CD: Casino Royale (1967) – Kritzerland release

January 18, 2012 | By

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Rating: Excellent

Label: Kritzerland Records/ Released: January 18, 2011

Tracks & Album Length: 30 tracks / (69:31)


Special Notes: 8-page colour booklet with liner notes by Bruce Kimmel and Gergely Hubai / Limited to 1000 copies..


Composer: Burt Bacharach




While Charles K. Feldman’s ‘comedic’ spin of the Bond franchise is regarded by series purists as an abomination, Burt Bacharach’s music has lived on because of its audaciousness, and being tied to the gorgeous “Look of Love” song that may be the best tongue-in-cheek seduction song every written.

Dusty Springfield’s heavy, breathy voice just drifts on and on, while Bacharach’s lounge jazz instrumentation was not only close-miked, but recorded with maximum stereo fatness. The bass levels and resonance of Springfield’s voice is remarkable, and it’s one of several key ingredients that made the original Colgems LP a top collectible among audiophiles.

It’s actually hard not to mention the old LP because the Colgem sound was so profound: beautifully engineered albums generally pressed on quality grade vinyl stock – something not all labels combined in their soundtrack releases (such as Paramount’s cheap Dot).

Yet the reason Bacharach’s score endures is perhaps because it’s the perfect gathering of every writing nuance he would repeat during his brief film scoring period during the sixties and seventies. There are great similarities in the way he approached action in both Casino and the horse chase sequences in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), opting for a frenetic Bavarian lounge-jazz style with raucous brass and guitar strumming.

In Butch, the approach was too over-the-top, but the mess that is Casino – with its multiple Bond characters and assorted sight gags and throwaway lines – works splendidly; Bacharach’s bawdy Bavarian style, paired with a title theme by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass (perhaps the antithesis of a Bond song) is unlike anything ever written for a film.

Bacharach’s score – edited down and re-ordered for the album release – is a solid distillation of the film’s zaniness and excess, but it also showcases some really marvelous writing in both lounge, pop, and rich orchestral realms. Rock may have been an influence on the score, but Bacharach ties everything together to create a perfect balance of rock, orchestral, jazz, and lounge, as in “Money Penny Goes for Broke,” mixing up a march with a fat electric bass, some brass to tie into the main theme, and silky strings for that jazz-lounge fusion.

The second half of “Sir James’ Trip to Find Mata” is striking for its massive orchestral sound, pushing exotica into a concert hall arena, whereas the music for Mata’s wandering through the canted corridors of a Berlin spy-daway (sadly, never included in the soundtrack album) is genuinely creepy for its calliope piano motif and mawkish brass, echoing in the background like a musically timed squawk box.

Bacharach’s use of a bopping rhythm – which he also applied in the go-cart sequence in Feldman’s What’s New Pussycat (1965) – is central to the score’s insane style, and it suits the crazy-quilt sequences in Berlin where a gathering of spies erupts in a free-for-all, peaking when Mata uses a fire extinguisher to smother farty British spies before running into an assortment of weird characters. There’s also the arrival of a giant UFO in London (“Flying Saucer”), a hallucinatory beauty pageant (“Dream On James, You’re Winning”), “Look of Love” on bagpipes (“Le Chiffre’s Torture of Mind”), and the free-for-all fight that essentially closes the film with fast-moving Bavarian brass band, organ, bopping drums, and little oom-pah-pah gestures.

As a film, Casino is a mess, but fans of its excess (myself included) know its success is greatly indebted to Bacharach’s score because the composer recognized the film had problems with continuity, length, and clashing directorial styles from its 5 directors. No film should ever be made like this, but its ongoing cult status is tied in particular to its madcap soundtrack.

The Colgems recording has been released many times over the years, but fans were appalled when heavy distortion was found on several cues (notably “Money Penny Goes for Broke” + the first half of “Sir James’ Trip to Find Mata” + “Flying Saucer”) when Varese Sarabande released the album on CD in 1990 and 2002.

Kritzerland’s 2011 reissue minimizes the flaws somewhat, but it’s a glaring problem that according to the liner notes stemmed from the master tapes being rewound too fast for the 1990 release, causing the oxides to tear off. As Kritzerland CD producer Bruce Kimmel explains, “It was a mistake, plain and simple,” and it occurred at a time when it was just being discovered magnetic stock from that era, and of the seventies, needed to be ‘baked’ prior to any transfer because the stock was inherently flawed; oxides either flaked off, or the tapes became gooey.

Whether there were any flaws in the original master tape is still a bit fuzzy, because the LP pressings do have some distortion on the aforementioned cues – perhaps from plain & simple hot levels – but the flaws were worsened when the tapes were damaged years later.

The proof lies in Kritzerland’s second offering of the soundtrack album, mastered from a pristine LP. Whereas the CD’s first half is comprised of album cues re-ordered in chronological order (plus a few short cues taken from the DVD, notably “The Indian Temple” and the film’s End Credit music), the second half offers the LP transfer, free from any equalizing or tweaking. It’s a welcome treat given mint copes of the LP still sell for a premium. (The album has been reissued in a 4-LP, 45rpm, 200 gram audiophile vinyl set by Classic Records, but it’s unclear whether the source materials were the affected master tapes, or sealed vinyl copies)

At the time of this CD’s production, the producers were unable to find any master tapes from the original recording sessions, but Spain’s Quartet Records have a 2-CD alternative set [M] featuring the score & a new album mix, released in February of 2012.



© 2012 Mark R. Hasan


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