[Exclusive - Casino Royale - First Listen]

It's been four years since MI6's most lethal agent had an on-screen adventure, and now Daniel Craig has taken over the role of James Bond from Pierce Brosnan, helping rebirth the franchise in Casino Royale. Directed by Goldeneye director Martin Campbell, the film reportedly returns us to the James Bond of Ian Fleming's novels - a much colder and less joking Bond, who relies more on his skills than gadgets. Trailers for the film also seem to indicate that this is a "genesis" story of sorts, showing us how James Bond became "James Bond".

Returning to score this latest adventure is composer David Arnold, who has scored the past three James Bond films, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day. While his previous films have leaned heavily on an orchestral/electronic fusion sound, Casino Royale focuses more on the orchestra, and uses electronics sparingly. Also - and interestingly enough - Monty Norman's classic "James Bond Theme" is scarce, only showing up a couple of times over the course of the 75-minute album. This makes sense, since it's not until the end that James Bond becomes "James Bond". Instead, Arnold utilizes a melody he wrote for the film's song, "You Know My Name", which subtly hints at a precursor (with the ascending bass line) to the Bond theme. It should be noted, in a rather unique situation, that the soundtrack release does not include the song to the film.

SoundtrackNet hasn't seen the film yet, and the track-by-track analysis that follows is sure to be incorrect in some areas. Note that there are spoilers in the track titles, so if you're trying to avoid any hints at what might transpire in the film, avert your eyes! In the meantime, we hope you enjoy our exclusive "First Listen" report on David Arnold's Casino Royale.

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1. African Rundown (6:52)

An action sequence kicks the album kicks off, giving us African rhythms, staccato brass, and tense strings. About 47 seconds in, a strong brass action motif (based on the brass line from the intro of "You Know My Name") is heard, followed by swirling strings. It's stylistically similar to the previous action cues Arnold has written for the other Bond scores. World percussionist Pete Lockett's efforts are showcased as the tension ratchets up with the orchestra. According to Arnold, at one point they recorded Lockett hammering a pile of music stands that they had dumped on the floor - no doubt that those beats are in here somewhere. This adrenaline-pumping track really kicks in around the 4.5-minute mark, and the brass starts to wail. Through a break in the cacophony, we can clearly hear an earthy two-stringed African bass adding some ethnic flavor, and then the track ends with a dramatic statement as the whole orchestra builds up into a staccato climax.

2. Nothing Sinister (1:27)

A new theme is heard here, with somber and dramatic French Horns accentuated by the strings. Things turn sinister with some low and high strings softly underscoring a piano with some electronic atmosphere.

3. Unauthorised Access (1:08)

Echoing percussion with ominous strings starts out this creepy track. Arpeggiated harp and woodwinds create a suspenseful tone, and this short track comes to an end with the strings.

4. Blunt Instrument (2:22)

The first half of this track consists of soft strings slowly working their way around in a suspenseful manner, before suddenly swirling up into a dramatic rendition of the James Bond bass theme, with a melody from "You Know My Name" heard before going into an upbeat rendition of the action motif, and then a proper statement of the main song melody in the wailing brass, just before ending with a triumphant blast of the intro guitar chords from the song, played out on the full orchestra.

5. CCTV (1:30)

Bass strings build with harp, strings and flute, creating a mysterious sneaky tone. Percussion effects come in softly as the track builds, with swelling brass, and then sliding strings. An ominous motif is heard in the brass before the track ends.

6. Solange (0:59)

A lovely string heavy melody is heard for the character of Solange (Caterina Murino). It has a strong John Barry influence, especially as the countermelody in the brass plays over the strings.

7. Trip Aces (2:06)

Solange's theme is heard on flute backed by strings and harp, and then harp and low tremolo strings herald in an ominous feeling. The action motif is slowly heard on the low brass, and then the ascending James Bond bass theme is slowly played, and then transitions back into a dark version of Solange's theme.

