Skyfall Soundtrack CD Review

Discussion in 'Music' started by Neil Middlemiss, Nov 14, 2012.

  1. Neil Middlemiss

    Neil Middlemiss Producer
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    The look, the loves, the gadgets and the lavish locations across the globe are as much a part of the 007 DNA as James Bond’s theme plucked confidently on a guitar. Cinema’s most enduring franchise celebrates its 50th Anniversary in 2012. 50 years since Sean Connery became the onscreen embodiment of author Ian Flemming’s British secret service agent, James Bond. Monty Norman provided the score for the first film, with the theme arranged by John Barry. Barry would go on to score a total of 11 Bond films, beginning with From Russia with Love and closing with The Living Daylights, with several other composers taking the reins from time to time. Barry is arguably the greatest Bond composer. Recently, David Arnold (Independence Day) has been front man for the composing duties, but with Sam Medes taking on directorial duties, his long-time collaborating composer Thomas Newman, with whom he has worked numerous times (American Beauty, Revolution Road), took over from Arnold. Though Newman is best known for his scores for domestic dramas, he has produced a muscular and occasionally reverent score for the latest Bond adventure.

    Release Company: Sony Classics

    Catalog ID: 88765410402

    Film Year: 2012

    Running Time: 77:02

    Number of Discs: 1 Edition: NA

    Composer(s): Thomas Newman

    Release Date: November 6, 2012

    Review Date: November 14, 2012

    The Score
    3.5 / 5

    Daniel Craig returns for a third outing as MI6’s globe-trotting secret agent, James Bond. In Skyfall, a list of undercover UN agents has fallen into the hands of a malicious and quite mad cybercriminal and, struggling with the political aftermath, M finds herself targeted. Bond returns to duty following his failed mission (and a terrorist attack) to put a stop to the sale of the list on the open market. Bond Scores at their finest are an unspoiled blend of strings and the ballsy brass and percussion born from John Barry’s astounding creative contributions. There have been deviations from this recipe. Marvin Hamlisch delivered an exception to the rule, with a funky, disco-driven (and yet still memorable) composition filled with serious flair for 1977s The Spy Who Loved Me. French composer Eric Serra has long been lambasted for his contribution to 1995’s re-launch of the franchise with Peirce Brosnan taking over the Tux in Goldeneye. Serra avoided almost entirely the ‘traditional’ Bond sound, so much that another composer was reportedly brought in to spruce up certain scenes, including the tank rampage through Moscow. Michael Kamen came aboard with his score for License To Kill in 1987 (taking over for John Barry), where the results were reasonable for its time, but ultimately out of synch with the musical essence of the Bond character. And even Barry himself shifted the balance from piercing brass and bravado with his softer and more contemplative (and sublime) score for On Her Majesties Secret Service. Generally however, the sound for Bond has dipped from the same palate.


    On the continuum of James Bond scores, Skyfall lands relatively comfortably with the average. It contains inspired moments, some memorable melodies, and a throaty, energetic Thomas Newman as never heard before. Newman’s unique voice isn’t as obvious as his incredible scores for works such as The Shawshank Redemption, Wall*E or Angels in America, but it can be found. Where the score for Skyfall disappoints is in the restrained use of the inimitable James Bond theme. Some ‘almost-but-not-quite’ quotations give promise for a full-blown rendition, but with perhaps one exception, it is never let loose. As heard in the film, the score is more fitting. As presented on the album, that ‘almost-but-not-quite’ is more apparent and just isn’t brassy enough. Given composer David Arnold’s full embrace of the John Barry approach, with bombastic percussion richly partnered with trumpets, trombones and other requisite brass instruments, lassoed with lush string moments (calling back to the Roger Moore days), his contributions were brilliant (though he went off the rails with Die Another Day it must be said). Arnold’s score for Casino Royale is one of the best in the entire franchise.


