23 February 2003
Right, I’ve now got all the first wave of Bond soundtrack re-issues, so it’s time for my overview. And I won’t be in the slightest influenced by the fact that I had to pay VAT (even though they were labelled as coming from Germany) on my parcel from Amazon!
First of all I can only agree with all those who’ve already said how wonderful the new music is and what an improvement there is in the overall sound. In fact, given the age of some of the masters I doubt we could have expected anything better, so well done to all concerned. I’m not going to carp about the sequencing of the extra music since that has been explained elsewhere as being a legal requirement of some kind. I find it quite baffling but am willing to accept it. I’m not going to analyse all the tracks since many others have already done so. But I will highlight DAF & OHMSS as producing moments I had completely forgotten about or maybe never heard properly in the first place. It is truly like listening to new albums!
Obviously the music is of paramount importance. In fact, many people would say it’s all that matters and I have some sympathy with that view. But only some sympathy. Because if you are going to take on a job like this, you should make every effort to get it *all* done properly. If you haven’t got the time, then pass and recommend somebody else. I’m referring to the packaging. Quite frankly, it isn’t good enough and in my opinion sticks out like a sore thumb in comparison with the music.
Firstly the covers, or the front page of the booklets. I understand EMI had to borrow Jon Burlingame’s original LPs in order to be able to re-create this original artwork. That’s fine and they turned out OK, but was it absolutely necessary to re-create the originals? After all, EMI were working with MGM on this project and I was told had full access to their photo archives. Surely they could have created something new or at least different. Incidentally, in thanking him, they spelt Jon’s name as John throughout every single CD!
Then there are the other typos. Granted, we all make occasional typos, even Play It Again releases usually had at least one error! But we got the names of the artists and the tracks right. What is so difficult about Matt Monro? On the original LP it was Matt Monroe and now it is Matt Munro. And Kerin Bey instead of Kerim Bey, The Chase Bond Theme instead of The Chase Bomb Theme, Afganistan instead of Afghanistan, for example. That’s just some of the obvious ones.
Now, Pete Walker, Gareth Bramley and I were asked to produce chart positions, studios, engineers, musicians etc., for the booklet. In most cases these were utilised. Not, however, in the case of Octopussy, FYEO and TLD. Why not? Well, apparently because they decided to save money and reproduce the original Ryko booklets. But hold on, they did make *some* changes. Like the back cover and the list of ‘thanks’. So what was the big deal which prevented them from including the above info? There was plenty of room. And whilst on the subject of Ryko, it would have been nice to have been told in advance that EMI were going to use the notes Pete and I wrote for The Living Daylights and the notes I co-wrote (so say) with Lukas Kendall for Octopussy. Then we could have made some adjustments in view of the time which has elapsed since they were written. For instance, the notes for Octopussy begin: "At 35 years, with 17 feature films to date …..".
Photographs. Again, slightly disappointing in many cases since they are often poorly reproduced, too dark etc. Some from Diamonds are Forever are actually displayed as a mirror image! At EMI’s request, we supplied them with many photos of John Barry, Vic Flick etc., many of which were free to use. As far as I can see not a single one has been used, though obviously the second batch of CDs have yet to be released. But interesting though the film photos are, they don’t include too many we haven’t already seen and this is a soundtrack album. Wouldn’t photos of the composers and singers be more relevant?
Liner notes. I must be careful here as I don’t want it to sound like sour grapes in that I wasn’t asked to write anything myself (apart from the two I wasn’t told I was doing). However, although Jeff Bond’s summaries are very good, I think in the circumstances (the films being so well-known) he should have written more about the music and less about the plot. Or something about the composer, music and plot. When Pete and I were writing liner notes for, say, Castle, the subject matter was often so obscure (‘May Morning’ anybody?) we felt justified in spending time on the plot, especially as in many cases we knew nothing about the music or much about the composer at the time of writing. But the Bond composers and music? Come on!!!
No, despite the wonderful music, I feel this is a job done only 75% right. No one can persuade me that a company of the size of EMI could not afford a few more dollars for better looking booklets. Let’s be honest, the Octopussy & TLD booklets were awful in that foldout format. It was a great opportunity to put it right.
Finally, John Barry. Was he consulted about this project? I see no thanks to him so I assume not. I just wondered if he might have a copy of the Moonraker masters, for example, since he was at the recording sessions in Paris. Somehow I cannot see him travelling back to America without them! I think it’s always advisable to contact the composers in cases like these. You never know what extra info they might produce.