How could you have watched the London 2012 opening ceremony and not find this essential? Memories of one of Britain's proudest nights will be with you forever. The selection here is class. Disc 1 is the soundtrack to Danny Boyle's exquisite production and disc 2 is a sublime mixtape in its own right compiled from the songs that welcomed the athletes to London.
It's not complete. Of course Sir Macca hasn't agreed to let Hey Jude feature, but it's not needed and his stumbling performance wasn't needed on the night either. The likes of Going Underground, Enola Gay and Pretty Vacant, which soundtracked some brilliant moments, are missing as well. That's forgivable here but would be a tragedy if it were to follow through to the much hoped for DVD/Blu-ray release. At least we get Bowie's Heroes - a song which Team GB is living up to as I write this review. The two Arctic Monkey tracks were recorded 'live at the Olympic Stadium' on the 23rd and not the night itself. They're both strong recordings, though, for fans/collectors of that band.
A certain other band is abbreviated to 'F Buttons' on the rear sleeve and in the booklet, proving that we're all still very British about these things. The rest of the packaging is fine. There's an official London 2012 hologram on the back of the case, although I think it should have been on the front and not placed sideways like mine was. Not gonna grumble, though. Inside the booklet are introductions from Danny Boyle and music director Rick Smith and a few photographs.
As someone who would be quite content to never hear Hey Jude again, I am fully happy with this purchase. Now bring the complete Blu-ray on.
on 12 August 2012
As a cynical 46 year-old, increasingly grumpy, stereotypical middle-aged man, who every year since turning 40 has increasingly thought the
country was going to hell in a hand-cart, it is no exaggeration to say that the Olympics opening ceremony, its soundtrack and the
whole Olympics event has restored my faith in this country and my pride in being British. I watched and listened to the opening ceremony
and its stirring soundtrack with increasing emotion as long-forgotten feelings of national identity and pride resurfaced in response to
the sheer genius of this soundtrack and the accompanying visual spectacle. It helped that I am a long-time Danny Boyle and Underworld fan,
but even I had not expected such an incredibly powerful and rich cacophony of sights and sounds that captured the essence of being British
and showed this country to be a world-leader in so many respects, not least in creative vision and output. Listening to the soundtrack CD
for the first time, all those emotions stirred again as Underworld's dazzling "And I Will Kiss" powered by the passion and beat of the
Pandemonium Drummers builds and builds, before giving way to the brilliant Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells (great to see him so involved).
I had forgotten just how fantastic Vangelis's Chariots of Fire theme was (despite being a massive Vangelis fan) and have not tired of
hearing it over the past couple of weeks. Throw in Emeli Sande, Artic Monkeys, Chemical Brothers, Pet Shop Boys & David Bowie and you
get a fantastic, eclectic cross-section of leading-edge British music at its best. Thanks Danny & your team, thanks Underworld, thanks to all
the musicians and volunteers involved in the opening ceremony & the Olympics in general, thanks to the inspirational athletes taking
part. You reminded me what a great nation this country really is and that I am not quite ready to become a totally grumpy old-man just yet.
on 1 August 2012
So, here we are finally, London 2012 has arrived and I can't have been the only one cringing at the prospect of what Danny Boyle was about to unleash upon us whilst the rest of the World watched on in horror. Much had been made of his 'Isles of Wonder' theme and it's representation of our 'Green and Pleasant Land'. Many corners of British society had protested that there was nothing about Britain that made it "Green and Pleasant" anymore and arguably if you'd been brought up on one of the many inner-city housing estates that litter the country perhaps it was so that that was the view of many. In fact that 'quintessentially british' ideal of a green and pleasant land does still exist in places and it isn't reserved for the elite of society, you've just got to make a bit of an effort to find it.
In all of the hubbub surrounding the opening ceremony I hadn't paid any attention to what it may sound like. Stories of sheep and sheepdogs, flocks of geese, and images taken from the air of an Olympic Stadium transformed into the british countryside of old (and present) had stolen my attention. Nobody ever really believed London could match Beijing for spectacle (the resounding image in my head from that games was the 2000 drummers doing their stuff in absolute unison), and I think it is that lack of any expectation that has driven the resounding positive reaction from the public and critics alike. The problem with Beijing though in my mind was for all it's grandeur, it lacked a certain amount of soul, and with these things (like in films) soul is a combination for imagary, characterisation and music. Beijing had the first two, it didn't really have the third. Don't get me wrong, there were some beautiful music pieces in Beijing, but they didn't drive the human spirit, they didn't actually tell the story in themselves, something which I think London achieved in droves.
