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3.6 out of 5 stars
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3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 29 October 2012
Bringing in a new composer to score a Bond film is invariably risky. Such was John Barry's indelible mark on the series that each new composer, from George Martin to David Arnold, has pretty much been in a 'no win' situation. Make it sound too much like Barry and you're not doing anything original, stray too far from Barry's style and you're not staying true to the musical heritage. My view - one I know won't be shared with everybody - is that the music should sound as close to John Barry as possible; the sound of Bond is as much part of the Bond formula as the pre-title sequence, the exotic locations and the fabulous sets.

So now we have Thomas Newman's score to 'Skyfall'. Firstly, the score DOES work in the context of the movie, in the sense that having seen the film, the score doesn't sound intrusive or out-of-place in the way Eric Serra's music from 'GoldenEye' was. Listening to this album, there are some tracks, invariably those from the Shanghai section of the movie, that are moody and atmospheric. Newman's theme for Severine is also really very Barryesque.

Unfortunately, Newman doesn't bring anything new to the table as regards his approach to the action music, which is pretty similar to David Arnold's method in my view. This is where John Barry tended to excel; just a quick look back at the soundtracks of his Bond scores and one can see track after track where Barry would write melodic and memorable action music: 'A Drop In The Ocean' from 'You Only Live Twice' and 'He's Dangerous' from 'A View To A Kill' are just two (of many) examples. Barry's approach was, in my opinion, much more thematic: one would hear themes repeated and built up over the course of the movie, so that they became memorable.

What we have in 'Skyfall' - and the track 'The Bloody Shot' is a prime example - is just incidental music which one would find in everything from Bourne to The Dark Knight. Although the Bond theme is interpolated into the score well, the rest of the action music (and there's a lot of it) just doesn't do anything. It doesn't go anywhere. And this is a criticism I'd level at Arnold as much as Newman. Perhaps my complaint is as much levelled at most of cinema music today, which tends to be over-produced and generic. Perhaps the era of artists like John Barry has gone forever?

One further thing: the song, performed by Adele, is very good indeed - the strongest opener for years - so why isn't it on this album? Full marks to Newman for incorporating part of it into the score but I wish he had been able to do this more often. Remember, the way the title song used to be woven into the score was a further feature of the early Bond soundtracks in which Barry excelled.

So, to close, this is not a disaster. Some of the tracks - the slower pieces in particular - work very well. And, crucially, it works for the film (by the way, the movie itself is a belter and the best since `OHMSS'). But perhaps a different composer could have a go next time though? For my money, I'd give the gig to Alexandre Desplat. Time will tell....
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on 3 November 2012
I really enjoyed this score. It reflects shades of classic bond, but with a muscular modern quality. It embraces electronic elements while remaining organic, and draws deeply on classical music, more perhaps than I think previous Bond scores did.

Thomas Newman brings a mix of ambient, classical and eastern influences to the Skyfall soundtrack. Some of his string and horn arrangement are as lush as Barry's but his have a distinctive melancholy. His electronica is spare and ambient and he builds his tracks around guitar, filtered synths, delays and a low rapidly pulsing synthesised bass. At some points he is purely classical such as the lush melancholy string and harp arrangement on Severine. On tracks like Adrenaline and Grand Bazaar, Instanbul, an eastern sound makes itself heard. But all the way through the score there is a sense of tension and menace, with overtones that alternate between triumphant and melancholy.

The traditional leitmotif that usually accompanies a bond film has been truncated here. Newman cleverly references the original theme with stabs of trumpet, or snatches of flute and strings, usually only for a phrase before returning to his original composition. These references occur when Bond is doing something particularly resourceful, such as using a JCB to hold a speeding train together or when Bond's Aston Martin makes it's appearance. They build in intensity throughout the piece, at first just a few phrases or a gentle rendition on a flute or synth, building finally to a full orchestral blast on She's Mine. But even then the cue never leans to heavily on what has gone before. Newman chooses to use tonality and instrument choice to recall previous bond scores rather than simply reworking the themes. Rich horn sections, vibes, clean guitars, and lush string arrangements evoke Bond's heritage even as the new elements build on it.

Scores are designed to work together as a suite of music, but nevertheless there are some standout tracks on this one. The slow melancholy horn theme on Mother and Voluntary Retirement, grabbed my attention from the moment I heard it in the film. After a listen to the score, a cue called Skyfall (not the Adele song) stood out to me. An oboe theme matched with choir and an echoing ambient delay, evoking a sense of space but also a sense of enclosure. A Close Shave is a gentle romantic cue (woodwinds, plucked violin and vibes) very much in Newman's signature style, bright, sweet and playful. In Komodo Dragon, the Skyfall song is reworked as an ambient piece.

The Chimera is big lush orchestral cue where a stabbing string section hovers over rolling cymbals, backed by a haunting brass section. Shanghai Drive brings in filtered synth and guitar over a pulsing groove. The Quartermaster builds orchestral and eastern sounds around a repeating phrase, before breaking into a run with a pulsing string section. The Moors is one of the most menacing cuts I've heard on a bond film, a growling guitar and bass sets up a riff first against a wash of guitar delay, then the howl of a brass section, which is then outstripped by percussion, and closed with a haunting flute.

