This four-CD set is a total-immersion experience into the best parts of the scoring for 40 years' worth of James Bond movies, performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra under conductor Nic Raine. Produced by James Fitzpatrick and Raymond da Silva, the set strikes a generally very successful compromise between a bolder, more expansive presentation of the music, inherent in a recording by a large concert orchestra and digital technology, and remaining true to the essentials of the original scoring. There have been attempts at albums of this kind going back to the mid-'60s and artists such as Roland Shaw and his orchestra, but one must admire the tenacity and range of the producers here -- more than three hours of James Bond music is represented, and they've even got Vic Flick, the original guitarist, to play the solo on "The James Bond Theme," opening the set. They've also done their homework, generally pulling out the most memorable sections of the 19 film scores represented (no Casino Royale or Never Say Never Again, which, though they're now owned by the mainline Bond producers, were never part of the core cycle) -- it is curious to note that Paul McCartney's title theme was the only part of the Live and Let Die score that the producers thought worthy of inclusion here. This reviewer found nothing glaring to disagree with over the choices of material or the arrangements of what is here, except perhaps the absence of the percussion-dominated theme associated with the nuclear bomb in Goldfinger, and also that they don't go far enough in one instance -- on John Barry's "007 Theme," featured here in its original appearance in the From Russia With Love score as "007 Takes the Lector"; the producers didn't quite take advantage of the vastly expanded string section available in the first pass through the core melody. Indeed, that piece might well have rated a "symphonic version" à la Monty Norman's "James Bond Theme." On the distinctly positive side, conductor Nic Raine has gotten the nuances right in all of the right places, even as the material is handled by double or triple the number of horn, brass, and string players for which it was intended. Where they do part company from the originals is on "Goldfinger" and, to a lesser degree, "Diamonds Are Forever," where there is no attempt made to substitute for the absence of Shirley Bassey -- instead, the treatment is more lyrical and more expansive than the originals, with some definite embellishments of the original music. There is no real annotation or commentary on the music, but this is hardly essential, considering its familiarity.
James Bond Collection [Silva]
City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
James Bond Collection [Silva] Review
by Bruce Eder