Once upon a time in Kingston Town there was a little boy named Bond, James Bond. James always had a thing about wanting to be a secret agent. he would sit in the classroom at school and daydream about all the missions he would be sent on and all the different countries he could go spy on, instead of listening to the teacher. After school James would walk home and pretend to be calling HQ on the radio he imagined he had hidden in the heel of his shoe, unbeknown to anybody else, of course. At the end of the day he would lay down on his bed and announce to himself that the mission had been accomplished, before his mum yelled at him to put the light out he would dream of standing before Her Majesty the queen. In case there’s trouble, or we are under attack, have no fear because Bond is black.
So speaks the narrator (Arthur Nicholls) before Barry Adamson’s absolutely ripsnorting ska track ‘007, A Fantasy Bond Theme’, which features some really way out there jazz trumpeting.
I have two offerings for you Barry Adamson’s 1995 Movieology 12″ EP and the Oedipus Schmoedipus Promo, from 1996. I’m good to you like that.
Barry Adamson, Mancunian bassist and graduate from Magazine and the Bad Seeds has long made incredible music of the highest order. He bestrides all manner of borders and boundaries – his work touches and draws on jazz, trip hop, soundtrack, pop, ska and hellish amounts of other ingredients. His first LP Moss Side Story is a stone cold classic imaginary film noir soundtrack, really.
Adamson always wanted to write for films and inventing his own one to soundtrack was a cool move that eventually netted him David Lynch’s Lost Highway. The 1995 Movieology 12″ was an extension of this, designed and packaged as a soundtrack collection and, drawing on a number of his LPs, is a mini greatest hits to date.
‘Busted (Michelangelo Version)’ is a superfly Beastie Boys-style instrumental cop show theme with plenty of Hammond organ, street noise and sound effects*, this version with harder beats is punchy but not quite as good as the LP version, which is softer and slicker. Ditto the ‘007 (Dance version)’ which muddies up some of the original’s dynamics, to no good effect. ‘The Snowball Effect’ takes us haring down the same streets as ‘Busted …’ in a beat up police car powered solely by groovy wigs and awesome percussive beats. It wins side 1 easily.
Side 2 whacks straight up with his cover of ‘The Man With the Golden Arm’** which is as noirish as it is possible to get without becoming self-parodying. The trumpet^ tones ring out clear and unsullied out of a swampish melange of swirling beats and orchestration, taking us on into the dramatic finale. This is music of rare brilliance. Closer ‘Dead Heat’ has a nightmarish cast to it, in spite of an underlying grooviness, redolent of a villain’s lair.
All very believable film music.
The Oedipus Schmoedipus Promo is a different beast altogether, a taster for Adamson’s 1996 LP*^. Two notable collaborations, a jazzer and a trip-hoppy tune too. It’s all damn good.
As a man well steeped in groinal peregrinations Jarvis Cocker is a perfect chap to call on to add lusty vocals to ‘Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Pelvis’, (closing refrain: ‘Save me from my own hand’). All set to an indefinable orchestrated, funky, poppy, gospel-choir inflected backing like nothing else I’ve heard. The sublime ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ is another superb track, this time sampling a 1537 all-timer Massive Attack’s ‘Blue Lines’ to uplifting effect.
‘Achieved In The Valley Of The Dolls’ adds Billy MacKenzie’s high feminine voice to a fabulous trip-hop backing and guitar flourishes, it really is rather beautiful and I find it almost impossible to keep my mind on the fact that he is a he; makes me want to play Sulk again. Poor Billy. ‘Miles’ is a cover of Miles Davis’ ‘Milestones’^^, Adamson’s version sounding jauntier and cheaper, with added vibes, like the most fabulous lift music in the world.
The Oedipus Schmoedipus Sampler is a superb little collection. Adamson’s deft mastery of moods and genres is right to the fore. It also shows something else Adamson is superb at, collaboration; which is never just the art of pulling together the best people, theoretically anyone with the right address book could do that. To place the right folks in the right context to bring out something extra, something more in/from them is a real skill.
Jarvis Cocker, Billy Mackenzie are the obvious beneficiaries here, but there’s another hidden one who is possibly even more significant; Atticus Ross. 1537 fanatics will first have encountered him here as half of 12 Rounds, here he adds additional programming to 4 tracks over both records. Trent Reznor had previously included Adamson’s music in his Natural Born Killers soundtrack and I wonder if Ross’ involvement here assisted in the birth of them as a dynamic sound tracking duo.
Regardless, here are two good slabs of high quality Barry-ness. Explore them yourselves, you really won’t be disappointed. After all, Bond is black.
*always a good thing, says I.
**a book I really need to read.
^courtesy of Enrico Tomasso.
*^which I still haven’t got around to buying. Oops, I have just now, 10 minutes after writing the last sentence.
^^from Miles Ahead, a bit of a 1537 fave.