This is a very different sort of bond score, and many will be disappointed by the move away from the straightforward use of leitmotif. It's worth remembering that the reboot of the Bond series was attempt to make the series into something fresh and different, and the music has changed as a part of that. There was a markedly less use of this device on David Arnold's Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace scores. In Casino Royale most of the leitmotif is actually drawn from the title song, and the Bond Theme is saved almost exclusively for the last scene with Mr White, to brilliant effect. Secondly, it is worth remembering that reworking a good theme is not a guarantee of an effective score. An early scene in From Russia With Love has the full orchestral James Bond theme blasting out full tilt while Bond calmly checks into a hotel room and opens his suitcases! John Barry had a number of themes he would use, including the 007 theme (as distinct from the James Bond theme), and Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang which gives his scores a sense of cohesiveness. However, he left himself plenty of room to make creative pieces to suit the film. It would be a shame to fall into the trap of giving world class composers a list of themes that they must work into a score, instead of opening our minds to see what they can create.

Thomas Newman's decision to use the concept of leitmotif in a subtler way was a brave creative choice that seems to have received rather harsh criticism from other reviewers. Some only commented to complain that Adele's Skyfall was not included on this CD. Your protest vote has been noted, but what did you think of Thomas Newman's score?

John Barry remains the king of classic bond, but I don't think anyone doubted he would. There is no space for someone to make better score of that type. What remains is to make a different one.
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on 12 October 2013
It doesn't have the theme song on it, it doesn't really flow like a John Barry theme, it doesn't seem to tie together and sounds like a lot of different pieces put together with nothing in common, I do like some of Thomas Newman themes but this is not one of them.
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on 5 July 2013
The score for Skyfall is a long one, coming in at just under 80 minutes and boasting 30 tracks, which range from the minimalist and atmospheric to the action-packed. As some other reviewers have noted, it doesn't include Adele's title song, but it features a very high proportion of the other music used in the film, so I haven't allowed this to affect the star rating.

I had some doubts about buying this soundtrack after seeing the mixed reviews, and was unsure about it on my first play-through, but most of the tracks have grown on me considerably. As is common with Thomas Newman's soundtracks, there is a large array of different musical ideas that are used for a short while and then dropped, rather than frequent use of leitmotif (recurring use of an individual theme), which may put some off, but the James Bond theme is subtly integrated into many of the tracks and at least two tracks have subtle cues from Adele's title song.

The score combines elements of Thomas Newman's style with the Bond style, resulting in something that sounds a bit different, and that benefits from repeated listenings. The theme used in "Voluntary Retirement" and "Mother" is quite memorable, as is the sequence used in "New Digs" for example. It's worth having a sound system with a good "bass" to get the most out of some of the tracks, particularly regarding the frequent "action" tracks during the second half of the soundtrack.

I wouldn't quite place this soundtrack up there with John Barry's best efforts, but I find it the most enjoyable of the non-Barry Bond soundtracks, and I'd certainly be up for Thomas Newman being given another go for Bond 24.
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VINE VOICEon 25 February 2013
It was a daunting task for Thomas Newman to take responsibility for the soundtrack of Skyfall - an opportunity with a risk. He has come out of it exceptionally well. Naturally the spectre of John Barry always looms, but that aside, the music matches the intensity of the film with glimpses of the earlier loved bond themes. For those who bemoan not having Adele singing 'Skyfall' then consider what I have done - purchase Adele's song in mp3 for £0.79 and start your session off with it or introduce it wherever you like. I use iTunes and the task is so easy. Splendid!

One slight gripe is that the sequence does not match the film. To overcome this I have rearranged the order of play in iTunes.
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on 29 January 2013
It seems a lot has been written about this score already, so my comments will be brief.

Thoman Newman has one major advantage over David Arnold; he is actually a musician and not just a producer who dabbles in composing. This guy knows how to handle strings and turns up some lovely cues, especially "Tennyson" and "Skyfall" which are highly evocative. Even Newman's rendition of Arnold's James Bond Theme arrangement sounds somehow better and more competent than Arnold's version.

But... I couldn't agree more with another reviewer on here (Big Si), who says give it to Alexandre Desplat in future. Against all modern trends in film music, Desplat knows how to weave a strong theme and make you remember.

Newman's Skyfall score works very well in context, but you don't come out of the cinema humming the tune and that is crucial for anything that's going to be called "classic Bond".
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on 5 December 2012
This being the incredible 50th Anniversary of James Bond at the movies, I'm disappointed to say that Thomas Newman's incidental music compositions for the latest adventure SKYFALL are such a let down. It all sounds pretty bland and samey-what works for AMERICAN BEAUTY and ROAD TO PERDITION-Newman's other projects for director Sam Mendes-doesn't work when adapted for Bond. Apart from the odd use of Monty Newman's Bond theme here and there (almost deconstructed in parts and only used in full for the classic unveiling of the Aston Martin at the end of the film), quite a nice cue for Severine, plus a couple of moments linked to action scenes, there's overall no memorable themes to drive the narrative on. It often feels too understated and mood musicy. You can listen to it whilst working on your computer but is it catchy? No? Is it landmark Bond? No. In fact, having incorporated Adele's excellent theme for the movie into one track, number 13: Komodo Dragon, why the hell didn't Newman use it anywhere else, and why not for the finale, which is actually set at the Skyfall ancestral home of Bond? The final music track of the album-titled Adrenaline-is anything but...