    Newman occasionally feels comfortable in the same sandbox where Barry and Arnold cut their scores, but it isn’t always enough. Subdued brass is employed in tracks such as ‘Voluntary Retirement’ (bookending with ‘Mother’), and it’s effective. Newman’s real strength in scoring for Bond comes in his handling of the music around the globe. The opening track, where the film begins in Turkey, is a deliriously entertaining sprawl of traditional Turkish percussion and instrumentation, propulsive in accordance with the action, and entirely listenable. In the second half of the track ‘Brave New World’, Newman enjoys himself with a fireworks display of music, weaving in a memorable melody as eastern musical influences dance around the edges. It’s a wonderful piece and among the scores highlights. Finally, Thomas Newman’s DNA is perhaps most vividly evident in the Skyfall track, where his deeply ethereal voice is pronounced and his provision of a pensive atmosphere for the protagonists is first-rate.


    Most disappointingly though, Skyfall is heavily dosed with good but not particularly memorable action scoring. Moments inspired by John Powell’s excellent scores for the Bourne films (in tracks like ‘Shanghai Drive’) have firm footing throughout. I should stress though that this is certainly no Bourne-clone and such a characterization would be deeply unfair. The score is a fun listen and a solid entry into the Bond soundtrack library; sparks of greatness spirit their way above the generally solid score even while a fuller embrace of Bond brass and the James Bond theme seems just out of reach.


    Track Listing


    1. Grand Bazaar, Istanbul (05:14)

    2. Voluntary Retirement (02:22)

    3. New Digs (02:32)

    4. Severine (01:18)

    5. Brave New World (01:50)

    6. Shanghai Drive (01:26)

    7. Jellyfish (03:22)

    8. Silhouette (00:56)

    9. Modigliani (01:04)

    10. Day Wasted (01:31)

    11. Quartermaster (04:58)

    12. Someone Usually Dies (02:29)

    13. Komodo Dragon (03:20)

    14. The Bloody Shot (04:46)

    15. Enjoying Death (01:13)

    16. The Chimera (01:58)

    17. Close Shave (01:32)

    18. Health & Safety (01:29)

    19. Granborough Road (02:32)

    20. Tennyson (02:14)

    21. Enquiry (02:49)

    22. Breadcrumbs (02:02)

    23. Skyfall (02:32)

    24. Kill Them First (02:22)

    25. Welcome to Scotland (03:21)

    26. She’s Mine (03:53)

    27. The Moors (02:39)

    28. Deep Water (05:11)

    29. Mother (01:48)

    30. Adrenaline (02:18)

    The Sound
    5/5


    Skyfall is a well-orchestrated production and the CD matches the density of sound and clarity of instrumentation nicely. The precision of the percussion, particularly in the opening track and again on ‘Deep Water’, is fine and the quality throughout is spot-on.

    Final Thoughts


    Skyfall is a fresh approach for composer Thomas Newman who is perhaps best known for a decidedly more brooding, melancholy collection of scores, and others that delight with a unique quirk and disarming darkness. Overall, his Bond turn is a very good score for an excellent film, and as heard in the film, a better proposition than as heard on the CD. The heavy percussive veins that run through the action tracks are the welcome influence of David Arnold, and there is also what I consider to be the unmistakable influence of Eliot Goldenthal in the track ‘Jellyfish’ and even a hint of Danny Elfman’s Batman to be heard for one fleeting moment. The score is dividing score fans even while the film is scoring high marks around the globe. I would welcome a follow-up entry from Newman even while I hold out hope of Arnold taking another swipe.

    Overall (Not an average)
    3.5/5

    Neil Middlemiss

    Kernersville, NC
     
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  2. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    Thanks for the review Neil.
    I had been collecting the later sound tracks over the years, but it wasn't till this year, that I finally got around to collecting the last remastered sets of soundtracks from Dr. No to The Living Daylights from 2003.
    I stopped at The World is Not Enough as I wasn't sure I wanted Die Another Day. I am not as enthusiastic about the Craig films or their scores. But after reading your review, I just may pick this one up and the remaining titles to finish them off. It's too bad Newman's score didn't really do anything for me while seeing the film. But I only saw it once and the action and onscreen activities took my attention and I just didn't really register the score. The title track was very Shirley Bassey like! But I missed the brassy sounds and as you said, there wasn't any obvious quoting of the title track in the score. Nobody does it like Barry!
     
