Copyright 1997 Newspaper Publishing PLC  
The Independent (London)

October 24, 1997, Friday


LENGTH: 349 words

HEADLINE: Pop music review: The David Arnold James Bond Project Shaken and Stirred (Eastwest 207 382)

BYLINE: Andy Gill

    After whipping up an emotional storm for Bjork's "Play Dead" and collaborating with Orbital on the Event Horizon soundtrack, Oscar-winning soundtrack composer David Arnold is securely installed as pop's preferred orchestrator du jour. As a warm-up for the next James Bond movie, he applies his talents here to previous 007 themes, adapted to fit the diverse needs of various pop collaborators.

In some cases, it's difficult to determine Arnold's input: LTJ Bukem's "The James Bond Theme", for instance, sounds like a typical Bukem drum 'n' bass outing, with just the occasional teasing glimpse of the original theme disturbing the busy surface. Most of the participants, though, have leaped at the opportunity to give it the full Shirley Bassey, with dramatic orchestral sweeps sending the kitsch-o-meter right off the scale. Martin Fry isn't quite up to the task of "Thunderball", but judging by the version of "Diamonds Are Forever" which opens the collection, this is clearly David McAlmont's natural habitat. Pulp's "All Time High", too, has the requisite lotharian charm, Jarvis breathlessly licking at your ear while Arnold's orchestra oozes seductively.

At the other end of the stylistic scale, Leftfield and Propellerheads offer more club-conscious grooves, the latter's hit version of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" offering the most organic marriage of techno and orchestral modes. Which leaves a smattering of pieces that don't quite fit into either of the above categories: Iggy in full bib and tucker for "We Have All the Time in the World", Chrissie Hynde making an abysmal, lumbering rock mess of "Live and Let Die", and Natacha Atlas trying to bring a touch of Eastern Bloc promise to "From Russia with Love". But Aimee Mann's understated, thoughtful attempt to bring new life to "Nobody Does It Better" by using harmonium and indie guitars illustrates the project's overall problem: there are simply too many MOR encrustations accumulated round these songs for them to be revivified by either guitars or orchestras. It's like trying to polish a fossil.