Friday, 4 March 2016

"Come Spy With Us: The Secret Agent Songbook" by VARIOUS ARTISTS (2014 Ace Records CD Compilation Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...The Name's Kuryakin...Illya Kuryakin..."

I have to admit as a Bond devotee and lover of anything remotely I Spy/Secret Agent (or spoof of the same for that matter) - I was licking my chops in glee at this beautifully presented Ace Records CD compilation (best Audio too). And while there's so much to enjoy on here - I'd warn against over-excitement because in my view the replacement of original themes with lesser-known versions has in some cases shot the MI5 Jetpack Agent in the head. Here are the 005½ details first...

UK released March 2014 - "Come Spy With Us: The Secret Agent Songbook..." on Ace Records CDCHD 1392 (Barcode 029667058421) gadgets out as follows (61:56 minutes):

1. A Man Alone (Theme From "The Ipcress File") - JOHN BARRY & HIS ORCHESTRA (1965 UK 7" single on CBS Records 201747, A)
2. Deadlier Than The Male (Title Song From The Film "Deadlier Than The Male" - THE WALKER BROTHERS (1966 UK 7" single on Philips BF 137, A)
3. Arabesque (From The Film "Arabesque") - THE VENTURES (1966 USA 7" single on Dolton 321, A)
4. The Look Of Love (Theme From "Casino Royale") - DUSTY SPRINGFIELD (1967 UK 7" single on Philips BF 1557, A)
5. Theme From "Danger Man" - THE RED PRICE COMBO with Orchestra (1962 UK 7" single on Parlophone 45-R 4789, A)
6. The Silencers (From The Movie "The Silencers") - VICKI CARR (1966 USA 7" single on Liberty 55857, A)
7. Secret Agent Man - AL CAIOLA (from the 1965 US Stereo LP "Al Caiola...Sounds For Spies And Private Eyes" on United Artists UAS 6435)
8. Who Needs Forever (Theme From "The Deadly Affair") - ASTRUD GILBERTO (1966 US 7" single on Verve 10457, A)
9. Theme From The Man From Uncle - THE CHALLENGERS (1965 USA 7" single on GNOP Crescendo 362, A)
10. The Last Of The Secret Agents (From The Film "The Last Of The Secret Agents") - NANCY SINATRA (1966 USA 7" single on Reprise 0461, A)
11. Mission: Impossible - LALO SCHIFRIN & HIS ORCHESTRA (1968 USA 7" single on Dot 17059, A)
12. Dr. Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine (Theme From The Film) - THE SUPREMES (1965 USA 7" single on American International 65-1335, A)
13. Our Man Flint - BILLY STRANGE (1966 USA 7" single on GNP Crescendo 367, A)
14. Wednesday's Child (Theme From "The Quiller Memorandum") - MATT MONRO (1967 USA 7" single on Capitol 5823, A)
15. Theme From "Get Smart" - BOB CRANE, HIS DRUMS & ORCHESTRA (1968 USA 7" single on Epic 5-10038, B-side of "Happy Feet")
16. We Should've (Theme From "Modesty Blaise") - CLEO LANE & RAY ELLINGTON (1966 UK 7" single on Fontana TF 704, A)
17. The James Bond Theme (Dr No) - JOHNNY & THE HURRICANES (1963 USA 7" single on Big Top 3148, A)
18. Burke's Law Theme - WYNTON KELLY (1963 UK 7" single on Verve VS 518, A)
19. Where The Bullets Fly - SUSAN MAUGHAN (1966 UK 7" single on Philips BF 1518, A)
20. High Wire (Theme From "Danger Man") - BRIAN FAHEY & HIS ORCHESTRA (from the 1967 UK LP "Time For TV" on Columbia Studio 2 TWO 175)
21. Bye-Bye (Theme From "Peter Gunn") - SARAH VAUGHAN (1965 USA 7" single on Mercury 72417, B-side of "The Pawnbroker")
22. Theme From "Where The Spies Are" - JIMMY SMITH (1966 USA 7" single on Verve VK 10382, A)
23. The Liquidator - SHIRLEY BASSEY (1966 UK 7" single on Columbia DB 7811, A)
24. I Spy - ROLAND SHAW & HIS ORCHESTRA (from the 1966 UK LP "Themes For Secret Agents" on Decca Phase 4 Stereo PFS 4094)
25. Come Spy With Me - SMOKEY ROBINSON & THE MIRACLES (1967 USA 7" single on Tamla T 54145, A)
Tracks 1, 3, 5, 8, 9, 12, 13, 16, 17, 19, 23 and 25 are MONO
Tracks 2, 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 14, 15, 18, 20 to 22 and 24 are STEREO

