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First Released

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One of the signature aspects of a James Bond movie is its theme song, and, as demonstrated on this collection of those songs, there is a remarkable consistency to them. The first Bond film, 1962's Dr. No, featured Monty Norman's "James Bond Theme," a distinctive instrumental piece that has figured in every Bond picture since and that leads off the disc. But with the second entry in the series, 1963's From Russia with Love, there was a specially written title song sung by a contemporary pop artist during the opening credits. And as of the third entry, 1964's Goldfinger, that song, as often as not, would become a hit. Shirley Bassey's melodramatic performance of "Goldfinger" remains a standard for Bond themes, but, just as the films have been subtly updated through the years, so the theme songs have reflected changes in pop music. Echoes and approximations of Norman's theme turn up over and over as a basis for the songs, even though they make room for individual interpretation. For example, Gladys Knight's "License to Kill" from 1989 may be an '80s power ballad complete with synthesizer accompaniment, but it still uses familiar orchestral elements. And some of the least characteristic songs are also some of the most successful. Carly Simon's "Nobody Does It Better" doesn't even use a film title, yet it is one of the better remembered theme songs. Many of the artists who sing the songs are pop footnotes (a-ha, Sheena Easton), but they were hot when they were asked to participate, and their performances hold up.
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