Fast-forward back to London and 9pm BST on 27th July 2012, the sheep and geese have been removed before the ceremony has even started(eh? - apparently to appease animal rights activists), and the last few bars of Elgar's "Nimrod" play out as the World waits...perfect. A countdown begins, Britain's Tour De France champ, Brad Wiggins rings a massive bell and then a lone choirboy's voice rings out, followed by child choirs from each of Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England, with such wonderful renditions of "Danny Boy", "Flower of Scotland", "Bread of Heaven" and "Jerusalem". Kenneth Brannah turns up suited and booted as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, ascends a Glastonbury Tor type replica and cries out Caliban's speech from Shakespeare's "The Tempest" eschewing in a change that will decimate Britain's 'Green and Pleasant Land' and incidentally, the Olympic Stadium, forever...so far slow, but so good. And then, the drums...
Dame Evelyn Glenie arrives with a few helper drummers (just under 1000 apparently) and begins to randomly bang some drums until in unison a thronging drumline rings out "And I Will Kiss"...my hairs stood on end. This was the start of something special. Every now and again I hear a piece of music that I just don't want to stop. Mike Oldfield (much to my joy having his own section of the opening ceremony) has done that to me several times before with "Only Time Will Tell" from his Song's of Distant Earth album, or "Far Above the Clouds" from Tubular Bells III, but I never expected to hear (and see) anything that would bring me to tears during the Olympic Opening Ceremony. Underworld and Evelyn Glenie managed that, as did Danny Boyle and the thousands of volunteers during the "pandemonium" section as the fields of green grass and fields of crops where replaced by a belching landscape of industry. And I Will Kiss builds layer upon layer, stirring your senses and driving your awareness, and then just after 8 minutes it stops (as did the whole stadium) as a simple melody plays out quietly in remembrance of all who have fallen in conflicts throughout the world. The drums return and the landscape continues to change. The music that rings out is mesmerising and is so so so emotional as it builds towards a climax. Suddenly steel workers arrive on the scene and a massive cauldron pours "liquid" metal into a channel that ends in a circular mould that we now realise has been there since the start of the performance. Gradually all of the other 'workers' move towards the centre of the stadium towards the forged ring as the music continues to get louder and more and more complex. In unison, four other rings appear from the corners of the stadium and this central ring begins a journey into the sky to meet them, all glowing orange as if only just forged and not yet cooled. Whistles and choir voices are mixed with the resounding drums and orchestral instruments, all playing out a tune that is stirring the spirit within me, I really didn't want it to stop, my mouth was agape at what I was watching on screen (sound now turned up to max I might add), and then all becomes clear as the song reaches it's climax, the rings come together to form the Olympic Rings that explode in a shower of fireworks...a triumph? I leapt out of my seat! AMAZING!!! This is the longest track on the soundtrack (at 17 minutes it is about 2 minutes longer than the version that was played during the Opening Ceremony), but it is by far the most rousing. I'd buy the album for this track alone, but it doesn't stop there.
With Britain at the forefront of a post-industrial revolution world, we now turn our attention to perhaps two of our most famous institutions, the Royal Family and James Bond. Boyle scores a coup by not only finding a slot for James Bond, but by enlisting the Queen herself in a short film culminating in them both (supposedly) jumping out of a helicopter above the stadium to the James Bond theme (sadly absent from this compilation). Next up, the NHS, that curiously British invention that constantly threatens to cripple the Treasury but offers universal and essential care to all who inhabit this land...Tubular Bells rings out. Mike Oldfield on Bass plays a medley of reworked tunes (including a mash-up of Tubular Bells and the previously mentioned Far Above the Clouds) to scenes of children in pyjamas bouncing on hospital bed trampolines, dancing nurses, and then as we change the scene to celebrate children's literature, images of Voldemort (from Harry Potter), the Child Catcher (a nightmare inducer from my own childhood) and other monstrous delights, all swept away by a few dozen Mary Poppins'...magic.
What follows is another stroke of genius. Gone is the stiff almost militaristic scenes from 4 years before, to be replaced by Mr Bean and the London Symphony Orchestra. Playing out Vangelis' Chariots of Fire theme (accompanied by an amusing digitally altered video of the famous opening scene of the film of the same name) and ending in a rather rude noise, this brings light relief from what has been a heart pounding first half.
Next up Emili Sande appears (I was initially thinking it a strange choice) and sings a hauntingly beautiful a capella version of Abide With Me whilst we see images of lost loved ones on our screens and a dance act dramatises the lifelong struggle between that life and inevitable death, largely seen as a tribute to the 7/7 London Bombing victims. As demonstrated here on the album, Emili Sande proves that she has a fantastic voice and is more than capable of carrying this section of the ceremony on her shoulders almost entirely. I for one was impressed. A brave choice by Boyle.
