon Anne Hathaway's 'Suddenly' from 'Les Mis' (4-1) could be the surprise winner there. The Skyfall CD soundtrack is an outsider at 14-1 for bests score. Adel will perform the song at the 85th Oscars to celebrate 50 years of Bond.
Skyfall is only the second Bond soundtrack not to include the theme tune on the main disc. Since Sony Records started doing the music they have milked the big song and left it off the record, Casino Royale not having the theme tune, 'You know my Name' by Aussie rockers Soundgarden, on that record. That was also the first title song since Octopussy not to use the title of the film as the title of the song. Even Adele with her fag packets couldn't write a song about Octopuses without being arrested.
With Sam Mendes directing he went with what he knows best for the music and employed a chap called Thomas Newman to put the record together, the two working on all but one of their many movies together, the underrate Away We Go missing out. David Arnold had taken over from the legendary John Barry - on his reccomendation - as the go to man for Bond in the last decade and scoring the last five, but was busy with The Olympics and so overlooked here by Sam.
It's an orchestral record so not for everyone, full of energetic strings and booming brass, but plenty of the original Monty Newman instrumental stuff we know and love resonating in the soul of the record, as you would demand and expect form the Broccoli estate. John Barry's incredibly iconic bass solo is as important as the tuxedo to make the films work and its here again. Bond still has the best opening credits ever to a movie franchise and Craig makes you feel proud to be British once again, even though the films are mostly made with American money and styles now. This record does reflect the very British feel to Skyfall in locations and texture and some are saying the best Bond movie ever, Barry Norman, no less, rubber-stamping that. But, quite rightfully, Brits go along with the hype as they are proud of being stereotyped by the dashing super agent and pack the multiplexes, the film turning out to be nowhere near as good as they hoped but good enough to know there will be more, and after the 'lesser' Bourne Legacy in their particular franchise, the two dead level again. Bond needed to be after the disaster that was Quantum of Solace.
As I say the soundtrack is instrumental and features 30 titled segments in a total running time of 80 minutes. I think because of that fact this will only appeal to hardcore fans as, like foreign subtitled movies, classical music is not for everyone, even though its makes the movies come alive. What would Star Wars by without John Williams big band sound or Rocky without Silvestri? Its good stuff though and very Bond and after you have watched a Bond film enough times you can place the song to the scene. But one viewing of Skyfall is enough for now.
As I say have most of the Bond soundtracks and this one very much like the early films in that it doesn't need other artistes on the soundtrack to be complete or to sell it. There is no standout soundtrack tune but the Bond DNA is there and so alive and well. The brash and explosive noise from Quantum Solace has been buffed back and the feel is more modern Bond, lots of percussion and guitar to go with the big orchestra. I wouldn't say it was nostalgic but it's certainly a big production of old mixed with more interesting and modern musical rhythms.
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Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
2 Voluntary Retirement
3 New Digs
5 Brave New World
6 Shanghai Drive
10 Day Wasted
12 Someone Usually Dies
13 Komodo Dragon
14 The Bloody Shot
15 Enjoying Death
16 The Chimera
17 Close Shave
18 Health & Safety
19 Granborough Road
24 Kill Them First
25 Welcome to Scotland
26 She's Mine
27 The Moors
28 Deep Water