Wednesday, April 30, 2014

"On Her Majesty's Secret Service" by John Barry (January, 1970)

Dad's Take:

It's been a while since we had a soundtrack on our list.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service is the soundtrack to the James Bond film of that name, with music composed by John Barry, who won quite a few awards for his movie scores, but not for this one. I've never listened to this before, and don't think I've seen the movie, and frankly, I don't have very high expectations. But let's see how it goes.

The album begins with Louis Armstrong singing "We Have All The Time In The World." You can't really go wrong with Satchmo. I think this is his only appearance on the album. If he was on it more, I'd be feeling much better about it.

After Satchmo, we move on to the cleverly titles "This Never Happened To The Other Feller," a big brassy tune that's what you'd expect from a Bond film, including bots and pieces of other Bond music. OK, it's fun, but as you'd expect from a movie score, it feels like a bunch of stitched-together fragments, more than a single tune. Yeah, it's good, but I miss Louis Armstrong.

"Try" is a nice slow tune that sounds like a good number to dance to. Then we're back to more big Bond sounds, followed by an odd little Christmas song performed by Danish singer Nina. And then, nor surprise, we're back to the brassy Bond sounds for the rest of the album. There are very good bits in here, like "Gumbold's Safe." And, the album ends on a high note, with the exciting "Bobsled Chase," which has some interesting things going on in the music. And then it's suddenly over.

Overall, the arrangements are interesting, and the music is fun. The album is good for what it is. Barry's talents kept him very busy, and it's easy to see why. Maybe if I knew the movie better, the score would be more meaningful, but this just doesn't do much for me. I'm not that into movie scores as albums. This one is pretty good, just not my bag.

Brad's Take:

I was never the guy who got very into James Bond films. I think I've only seen one or two of them. As a kid though, playing Goldeneye64 on the Nintendo 64 video game system was something my friends and I did very often, and continue to do sometimes. So when I saw this soundtrack come up on our list, I had no excitement or anything towards it. But this isn't about James Bond and the movie the score comes from. It's just about the music, right?

I'm not too well-versed in classical music, which I think we can classify most of this album as, but I enjoy listening to it from time to time. Especially while I'm at work, which I am right now. (Don't tell my boss.) The instrumental tracks are pretty exciting. The big horns and string sections make it sound really cool and epic. Music from a James Bond movie shouldn't be any other way though.

With that said, I don't feel like this score is anything special. Why would they pick this soundtrack over any other one? And why is it considered such a classic? Maybe I need to listen to more of this kind of music in order to fully understand. Despite my ignorance, John Barry's compositions are very nice to listen to. They aren't overly lengthy. They don't linger or move too slowly.

Some of the songs on here don't really fit the "classical music" label though. "Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown?" sounds like it would be better suited on The Sound of Music, as it sounds like it's a teacher singing to a bunch of children while they all sing along on the choruses. It seems very out of place squeezed between a bunch of classical instrumentals. That's what you get for listening to a soundtrack though. Not everything is going to make sense like a cohesive album would. This is more or less a compilation.

"We Have All The Time In The World/James Bond Theme" is another song that doesn't fit with the others. It sounds like it's taken straight from the '80s with its big boomy drums and synthesizers, which is odd since this soundtrack came out in 1970. I thought that particular track was fantastic! It was a fun twist in the otherwise bland-ish orchestrations of the majority of the soundtrack.

I recognized a few of the songs from the video game that my friends and I used to always play so that was nostalgic and fun to listen to, and that '80s sounding song was pretty awesome. Overall though, this was just nice background music for while I was working, but wasn't anything too exciting to me. I'd like to go back and read the little blurb about this soundtrack in the book that we are pulling all of these albums from and read the author's reasoning as to why this is included as a "classic album" because I don't really buy it. Maybe if I was familiar with the film it would be a different story.