Skyfall soundtrack outshines previous installments

Ricky Stein

Thomas Newman; Adele – Skyfall [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]
Record label: Sony Classical
Songs to download: “Skyfall” [Adele single], “Breadcrumbs”

This weekend, Daniel Craig’s reimagined James Bond character careens back onto movie screens worldwide. The 50-year-old, 23-film, billion-dollar-generating franchise has steadily cultivated an impressive musical legacy, boasting hit theme songs by Shirley Bassey, Paul McCartney, Madonna and, most recently, Jack White and Alicia Keys.

For the “Skyfall” installment, Eon Productions ups the ante, signing on prolific composer and Hollywood royalty Thomas Newman to handle scoring. The result is a riveting 79 minutes of music that updates the aural backdrop of the brooding secret agent while never veering too far from the series’ iconic original theme.

The album opens with “Grand Bazaar, Istanbul,” setting the tone with an ominous fury that is sustained throughout the album’s 30 tracks. A sprinting string section darts around clamoring horn crescendos, both of which are locked into a frenetic ride-cymbal drum pattern that paints the sonic picture of a desperate foot race.

The mood levels out significantly by the fourth track, the lush, dreamlike, aptly titled “Severine.” The vitality and graveness of the underlying theme remain, but here Bond is imagined gliding through a gilded hallway to an ethereal Sirens’ call of violins, his mission no less imperative, just not as immediate.

Another example of Newman’s adroitness at creating suspenseful-yet-subdued audio-scapes drifts in in the form of the 17th selection, titled “Close Shave.” Intermittent stringed arpeggios spiral around a lone wind flute, augmented by a murky bed of ice-world vibraphones and a stringently dissonant synthed chorus pad. “Deep Water,” “Mother” and “Adrenaline” close out the set with a dramatic climax and austere resolve.

Frustratingly, the album does not include British soul singer Adele’s soaring rendition of the movie’s eponymous theme song, which was instead released as a single last week. Even so, the album offers an eclectic, imaginative and thrilling 79 minutes of music, perfect for studying, exercising or battling cyberterrorists atop speeding trains.

Aerosmith – Music from another Dimension!

The Boston-based band returns with their first album of all-new material since 2001’s Just Push Play. This album displays the same brand of formulaic arena schlock shuffled in with maudlin trash ballads that constitutes the majority of their recorded output.

Ne-Yo – R.E.D.

The accomplished songwriter and silk-voiced platinum-selling R&B crooner releases his first album with the revitalized (and now Island Def Jam subsidiary Motown Records. The production is soulful and cutting-edge, but is also greatly marginalized by asinine lyrics such as “I’m a man of my word, but only when I ain’t lyin’.”

The Who– Live at Hull 1970
Record label: Geffen
Songs to download: “Tattoo,” “My Generation”

The iconic hard rock trailblazers release the recording of their concert that took place the night directly after the seminal Live at Leeds taping. As such, there is little difference between the two sets, with a majority of the contrast stemming from recording technicalities rather than performance.