Adding to the overall disappointment, there are no sleeves notes in the photo booklet for such an important film in the series. And why no credit to the Orchestra? I'm glad this was brought for me as an early Xmas present. It's part of my Bond music collection but probably won't be played anywhere near as much as some of the more recent and classic Bond scores of yesteryear.

Come back, David Arnold. We miss you!
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on 13 September 2015
Would have got the full 5 stars, if it had the one piece of music, you'd expect!
Says "Original motion picture soundtrack", but "Skyfall" by Adele, is NOT on this disc!
And you only find that out, by reading the small print on the back, or listening all the way through.
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on 29 October 2012
I'm writing this review one day before the premiere of the Skyfall (25th October 2012), so I can't be influenced by the film. Just small detail about me - I own all 007 soundtracks on CDs, Casino Royal (1967) and Never Say Never Again: Original Soundtrack [SOUNDTRACK] (1983) included.

Since 1997 (Tomorrow Never Dies: Original Soundtrack [SOUNDTRACK]) - there has not been the change on the composer's position. David Arnold did with his strong signature amazing work (five scores). It was Sam Mendes wish to bring his partner in crime into 007 film.

So, how does it look now with a new captain? Well, Thomas Newman is a very well known composer but in a completely different waters. His music is more minimalistic (American Beauty), slower (Shawshank Redemption), deep (Road to Perdition) with a lot of melodies (sometimes reminds me the late John Barry sound). Obviously, here he needed to change his style. An action film needs an action soundtrack (Drive - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack- is a very nice exception).

Let's start. The first song the first second (Grand Bazaar, Istanbul) - it is the From Russia With Love sound and in Istanbul as well! Very nice! It can't be a coincidence :-) Then we continue with a few mid tempo songs, a little bit of love (Severine), action (Brave New World, Jellyfish, Silhouette) and deep sound songs (Day Wasted, Quartermaster) and the ambient song (Skyfall) is amazing! I'm not going to write about all of them but generally this is a good score (and my first looong review on Amazon, so I am little bit nervous).

Sometimes we can hear little bit of Thomas Newman, sometimes John Barry style together with samples and techy sounds (Turkey, Brave New World, Shanghai Drive, Komodo Dragon). Still it is a very traditional soundtrack not like The World Is Not Enough with lots of drum and bass beats. Samples are used very gently.

While I listened Skyfall I needed to listen again The Shawshank Redemption, Road To Perdition and The American Beauty soundtracks and I have to say those three are like siblings of one family but Skyfall is a completely different child. We can hear fast tempo songs, slow, loud, quiet - typical for action films. I'm not sure if the Thomas Newman fans will be happy with it but 007 fans might be.

Skyfall remindes me the change with Michael Kamen - License To Kill. After years with John Barry and his strong signature came normal score. It is more about doing "normal job" than bringing something really new (David Arnold) but Licence To Kill can live without the pictures but Skyfall can't. Another change - Eric Serra - GoldenEye - (which I really like) sometimes fights with the pictures but as only the music works perfectly.

I hope EON would think next time more about the composer. Try to listen to 1 min of some song from David Arnold 007 work and you would know who is he working for. You can recognize THE sound. Skyfall reminds you nothing. It is like a food without the taste. You feel filled up but you know you don't want to eat again. On the other hand the new Jason Bourne soundtrack (James Newton Howard - The Bourne Legacy) is even wors! It is so forgettable! Can't believe what have happend to the composers in these days....

The CD is full of music - 30 songs total 77 min. Like Casino Royale, the title song is not included. For me it is better because when you buy the single you will get the instrumental version as well. I really enjoyed Quantum Of Solace - Another Way To Die - instrumental.

Finally, Skyfall is a another change into 007 world but for the next 007 film I wish to hear David Arnold.

Enjoy!

If you are missing the David Arnold sound try to have a look at his
The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader soundtrack - it is a worth a buy (now on Amazon for £3 !)
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on 1 November 2012
As much as I love the film I sadly think very little of the score. It simply does what it is supposed to do and nothing more. It lacks that Bond sparkle that sets it apart from Bourn, Die Hard etc. etc.. It's simply generic action music that goes no where. You'd be hard pushed to find a decent theme, indeed when the classic Bond music emerges from the mess it comes as a breath of fresh air. I really think the composer had no idea what he was doing. Obviously Sam Mendes loves the Bond films, Skyfall is testament to that, but the music (as essential a part as fast cars and beautiful girls) is curiously ignored and lacking. I can only put it down to the sad demise of the art of composing film scores. It seems as though film makers are embarrassed to send audiences out whistling the theme. Ain't it sad?
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