The story of the music that accompanies the cinematic adventures of Ian Fleming's intrepid Agent 007 is one of surprising real-life drama. In The Music of James Bond, author Jon Burlingame throws open studio and courtroom doors alike to reveal the full and extraordinary history of the sounds of James Bond, spicing the story with a wealth of fascinating and previously undisclosed tales. Burlingame devotes a chapter to each Bond film, providing the backstory for the music (including a listener-friendly analysis of each score) from the last-minute creation of the now-famous "James Bond Theme" in Dr. No to John Barry's trend-setting early scores for such films as Goldfinger and Thunderball. We learn how synthesizers, disco and modern electronica techniques played a role in subsequent scores, and how composer David Arnold reinvented the Bond sound for the 1990s and beyond. The audiobook brims with behind-the-scenes anecdotes. Burlingame examines the decades-long controversy over authorship of the Bond theme; how Frank Sinatra almost sang the title song for Moonraker; and how top artists like Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Paul McCartney, Carly Simon, Duran Duran, Gladys Knight, Tina Turner, and Madonna turned Bond songs into chart-topping hits. The author shares the untold stories of how Eric Clapton played guitar for Licence to Kill but saw his work shelved, and how Amy Winehouse very nearly co-wrote and sang the theme for Quantum of Solace. New interviews with many Bond songwriters and composers, coupled with extensive research as well as fascinating and previously undiscovered details - temperamental artists, unexpected hits, and the convergence of great music and unforgettable imagery - make The Music of James Bond a must listen for 007 buffs and all popular music fans.
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Spy music is it's own genre, an eclectic merging of sounds from across other music genres - from swing to jazz to rock to classical and beyond - to create that definitive style that everyone knows. Any why does everyone know it? Because of "The James Bond Theme," one of the most recognizable movie themes of all time. As Bond himself put the spy craze in motion, likewise his theme put an indelible stamp on the music that defines the genre.
But the music of James Bond is far more than just that theme, and like the behind-the-scenes stories of the 007 movies, the stories behind the film scores are anything but boring. After all, the soundscape for these films are part of what kept Bond in style an updated with the times, and that means collaborations with big personalities and sometimes some big fighting.
Each film and its soundtrack are covered in-depth, and for the completists out there, this also includes the "unofficial" Bond movies, the 1967 spoof Casino Royale and 1983's Never Say Never Again. Each movie has it's own chapter, making it really convenient if you decide to revisit a chapter later. I know I appreciate that as I fully intend to go through this book again with my soundtrack albums on standby. Much like with many books about music, it'd be more convenient to have that music plugged into the audiobook, but I'm sure the licensing doesn't come cheap, and it would likely double the size of this audiobook. Makes me very grateful I have all of the movies and soundtrack albums at my disposal, but it's a missed opportunity to present the full potential of the audio format. After all, who says audiobooks have to merely be a reading of the print copy?
I only have two deep notes of criticism about this audiobook, and both are likely just the result of me being a fanboy, so pardon me while I fly that flag a bit.
The first is that this book is "incomplete" in my eyes. This book was one of the many tomes released in celebration of 007's 50th anniversary on screen in 2012, and as a result does not include a chapter on the movie that was released later that year, Skyfall. This irks me because, while the hardcover of this book is understandably missing this chapter, the paperback updated the material for it's 2014 release, which is when this audiobook was released. You'd think that maybe they could have gotten the narrator to read one more chapter, but nooooooo. Apparently that would make too much sense, especially since Adele won the Oscar and Golden Globe for her title song, and Thomas Newman got an Oscar nomination for his first 007 score. Yeah, I could see where that might be important enough to skip over...
The second issue, and this is admittedly just a gripe on style points, is the narrator. The one they got does a decent job and packs plenty of enthusiasm for the subject matter, don't get me wrong. He earned his money. But... this is JAMES BOND. When you hear "Bond... James Bond" spoken by a flat American voice right near the beginning of the book, it's the equivalent of backing a jazz ensemble with an accordian player; all the cool gets sucked right out of the room. Maybe I'm just thinking stereotypically, but I think perhaps a smooth British voice might have lent an air of class and dignity to a production like this. Extra style points if maybe they could have shelled out the money to get one of the many British actors or actresses who have featured in one of the films. Seriously, if they can re-record all of Flemings novels with top talent (and why aren't those new Audio Go recordings on Audible YET?!), then why not shoot for the moon? Yeah, I know... it's because this book won't make the money of the Fleming novels. But still, one can dream. At the very least, this is an audiobook on the sound of 007, so make it SOUND like a 007 audiobook. There are plenty of quality British narrators in the audiobook world. Simon Vance, for example, who narrates the Ian Fleming novels in the version Audible does have, would have been an excellent choice.
End of fanboy diatribe. Regardless of those two points of disorder, if you're a fan of the James Bond movies or a film score aficionado, this book is for you. It's a fun and insightful look into the music of film's greatest superspy, an absolute must for the uber-geeks out there. You know who you are.