4. Live and Let Die (Paul McCartney & Wings): Lots of folks will probably be surprised this isn’t lumped in with the “great” tunes. It’s certainly the most celebrated of all the Bond songs. But while it’s very good (it’s on this page, isn’t it?), a few things keep it from greatness. For one, the production’s a little weak. More importantly, this song’s very frantic in mood, turning from straight-ahead rock to reggae on a dime. While that’s fine for a rock number, it doesn’t necessarily work for a Bond theme. However, its importance overall to Bond music can’t be ignored – it was the first time film producers embraced an entire rock-and-roll song (previous outings had either minimal or no hints of that genre). That said, there’s one last strike against it: Guns N Roses did it better.
(Aaron says: Let’s review: Matt Monro, Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Nancy Sinatra. I don’t want to take away anything from them, especially Tom Jones and Nancy Sinatra, who are important and accomplished performers, but none of them are Sir Paul McCartney. His title track is most certainly the best thus far, at least out of the Bond context. Really, I don’t think the film utilizes the song to its best strengths, especially the awesome rock instrumental break. The song is mostly too slow to use to score the rest of the film, but this particular part of the song could have been used during a chase scene or something.)
5. You Know My Name from Casino Royale (Chris Cornell): A stripped-down Bond deserves a straight-ahead rock song, and that’s what Cornell delivers in this powerful track. Great vocals, sharp guitar, and attitude – this is a solid, though different, Bond song.
(Aaron says: Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name” is a very middle-of-the-road alternative rock track. It’s nothing special, but also won’t damage your ears or musical taste.)
6. We Have All the Time in the World from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Louis Armstrong): How do you hate on Louis Armstrong? You just can’t. This song doesn’t exactly feel like a James Bond theme – it’s a little too soft and ballad-y – but then again, it doesn’t have to, since it wasn’t technically the theme of OHMSS. It’s still a wonderful tune. The only thing that keeps it from greatness is that the vocals at time seem to verge into self-parody.
(Aaron says: This film breaks a trend by not having a title song.)
7. License to Kill (Gladys Knight): For ostensibly being a generic ’80s film ballad (to match the more generic style of the Timothy Dalton Bond films), this song is surprisingly effective. It has a couple nice tricks up its sleeve: the moody symphonic blasts at the beginning that recall the classic Bond sound, the powerful pipes of Ms. Knight. The chorus is the only stumbling block here; when it turns into a major-key love-fest, this listener checks out. The verses are gold.
(Aaron says: It’s strange that with a harder edge, the song “License to Kill” runs in the completely opposite direction — a hard-to-listen-to R&B number by Gladys Knight (without the Pips). This is really the meekest song possible that could have a title “License to Kill.”)
8. Diamonds Are Forever (Shirley Bassey): A fantastic example of the classic Bond style, this song chiefly excels at creating an incredibly creepy mood excellently complemented by Bassey’s vocals. Given that this is the Bond tune immediately preceding “Live and Let Die,” it’s also interesting to note how Bond themes are at this point flirting with conventions of more popular music – there’s some pretty forceful drumming and funk guitar at the back end of this song.
(Aaron says: Connery isn’t the only major player to make a return in Diamonds Are Forever, as Shirley Bassey, hot off her hit “Goldfinger,” sings our title song here. While I know many people hate “Goldfinger,” this is the worst song of the series so far, and it’s not even close for me. There are these really weird and dramatic shifts in tone throughout the song, going from ballad to disco, and it’s just gross. I’m not familiar with the Kanye West song that samples “Diamonds Are Forever,” so I can’t speak on that.)
9. Goldfinger (Shirley Bassey): Is there a way for a song to be awesomely terrible? Of course there is, and that describes “Goldfinger” perfectly. These lyrics are bad… like, laughably bad… but the earnestness with which they’re delivered means that at least they’re entertaining. Meanwhile, the composition behind it (courtesy of John Barry) is basically perfect; this is what we think of when we think of a James Bond song. Finally, Bassey just explodes at the end of this song. It is crazy awesome. BUT YOU MUSTN’T TOUCH!!
(Aaron says: This might be a bit of a controversial statement, but I actually like the title song for Goldfinger. OK, I admit that it’s not a good song. It is beyond over-the-top silly, the lyrics are just plain bad and the singing isn’t world class by anyone’s standards. It is really catchy though, and it feels like a Bond song — in fact, it sounds like movements from the theme are included. Unlike the first two films, Shirley Bassey’s song penetrates the film completely — it’s used during the opening and closing credits, and an instrumental version is played during moments of action throughout the film. The song works much better in the instrumental segments.)
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tags: james bond
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more