8. Miami International (12:43)

The longest track on the album, it starts out right away with a nice staccato brass introduction that leads into a proper statement of "You Know My Name" on the strings with some electronic percussion and backing orchestral elements. It all calms down into a slowly building moment full of atmosphere, high strings, harp, low bass, and intermittent muted brass bursts. There's some rumbling tension with tremolo strings, and the brass builds up with the strings in a dissonant orchestral flourish, leading us to a pause. Now the strings work in an ostinato as the French Horns play a variant on "You Know My Name". As the tension builds, a flute comes in, and the strings continue their driving momentum. Variants on the main song keep popping in through various orchestral elements, and the tension keeps rising. There are a few electronic elements, but they're subdued and not too heavy. Now the action kicks up a notch, and the rhythm noticeably changes. Strings and brass trade off prominent outbursts, leading up to a large climactic swell. After another brief pause, brass and strings fight against each other, leading up to a dramatic chord. Now the driving ostinato in the basses and celli gives way to wailing epic Bond brass with minor and major chords. We're back into the rhythm again now, as the strings begin a new ostinato run, with staccato brass bursts. Things kick up a notch once more, and a blast of "You Know My Name" is heard on the wailing brass as the rhythmic orchestra and militaristic percussion keeps the momentum plowing forward. Ascending hits are heard, and then we're back into the action, with what sounds like an electric guitar slamming in every so often. It's orchestral mayhem as it all builds upwards. Now a small break in the cacophony, as things shift up a gear, and a new motif is heard that could easily be described as a musical ancestor to the James Bond theme's wailing brass motif. It's a subtle variant, and might tie into "You Know My Name", but it's still a neat thing to hear. The brass keeps plowing forward, and now electric guitar strums are clearly heard as the strings, percussion, brass, and woodwinds all build up to a frenzied climax. Bursts of brass and electric guitar all play off the percussion while the orchestra continues its wild run. Now a new rhythm is heard as everything builds up to the end of the track. The action motif is heard loudly, replete with countering wailing brass, as the whole thing explodes into a huge ending. I can only imagine the musicians' collective sigh after they finished this one!

9. I'm The Money (0:27)

A sweeping string version of "You Know My Name" is heard, a blessedly soothing thing to hear after coming off the previous track.


10. Aston Montenegro (1:03)

Soft strings hint at the "You Know My Name" theme, before building into a dramatic and flavorful rendition of the melody, evoking images of luxury and wealth.

11. Dinner Jackets (1:52)

Piano and strings softly hint at romance, interrupted only by a momentary swish of nervous percussion. A playful bit of pizzicato and strings gives way to a suave-styled version of the "You Know My Name" theme, with the Bond bass line, and hints of the Bond wailing theme overlaid on top.

12. The Tell (3:23)

Atmospheric percussion, strings and woodwinds start out the track, and a low statement of the "You Know My Name" theme is heard on the bassoons. Alto and bass flute play around with the piano, and then high strings sparsely interwoven with the atmosphere slowly give way to a lush noir-infused mysterious feeling. The orchestra stays soft and low, with only a brief muted brass statement to push it above the darkness. The track ends on a rather low note, which is good because it lets the next track hit us with a bang.

13. Stairwell Fight (4:12)

Starting out fast and furious with three fast orchestral bursts, the track goes quiet and tense for a brief spell, before kicking back into gear with a variation on "You Know My Name", then tense strings and a wailing electric guitar give way to ominous brass and an orchestral swell. High strings create palpable tension with occasional expletives from the orchestra. Low and high strings create a mood just before a harp gliss swings in with the action. Strong brass and fast-paced strings lead to a fast rhythmic ostinato, not too dissimilar from one heard in Die Another Day. Frenzied orchestral action combined with fast percussion yields to intense tremolo with col legno hits, and then the track ends.

14. Vesper (1:44)

A new romantic theme is heard in this track for Vesper (Eva Green). Soft piano starts eventually grows into a string-based melody with lush underscore.

15. Bond Loses It All (3:56)

A slow moving track, we hear low some low electronic beats, high strings, tremolo swells, and other textural moments. Finally towards the end of the track, low brass and strings are heard, and then some downward strings cresting ominously.

16. Dirty Martini (3:49)

Lots of atmosphere and dread, as strings slide downward to give us low rumblings as things start to build up. Now swirling strings give us a rather Goldenthal-esque horrific moment with droning brass and a crescendo. Now a pulsing electronica tone and percussion provide some rhythm beneath swelling strings and brass. An ostinato builds in the strings, swelling brass, with muted brass hinting at the "You Know My Name" theme. The whole orchestra comes together in a cacophony of fury, and then climaxes, letting the track finish quietly, with a soft brass statement of the Bond bass line.

