For many people, the fifties and sixties were the golden age of both the spy novel and film. That’s no surprise. This was the post war era. The Iron Curtain separated Eastern and Western Europe. Suspicion and paranoia were common place. Especially after the defection of Philby, Burgess and McLean. These stories inspired authors. 

Soon, authors were inventing double agents. Among them were Len Deighton, John Le Carre, Graham Greene, Lesley Charteris and of course, Ian Fleming. Many of characters from these novels, leapt from the page onto the silver screen. No wonder.

The character’s lives was a potent cocktail of danger, drama and glamour. Their lives were lived on the edge. Danger was never a page or frame away. On the page and screen, secret agents like their cocktails, shaken not stirred. Life was lived in the fast lane. They fought by the Queensberry rules and the suave and debonair secret agent always got his man. All this was crammed into two hundred pages or two hours. For many an impressionable schoolboy, dreams of life as a secret agent were born. As the credits rolled, the theme tune was replayed. Often, that was the most memorable part of the film.

Indeed, often, whilst a spy film is long forgotten, the theme tune has become a minor classic. Other times, the theme tune, like the film has become a classic. An example of this is Lalo Schifrin and His Orchestra’s theme from Mission Impossible. The same can be said of Dusty Springfield’s The Look Of Love and The Challengers’ Them From Mission Impossible. Both the theme tune and film have become classics. They can also be found on Ace Records latest compilation Come Spy With Us-The Secret Agent Songbook.

Released on 31st March 2014, Come Spy With Us-The Secret Agent Songbook features twenty-five themes from spy films released during the fifties and sixties. For many people, this was the golden age of the spy novel and film. There’s contributions from The Walker Brothers, Astrud Gilberto, Laio Schifrin, The Supremes, Matt Monroe, Sarah Vaughan, Jimmy Smith and Smokey Robinson and The Miracles. With everything from pop, jazz, soul, Latin and soul jazz, Come Spy With Us-The Secret Agent Songbook is a truly eclectic compilation. Quite simply, there’s something for everyone. Come Spy With Us-The Secret Agent Songbook, which I’ll pick the highlight of, is sure to provoke some cinematic memories.

There’s no better way to open Come Spy With Us-The Secret Agent Songbook than with John Barry and His Orchestra’s A Man Alone. John Barry’s name is synonymous with film scores. In 1965, he was asked to compose the score for the adaptation of Len Deighton’s The Ipcress File. It featured Michael Caine in one of his most famous roles, Harry Palmer. This was one of John Barry’s finest hours. It almost a definition of what the word cinematic means. Literally, it paints pictures. Evocative and full of mystery. it brings to mind a world of secret agents, danger and cloak and dagger dealings.

For anyone yet to discover The Walker Brothers’ music, Deadlier Than The Male is a tantalising taste of what they’re capable of. Quite simply, it’s a truly haunting track. It was the theme to the 1967 film The Female Of The Species. Although it wasn’t the most successful film of 1967, it featured the haunting Deadlier Than The Male. Sadly, when it was released as a single, it stalled number thirty-two in the UK. If ever a single deserved to fare better, this was it.

Probably, one of Dusty Springfield’s finest moments, was The Look Of Love. Penned by Bacharach and David, Dusty delivers the definitive version of this track. Nothing else comes close. Given its indisputable quality, it’s no surprise it reached number twenty-three in the US Billboard 100. In 1967, The Look Of Love became the theme to the latest instalment in the James Bond series, Dr. No. Written by Ian Fleming in 1953, Dr. No “starred” Sean Connery. His portrayal of James Bond wasn’t well received by critics nor fans. That’s why many people felt Dusty’s version of The Look Of Love was the highlight of the film. 

