Monday, January 17, 2005

Heavy Rotation: Goldfinger

(Original Soundtrack Remastered)

"My name is Bond.James Bond."

At least in my dreams. Several times a week, I awaken after amazing, vivid dreams of secret agents in exotic locales. They include blockbuster special effects, incredible chases, fast cars, and breath-taking excitement. The plots are muddled and confusing, but that's to be expected with 007. And there's more than enough hot sex, but with one important script revision. Instead of Bond girls, there are plenty of Bond boys--I've actually cast one or two of them.

But the dreams are never complete. The unconscious mind can only operate on several levels, so my fantastic (but well-acted) James Bond dreams never feature a soundtrack, or even a blockbuster title song. But if they did, there's only one score that I would use: John Barry's Goldfinger.

The soundtrack to the 1964 film--third in the franchise--set the standard for every Bond soundtrack to follow. The formula has become immensely successful: a huge self-titled pop hit, and a clever original score. And of course, the brilliant James Bond Theme. It had been used in the first two movies--Dr. No and From Russia With Love--but never this extensively.

The title song also intrduced the extraordinary Shirley Bassey to American audiences. In '64, Ms. Bassey was well-known in England and on the continent. But across the pond, she had yet to become a household name. Shirley's soaring soprano would become the benchmark for Bond films--she would later sing the title tracks to Diamonds Are Forever and Moonraker. Shirley Bassey was a diva in its truest form. She has style, grace, class and a stunning set of pipes. True, singers like Madonna, Tina Turner and Sheryl Crow have sung more recent title tracks. But their Bond work will always be footnotes to their career. Bassey is Bond; and everyone who has followed has been a runner-up. The only other title track that even comes close is Paul McCartney's Live and Let Die.

John Barry's loud, brassy instrumentals are jazzy and uptempo. From the first bar, it's obvious this song will OD on self-confidence. The trademark trumpets are vivid and vibrant. The horns are lush, and evocative. Several types of drums are used in this arrangement--snare, kettle and bass. And the chorus is anchored with some sassy cymbals.

Bassey's delivery is over-the-top, perfect for a movie about a man obsessed with gold. Even the lyrics are haunting, just the movie's most memorable image: Bond girl Shirley Eaton, killed after Goldfinger paints her from head to toe.
Golden words he will pour in your ear
But his lies can’t disguise
what you feel
But a golden girl
Knows when he kisses her
It was the kiss of death
From Mister ... Goldfinger
Bassey's title track is the best known of the score, but it's just the tip of the iceberg. The soundtrack includes several other notable pieces. Into Miami is a brilliant big-band instrumental. This was used after the title credits, to accompany the beautiful aerial push-in to the Fountainebleau Hotel. The signature James Bond theme appears in the pre-credits Bond Back in Action. This version is slower, sexier and much jazzier than what you may be used to hearing. The third track, Alpine Drive/Auric's Factory, is mellow and laid-back. The instrumental version of the theme song--not included in the film--is guitar-driven and almost rock. You almost expect Nancy Sinatra to start singing.

The other highlight of the score is track nine, Dawn Raid on Fort Knox. It perfectly captures the essence of the album, and movie. Loud, banging snare drums. Xylophones. Crashing cymbals, trumpets and that fabulous french horn. I'm dancing in my seat each time I hear it.

It's a low-down dirty shame that they don't make music like this anymore. It's lounge, it's jazz, it's swing. The lyrics soar to almost un-natural heights, and so does the film. Goldfinger is your own personal time machine back to the swingin' sixties, when Frank, Dino, Lincoln Continentals, martinis, and loud sexy trumpets ruled.