17. Bond Wins It All (4:32)

Soft harp plucks and high strings slowly build the tension as strings and flute play up. After some rumblings including some low brass, high strings, and occasional electronic swells and swishes, tremolo strings give way to more atmospherics. Another swell, and then all is quiet. The soft Bond bass line is heard in the strings again, with "You Know My Name" on top in the brass.

18. The End of an Aston Martin (1:30)

Soft strings quickly give way to a tense driving ostinato, and dramatic chords, with percussion hits and brass. Electronic percussion kicks in, and a rhythmic variation on the action motif is now heard in the brass, with countering staccato punctuation. It's very Bond-like, but then there's a dramatic chord held as the strings work their way down to the lower register, and the track ends on a low note.

19. The Bad Die Young (1:18)

A percussive rumble, and high strings with harp tensely open the track. Soft brass hints at the Bond bass theme, and tinkling piano sprinkled with muted brass are suddenly interrupted by a shriek in the orchestra. Now low tremolo strings hold our tension until the brass and orchestra gives a final burst before the track ends.

20. City of Lovers (3:30)

Sweeping melodic strings announce our arrival in Venice, Italy. Vesper's Theme is heard quite strongly, full of hope and romance. Now a tender flute carries the melody as the strings and brass back it. The strings slide half a note, in a rather unexpected and ominous way, but the melody continues on, now carried by a piano. Strings slowly return, as well as a harp, and a tender moment appears as the strings take over once more, with French Horns, and the cue ends with a pleasing statement on the flute.

21. The Switch (5:07)

Tense brass and strings are joined by a low string ostinato as brass builds up into an action cue. Orchestral hits pepper a string run and after a pause, a driving rhythm is engaged with fast string and brass statements. Things calm down briefly, and some electronic percussion is joined by dark chords in the strings and brass. The Bond electric guitar is briefly heard, and the orchestra slowly builds up in intensity before calming back down into a tense rhythm. Dramatic strings swell and build into a new rhythm, with wild strings and brass spats that soon play off each other in a frenzied clash of wills. High strings now build into another militaristic percussion and brass action bit similar to the one heard in "Miami International". The action motif is heard as well, before large orchestra hits burst forth and then, as the brass builds on top of itself, it climaxes with a large chord.

22. Fall of a House in Venice (1:53)

Brass and strings build up into large orchestral hits with a backing rhythmic ostinato. Loud brass and descending strings give way to fast and dramatic orchestral outbursts with hints of the action motif, and then the Bond bass theme is clearly heard as the piece comes to a turbulent climax.

23. Death of Vesper (2:50)

Sad and melancholy strings play out, followed by a tender piano. Now emotional strings build on top of the piano, eventually giving way to a darker French Horn line. There is a low note held as the strings slowly build on top of it, and then after a moment, the piano is back with the strings - but there's still some darkness, and a dramatic swell and burst of brass ends the track.

24. The Bitch is Dead (1:05)

The Bond bass line is slowly heard in the strings as a piano appears, and there's a string variation on Solange's Theme. Piano comes back in, with backing strings and the track swells to a dramatic end.

25. The Name's Bond... James Bond (2:49)

Yes, it's Bond as we all know and love him. Muted brass bursts into the track, and then slowly, with machismo and suave, the Bond bass line is heard, with a swaggering rhythm, and a bit of the main muted brass theme. A pause, then a blast of brass as the orchestra hits us with the main Bond fanfare, followed by a straight up version of the theme, on electric guitar. Growling brass provides the appropriate color, and then with a burst, it kicks into the B-melody theme, with an upbeat rhythm provided by the drums. The wailing brass is kicked up a notch, and the jazzy elements are all in full swing. Another burst of the fanfare, and bongos are brought in to bring things up another level, and then it builds into the classic ending, finishing the album off in vintage Bond style.

After you listen to the album, you'll definitely sense the melodic progression and evolution that Arnold has created for Casino Royale - one that would have been completed with the inclusion of the song. Unfortunately, it's not on the album, but would be perfect to listen to after the score, especially since everything in it appears in the score in some fashion.

Casino Royale will be released in theaters on November 17, 2006, and the soundtrack will be released by Sony Classical on November 14, 2006.

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Special thanks to Jeremy Meyers at SonyBMG Masterworks and David Arnold for their assistance with this article.