The next section is a complete celebration about british popular music over the last half century or so, culminating in the appearance of Dizzie Rascal and his chart topping "Bonkers", which quite aptly seems to fit in with what the rest of the world thinks of the show. We hear sound clips of many many well known rock and pop songs, but thankfully they are absent from this album which chooses to focus on the set pieces rather than the filler material.
After all that we are only half way through the ceremony, the Athletes parade begins, accompanied by the music from at least half of this album. Some great classics such as West End Girls, Heroes (played when Team GB entered) and Where the Streets Have No Name, and lesser known, but wonderful tunes such as Can't Stop This Fire, all accompanied by those hundreds of drummers from earlier in the performance.
Finally we get the Olympic Flame, brought into the stadium by one of Britain's best loved Olympians, Sir Steve Redgrave (Winner of 5 Olympic Gold's in 5 separate Games), who hands the torch over to 7 young potential future sporting stars, who light the very unconventional cauldron (London 2012 and Boyle once again thinking "outside the box") to the beautiful "Caliban's Dream" composed by Underworld and played by Evelyn Glenie and a number of other stars.
Overall this album captures the entire ceremony perfectly. Listening to it now continues to stirr up the emotions I felt on the night, to me it was almost perfect. It really did feel like a historic moment for Britain, a defining moment and one that will live on for more than a generation. The album does miss out Macca's rendition of Hey Jude at the end, but let's be honest, you've probably already got that somewhere and if not, then just wait for the next Live [insert number] concert, or Jubilee celebration, when he'll be wheeled out again. Danny Boyle and everyone else involved in the Opening Ceremony deserve every bit of praise they have received since, a truly unexpected and uplifting experience it was. I am hoping someone decides to release the whole spectacle on Bly Ray as I'd love to be able to rewatch it (skipping the very long Athletes Parade probably).
on 20 August 2012
I bought this ALMOST for one reason only: "And I will kiss" by Underworld, used through Danny Boyle's incredible Industrial Revolution/Pandemonium segment at the start of the ceremony. I hadn't even heard of Underworld before, but it's worth the price for this epic track alone. One of the most astonishing, spellbinding, soaring and uplifting pieces I've ever heard, perfectly interpreting Boyle's magnificent scenes as they unfolded, and I haven't stopped listening to it since that Friday night -- also revisiting iPlayer many, many times to watch this part of the ceremony again. An absolute triumph and utterly unforgettable... and the sight and sound and energy of those amazing drummers will remain with me forever. A DVD of the ceremony is an absolute must (with NO commentary please!), as is the release of this track on its own.
The rest? -- well that's pretty darn good too, and in particular I'd pick out the beautiful "Caliban's Dream" also by Underworld, and Emeli Sande's simple but haunting rendition of "Abide with me"; but in truth there's only one track I keep returning to time after time. I must have lost countless hours of my life already, just being swept along with it!
on 5 August 2012
I write this as I bathe in the afterglow of Super Saturday and Britian's greatest ever night in an Olympic Stadium. The tracks on this CD are essential listening for any music-lover who recognises this Olympics not just as a global sporting event but perhaps one of Britain's proudest moments of sporting togetherness. This CD is a great momento of the start of this wondrous occasion-there are certainly no other Olympic soundtracks that reflect the best of a nation like this one does. Other reviewers have detailed the tracks and of course everyone will have their opinions on 'floor-fillers' and 'time-killers' but, for myself, there are TWO standout tracks, 24- minutes of musical majesty that are more than worth the ten pounds alone. Firstly the soaring 17-minute epic that is 'And I Will Kiss' that soundtracked the Pandemonium section culminating in the iconic, awe-inspiring 5-molten rings moment. A pounding, rhythmic, uplifting anthem that layers sound upon sound and still gives me goosebumps. The second spine-tingling moment is the seven minutes of 'Caliban's Dream' which accompanied the final torch procession by our seven young bearers and the lighting of what surely will be the most beautiful and stunning Olympic cauldron ever. As a reflection of 'inspire a generation' this vocal-instrumental, lilting, lifting track continues to inspire me on every listen. At the halfway point through this Games, I already know that I will look back on London 2012 with pride and wonder. My only criticism is that it is a pity that Elbow's 'First Steps' is not included. Nevertheless, for a moment in time we truly are an Isles of Wonder. Buy this and keep a musical slice of history!