Label: Quartet Records (Spain) / Released: February 28, 2012
Tracks & Album Length: CD1: 33 tracks / (58:40) + CD2: 13 tracks / (33:58)
Special Notes: 8-page colour CD booklet / 64-page colour booklet with extensive liner notes / slip case / Limited to 1500 copies
Composer: Burt Bacharach
A little more than a year after the release of Kritzerland’s CD of Casino Royale [M] (1967), this long in-progress production of a restored score album debuted via Spain’s exacting Quartet Records, giving fans of the film and composer Burt Bacharach more music than ever.
To peg the score’s release history as confusing is an understatement, and until master tapes one day emerge (perhaps lying besides the uncut negative of Welles’ Magnificent Ambersons [M], and von Stroheim’s uncut Greed), this is as good as it gets. Quartet’s 2-disc set features the original score as meticulously reconstructed from an isolated music stem from the films’ DME (dialogue, music, and effects) mix, and on CD 2, a transfer of the album master, taken from the Spanish LP master housed in RCA’s Spanish vaults, untouched since 1967.
The DME-extracted stems are not in stereo (and there will be uber-fans asking why the label didn’t create a stereo-mono series of hybrid tracks), but they still reveal the brilliance and lunacy of Bacharach’s music. Along with finally hearing favourite unreleased cues, the next-biggest surprise is how well the score flows separate from the film.
Restored are quotations of John Barry’s Born Free and Georges Auric’s Moulin Rouge (brief, but mandatory to the score’s fast-moving insanity), not to mention cue extensions which were excised to keep the original LP short, tight, and sweet. The score’s first set of cues offer a nice fusion of Bacharach’s classical / jazz lounge style with more breathy flutes and brushed drums (“The Widow of Duty Fiona”), source cues featuring bagpipes (“Pipe Lament”), harpsichord, and a swaggering, super-cool spy rhythm.
Also restored are the short comedic bits that make up whole cues and traced a series of elaborate, ridiculous gags, but perhaps the best among the new cues are the Berlin cuts which were wholly, sorely missing from the LP, such as “Old Berlin House / Mata-Hari School for Spies.” Bacharach creates some great contrast with a spiraling piano figure and eerie accordion in the cue’s first half, and returns to the instrumental combination in the finale, adding a weird wooden boing-rattle and reverberating triplet on farting brass.
The cue ends with a bawdy recap of the Mimi theme, which is quite different from its exotic debut in “Agent Mimi Locked in Her Room,” and the triste Soviet lament “Mimi’s Lament” with gorgeous solo violin and strings.
The brass triplet from “Berlin” is also quoted in “Torture Sequence,” linking together the visually bizarre: Mata walking through a canted, German Expressionistic hidden hallway, and in the latter, James Bond being told he has to judge a beauty contest that will drive him completely mad.
“Little French Boy” with its flatulent Bavarian brass eventually emerges in more chaotic form for the film’s explosive finale (“The Big Fight at Casino Royale”), and “The Look of Love” makes its way through instrumental, vocal, and lead-in to a multi-thematic montage of anthems and musical clichés in “Proposals, Super 8 and Costumes.”
Sir James’ trek to find ‘his child’ Mata is expanded with the ethereal “Sitar Background” intro, which reconfigures the more regal thematic material in “Sir James’ Trip to Find Mata / Temple Dance,” and brings back the Herb Alpert title theme to maintain continuity within the score (something less evident in both the original LP, and the chronological re-sequencing on the Kritzerland CD).
Also new is “Le Chiffre’s Magic Act / My Name is Bond, James Bond” with eerie Ondes Martinot, and the kinetic, big band intro to “Fight in Casino Manager’s Office.” There’s also the metallic and watery hits that make up the funky “Dr. Noah’s Headquarters,” where Bacharach ties together all of his weird motifs, including the brass triplets and wooden boing-rattles; and “The LSD Room,” a compact variation with bongos and alto sax.
Basically, it’s all good stuff, and the Spanish LP master again offers a slightly different sound than the Kritzerland disc, which re-sequenced the Varese-mastered cuts with a few bonus cues from the DVD, and offers an un-equalized, untouched LP transfer. Exactly which version is the most pure to any one fan is moot, because the differences can be either brilliant or still flawed to any fan’s subjective ears.
While I favour the massive saturation of the original recording, there is audible distortion (read the Kritzerland CD review for more details on the affected cues) which makes me wonder if the warmness and resonance of the recording blinded audiophiles to the inherent flaws, and sparking a decades-long legend of Casino Royal being the purest sounding LP around.
Quartet’s set comes in a slip-case because of a gorgeous full-colour book featuring detailed notes on every aspect of the film, the score, the cues, the various albums, and the main themes.
Funny how it took James Bond’s 50th anniversary in movies to bring this definitive full score release to CD, but it also indicates the absurdity in which the music masters from one of the costliest films shot in Britain no longer exist. That no sub-masters exist of the master tapes is perhaps illustrative of the needs of the era: besides the mixing of the film soundtrack, there was no other reason to hold onto the recording session tapes, and with space always being a vital commodity, it’s inevitable someone would decide to junk unused boxed and their contents instead of archiving them for posterity.
Until some egghead discovers a clever algorithm which can extract the musical sounds from a mixed 5.1 sound track and match them up with album masters and DME stems, this is likely the last word on Casino Royale. The set’s producers and contributors deserve a hearty thanks for their dedication and persistence.
© 2012 Mark R. Hasan
Category: Soundtrack Reviews