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“A Girl And A Gun – A Global POP Subterfuge”

In the YouTube age, everybody can have a go on popular songs and share their cover version with millions of users instantly. As expected, the first covers of Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall” already began to surface a few hours after the official release of the song. While a small number of them is actually quite enjoyable, there is still a notable difference between hopping in front of a webcam or semi-professional mic, nonchalantly blasting out a Bond song, and going into a studio focused on creating something new that posesses artistic value.

agaagSince the release of the first trailer for the new Bond extravaganza SPECTRE back in March, independent London music label wiaiwya has been stealthily releasing James Bond cover versions every Friday which have now been compiled into an album entitled “A Girl And A Gun – A Global POP Subterfuge” to be launched on the 007th of November. All the tracks have however been made available for free streaming, but the album as a whole can’t be put up for pre-order at zero cost, so it’s on offer for super-cheap 0.50 GBP (although you´re always welcome to chip in a little more if you’re feeling generous and would like to show your appreciation for the musicians).

Long-time Bond fan John Jervis asked a few friends to cover their favourites, with a view to release seven 007 themes. They mentioned the idea to some of their friends, who thought they might like to record a tune too, and soon enough the musicians had gathered versions of tunes from every Bond film, performed in a variety of styles; some indie, some folk, some drones, some Kraut, some epic productions, some bedroom recordings, even one recorded on James Bond Island, in Moscow and even outside Pinewood Studios.

[su_quote cite=”John Jervis”]My favourite theme still constantly changes, and I always love a good Bond cover version (as anyone I’ve bored about the VAST Geri Halliwell version of Live and Let Die will tell you).[/su_quote]

The Bond Bulletin was kindly given the opportunity to listen and evaluate the complete 34 track strong album which will celebrate its launch party at the Union Chapel, Highbury, London on the 007th of November. The first track, “Die Another Day“, might bring back unpleasant memories of Madonna’s 2002 theme for the film of the same name as it is still considered one of the worst Bond title songs ever. This cover version by Jack Hayter was reworked as a pedal steel version. With the exception of one guitar part and a kick drum, the sound was created by kicking a filing cabinet. It´s a very odd idea and indeed takes a bit of getting used to, but isn´t that exactly what impels art?

What follows when you listen to the rest of the album is an artistic and sometimes unusual journey through over 50 years of Bond songs, not omitting the Non-EON titles like “Never Say Never Again” (1983) or “Casino Royale” (1967) and even a few rarely-covered soundtrack pieces such as “Death of Fiona” (from ‘THUNDERBALL’) or “Three Blind Mice” (from ‘Dr. NO’). The remarkable thing about this collection of cover songs is the bewildering surprise bag of versatility – you´ll never quite know what to expect as the album does not follow the conventional mainstream cover frenzy. Instead, it cannot be pigeonholed and clearly doesn´t want to be. Songs you have known and admired for years suddenly come across in a totally different soundscape, some even partly throwing the original composition overboard and thereby forging something that might not appeal to everyone’s taste. At some point, you could even get the cheeky thought, this has been recorded in a secret underground studio next to Q’s workshop below MI6 Headquarters at Vauxhall Cross. And you thought, secret agent’s were just blunt instruments!

Diana Rigg & George Lazenby on the set of 'On Her Majesty´s Secret Service'
Diana Rigg & George Lazenby on the set of ‘On Her Majesty´s Secret Service’

Among my highlights is “We have all the time in the World” – a song so iconic and forever associated with James Bond and Tracy di Vicenzo, the only woman who managed to wed the super-spy. Performer Michael Wood expertly manages to get the message of one of the greatest Bond songs across – it’s about love, emotional attachment and in a broader sense also about loss when you are familiar with the story of the film, particularly the ending. There are just some songs you shouldn´t alter and I´m glad it wasn´t done in this version.

Another excellent track is “The Man with the Golden Gun” performed by Papernut Cambridge, although I can´t quite explain what fascinates me about this rendition. In terms of music, I´m more comfortable with either the catchy Jazz department or full-blown orchestral might. This track however possesses an energetic, even slightly violent drive that automatically makes my feet tap along.

Paul McCartney’s classic hit “Live and Let Die” is revitalised by The Elderly, a widely unknown supergroup from Boston, Massachusetts, with frontman Jim Gerdeman providing a top-notch and enjoyable vocal performance.

Having always been a fan of male artists covering songs originally performed by women, “Tomorrow Never Dies” was right up my street and didn´t disappoint. From own experience, the song is not an easy one to perform – except when you´re blessed with the characteristic quality to make it your own. I don´t have it, but Ralegh Long certainly does. In his version, the song adopts an almost haunting uniqueness pushing the song towards a totally different mood.

Singer Shirley Bassey
Singer Shirley Bassey

Shirley Bassey’s third and final Bond title song “Moonraker” (1979) had previously been offered to Kate Bush and Frank Sinatra who both declined to do it. Subsequently, Johnny Mathis had already begun recording with composer John Barry when he suddenly dropped out and the song was offered to Bassey just weeks before the films premiere. She never regarded the song ‘as her own’. The cover version by DJ Downfall feat. Theoretical Girl on this album is a wonderful downtempo song with a charming, golden voice in the lead.

Finally, I give an honorable mention to “The James Bond Theme” – easily the most recognizable film theme of all time. On the final track of this album, it is played on the Organ of London’s Union Chapel where the songs will be presented in November (check our event calendar for details). The organ, undoubtedly one of the finest in the world, was designed and built specially for the size and acoustics of the new Chapel building in 1877 by master organ builder Henry “Father” Willis. It is one of just two organs left in the United Kingdom, and the only one in England, with a fully working original hydraulic (water powered) blowing system, which can be used as an alternative to the electric blowers.

In conclusion, this album has a great many refined contrasts, stylistic highlights but also some artistic derailments that aren´t quite a bang on target. However you approach this work – open-minded or not – the number of songs you like might increase or decrease accordingly. Especially after the difficult setting-in period regarding Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall”, I was once again reminded of the fact that tastes differ – often drastically. The overall fresh and sometimes cheeky re-interpretations of “A Girl And A Gun – A Global POP Subterfuge” were a nice reminder of how unique and versatile Bond music can be expressed and perceived by fans and musicians alike. What I might find brilliant, you might consider utter rubbish and vice versa. We often admonish others that things are not always black and white and the same can be applied to the title songs of Bond. There isn´t just Adele or Sheena Easton, Paul McCartney or Tina Turner – there are also Papernut Cambridge, Michael Wood or Ralegh Long who equally embrace and challenge the originals as well as their own talent.

[su_heading margin=”10″]LISTEN TO THE ALBUM[/su_heading]

[su_box title=”FIND OUT MORE ABOUT WIAIWYA” style=”bubbles” box_color=”#725d00″]To learn more about independent label wiaiwya, please visit their website[/su_box]

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