The 24-page booklet is beautifully laid out - crammed to periscope depth full of Spy Novels, Sixties Paperbacks, Film Posters, label repros of original 45's from the UK and US (even a Japanese issue of "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.") and period evocative Sheet Music. Inbetween all that visual richness is superlative and informative liner notes by long-time archivist TONY ROUNCE who has for my money written some of his best descriptions on records and their murky history here (and that's saying something). The attention to detail is stunning. If you take the artwork for the CD and look to the top left - they've changed GREAT PAN from the paperback cover of Casino Royale into GREAT ACE as a very clever homage to the iconic artwork of the Swinging Sixties (the paperback is featured in the booklet). Every page is a feast. The rear is a full-colour plate of the "A Man Alone" sheet music showing Michael Caine in Harry Saltzman's film adaptation of Len Deighton's "The Ipcress File". The business as ever from Ace...

We should talk about the audio quality - this may indeed be the 'best' sounding Ace Records CD I've heard in nearly 10 years of reviewing (the audio is off the charts good for most tracks) and compiler Tony Rounce/Remaster Engineer NICK ROBBINS have made some genius choices in the sequencing too. But as a downside it's worth reiterating what I said earlier. When you go to the Bond Theme - it's not the John Barry original but a crap take from Johnny & The Hurricanes - The Man From U.N.C.L.E. theme isn't Hugo Montenegro but the lesser Challengers version and Patrick McGoohan's Danger Man is by Red Price and not the Bob Leaper version we all know and love. And the two Soul inclusions of Smokey Robinson & The Miracles and The Supremes sound utterly ludicrous, forced and out of place instead of being fun or even good (others may love them and want them for sheer rarity value). Edwin Astley's "Danger Man" used in 47 episodes between 1964 and 1968 isn't used - but as Rounce explains it wasn't available for licensing. And I suspect that this may have been the case for many of the bigger names and tunes.

Having said that goodies include Bob Crane's slyly hip "Get Smart", Lalo Schifrin's cool masterpiece "Mission: Impossible", Bacharach's gorgeous "The Look Of Love" and the so Sixties opener "The Ipcress File" by the incomparable John Barry - all fabulous. But I would have preferred anything from "You Only Live Twice" rather than Nancy Sinatra's half-hearted "The Last Of The Secret Agents". Better is "Secret Agent Man" by Al Caiola (the American name for the "Danger Man" TV Series) and Matt Monro's version "Wednesday's Child" from "The Quiller Memorandum" (by John Barry) sounds unbelievably good too. Unexpected gems include Sarah Vaughan's lyrically sassy version of the Henri Mancini instrumental "Peter Gunn" theme and the witty "Modesty Blaise" theme sung by Cleo Lane and Ray Ellington clearly enjoying their inner secret agent. The Roland Shaw full-on Sixties Jazz and Strings version of "I Spy" is a blast too.

What a ride! Upon my Blofeld Dug Out Volcanic Lair but I'm looking forward to Volume 2. And should Ace Records choose to accept their mission - for round two we'd like more John Barry - say "Here Comes Nancy Now!" from "The Knack" or "Little Nellie" from "You Only Live Twice", maybe "Hawaii Five-O" by The Ventures, "Thinking Of Baby" by Elmer Bernstein ("Staccato" US TV Theme) with "Search For Vulcan" by Leroy Holmes (an instrumental Bond mimic) and of course Lalo Schifrin's stunning "Bullitt" theme - to name but a few. I'm sure they're working on their Aston Martin DB9 of a CD as we speak.

Did you know that Robert Vaughn, David McCallum and Leo G. Carroll from the United Network Command for Law Enforcement (U.N.C.L.E.) had to weekly fight the diabolical forces of Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity (T.H.R.U.S.H.)? I can tell you now that James Bond's women had to fight THRUSH on a daily basis too. But we won't go into that. See you next time around 007...

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is CLASSIC 1970s ROCK - an E-Book with over 260 entries and 2450 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

INDEX - Artists, Albums, Record Labels, CD Remaster Engineers, Liner Notes Authors, Links etc