  3. Neil Middlemiss

    Neil Middlemiss Producer
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    I have always enjoyed David Arnold's contributions and feel he is as close to John Barry as anyone could be (while also maintaining a voice of his own). However, I was very disappointed with the Die Another Day score. Arnold's score for Casino Royale is a blast though and the opening track (which sadly is not the song) is a propulsive and thoroughly enjoyable one that I play often. Also on that score is one of my favourite tracks in a bond film that accompanies the Miami Airport action sequence.

    You are right though, nobody does it like Barry :)
     
  4. WaveCrest

    WaveCrest Producer

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    A very good, informative review Neil of the Skyfall score soundtrack. Have only seen Skyfall once at the cinema, and focusing on the score, I thought this was the first Bond score since Licence to Kill that I'd liked (John Barry's final Bond score, for The Living Daylights, was the last Bond score which I truly liked as a whole). There was a very short part of the score which felt to me like it was built around Adele's theme song, around the scene with the komodo dragon, something which has been missing in the Bond scores for a long time. Enjoyed this score much more than any of David Arnold's Bond scores (not a big fan of David Arnold's contributions to the Bond franchise, although I do want to check out that album in which various artists re-recorded Bond theme songs).
    On a separate note, but to do with the Bond theme songs, there was a Bond concert programme shown on the BBC later on last year (and repeated again over the Christmas and New Year holidays), where two singers (one of whom sings in the band on Strictly Come Dancing) took turns to sing the Bond theme songs. Am hoping this gets repeated again, as I missed the first half hour or so. Honor Blackman introduced them, and the songs that I heard were not all sung in chronological order.
     
  5. Mikael Soderholm

    Mikael Soderholm Supporting Actor

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  6. Afiger

    Afiger Agent

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    I was quite impressed with the movie and the soundtrack. I'm generally not a Bond fan, but other people in the house are so I got bits and pieces of it before seeing the full thing. You can't go wrong with putting Adele on your soundtrack though.
     
  7. Neil Middlemiss

    Neil Middlemiss Producer
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    Which is why it's such a shame that the Adele song was not included in the Sony soundtrack release. It's a terrific Bond song.
     
  8. Mikael Soderholm

    Mikael Soderholm Supporting Actor

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    Yeah, it is really too bad :( (but I love the rest of the soundtrack, another great one from Mr. Newman)
     
  9. F451

    F451 Auditioning

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    When I first heard Adele's title song I wasn't overly impressed but then I found it grew on me and stuck with me -- I think it's the best title song since Goldeneye and is by parsecs the best song of the Daniel Craig era. YMMV.


    And, I agree, it should have been included on the soundtrack CD.


    Newman's score here is *very* serviceable as the film unwinds but, to me, as a standalone score, it's just not memorable. And that's a problem in general in the post-Barry period.


    Barry managed to get to the heart and soul of the matter and wove together a tapestry of music that enhanced and lifted and pulled the seams and segments of the film into a thing of beauty with tunes that have stayed in my head since I saw Dr No in its initial release.


    So, I have a decided Barry-bias. I'll give the disc another spin to see if it's grown on me any. I'm hoping Newman's score for his next Bond outing encompasses the whole rather than the moment. I've given this score a few listens
     
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  10. Lord Dalek

    Lord Dalek Cinematographer

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    On the whole, the Skyfall soundtrack really isn't that interesting. Hell, it's barely better than bgm at times. That said it's still a far more interesting than the increasingly stale Barry whoring that David Arnold gave us for 15 years. In fact I'd argue it's the most listenable non-John Barry score since LALD.
     

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