The 60s and early 70s saw a number of "cover" versions of the James Bond themes on LP, some of them quite kitschy; the best of them was surely The Return of James Bond by Roland Shaw and his orchestra. It featured not only the main themes from the Bond movies but a significant amount of incidental music (as well as a few themes from other spy films)—a bonus that could rarely be found on other albums. Bond Back in Action is quite reminiscent of the latter, although it seems to lack some of the Shaw orchestra's finesse. Conductor Nic Raine has reconstructed the music to interesting effect (the original score manuscripts have been lost, according to the CD notes); most of the tracks differ somewhat from their original recordings, usually just enough to make them interesting in their own right; for what it's worth, none of them would ever be mistaken for the real things. At the time this album was recorded, the previously unreleased tracks were quite a novelty; now that the remastered original soundtracks are available, the novelty lies more in the musical interpretations by Nic Raine than in the presence of the tracks themselves.
The initial idea for Bond Back in Action was to record previously unreleased selections from the Bond scores, but the producers decided that this approach would not be commercially feasible. Therefore, they opted to incorporate numerous unreleased tracks and some of the more "popular" cuts into suites—an effect that, on the whole, works rather well. Bond Back in Action 2, which covers music from the Moore years through GoldenEye is also available, but I do not yet have it for review.
The recording quality of Bond Back in Action is generally good, although the orchestra occasionally seems to stumble—something you'd never hear on an official soundtrack release. However, Vic Flick himself, guitarist for the original James Bond theme, makes an appearance on this album to reprise his solo. The Bond theme is nicely done, if somewhat sparse-sounding compared to the original. And the unreleased cuts from Dr. No still stand out as unique, since the remastered soundtrack does not include new material.
Several of the pieces are quite faithful to the original, especially the full-bodied arrangements from Thunderball and You Only Live Twice. The tracks from From Russia With Love seem to be the weakest, most being played at a faster and more erratic pace than the originals. Every now and then, the orchestra hits an off-key note in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, most notably in "Gumbold's Safe Break" and "Bond Meets the Girls" which—until the recent remastered CD—had never been heard on an album before. Still, the cuts are entertaining and I have to give the producers credit for caring enough about the incidental tracks that have been essentially "lost" over the years. The album ends with an excellent instrumental of the title theme from Diamonds Are Forever.
The CD comes in an all red case and contains a booklet with notes on each movie and some information about the soundtrack cuts. It makes for an intelligent, listenable package, and—until recently—the only source for some of the Bond film music without dialogue and sound effects in the bargain.
Dr. No (Monty Norman)
From Russia With Love (John Barry)
Goldfinger (John Barry)
Thunderball (John Barry)
You Only Live Twice (John Barry)
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (John Barry)
Diamonds Are Forever (John Barry)