Just like Sean Connery’s portrayal of James Bond, Dean Martin’s portrayal of Matt Helm in The Silencers strayed from author Donald Hamilton’s original books. For the author, it must have been frustrating watching his character become almost pastiche of what was originally intended. Billed as”Girls, Gags and Gadgets” The Silencers was a commercial success in 1966. Looking back, this is another case of the books surpassing the their portrayal on the silver screen. The best thing about The Silencers, was Vicki Carr’s delivery of the title-track. Her delivery of Mack David and Ernest Bernstein’s song is slow, sultry and dramatic.

Back in 1965 The Challengers were asked to provide the theme to a new television series,The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Starring Robert Vaughan and David McCallum it ran for 205 episodes over a four year period. Fifty years after the first episode hit American television screens, both the television program and The Challengers’ theme tune have become stonewall classics.

Originally, Lalo Schifrin started life as a jazz pianist. By 1968, he was forging a career writing soundtracks. His latest commission was to write theme to Mission: Impossible. Having written a dramatic score in 5/4 time, Lalo Schifrin and His Orchestra entered the studio. Little did they realize that they’d just recorded one of the most recognisable theme tunes ever. Mission: Impossible is a timeless classic, that promises drama and adventure and is instantly recognisable by several generations.

It was in 1965, that The Supremes were asked to sing the theme to Dr Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine. It was the brainchild of American International Pictures. They decided that, having released horror and beach party movies, now was the time to jump on the spy film bandwagon. In retrospect, it maybe wasn’t their best idea. Nowadays, this would a movie that goes straight to DVD. As a result, The Supremes theme tune was the most memorable part of the movie. Penned by Guy Hemric and Gerry Styner it’s full of slick hooks and is truly irresistible.

The story of Matt Monro’s life, deserves to be turned into a film. Originally, he was a London bus driver. His breakthrough came when he became one of the BBC Show Band’s vocalists in 1956. For the next couple of years, Matt Monro became a huge star. Then just as quickly, he returned to obscurity. That wasn’t the end of Matt Monro. As the sixties dawned, his career got back on track. From 1961 right through to the seventies, Matt Monro became a superstar on both sides of the Atlantic. He sang the title-track to several films. This includes 1963s From Russia With Love, 1966s Born Free and Wednesday’s Child, which was the theme to The Quiller Memorandum in 1967. Written by John Barry and Mack David, it features a heartfelt vocal from Matt and demonstrates why he was known as “the man with the golden voice.”

Each week, Gene Barry dawned the role of Captain Amos Burke in Burke’s Law. The show ran for three seasons between 1963 and 1966. As America tuned in watch Captain Amos Burke, who just so happened to be a multi-millionaire, Wynton Kelly’s unmistakable jazz-tinged Theme From Burke’s Law played. It veers between light and airy to dramatic. With its unmistakable early sixties sound, it’s also one of the finest moments from Wynton’s 1963 album Comin’ In The Back Door.

Sarah Vaughan is remembered as one of the greatest female vocalists in the history of jazz. In 1965, she covered the theme to Peter Gunn, which was a television series that ran between 1958 and 1961. It followed the adventures of a private detective. A total of 114 episodes were aired. This was the creation of Blake Edwards, who later, would create The Pink Panther. Penned by Henry Mancini, Ray Evans and Jay Livingstone, Sarah Vaughan delivers a vocal powerhouse. This reminds you why Sarah was known as “The Divine One.”

Closing Come Spy With Me-The Secret Agent Songbook is Smokey Robinson and The Miracles’ Come Spy With Me. It was the opening theme to the 1967 film Come Spy With Me. Produced by Arnold Kaiser and starring Troy Donahue the film wasn’t well received by critics on its release in January 1967. Ironically, since then, the film has been lost. So, a new generation of film fans will never be able to judge the merits of Come Spy With Me. They will, however, be able to hear Smokey Robinson and The Miracles’ version of the title-track, which was the B-Side to their 1967 single, The Love I Saw In You Was Just  A Mirage. Apparently, it was the highlight of the film.

For anyone whose interested in the golden age of the secret agent, then Come Spy With Me-The Secret Agent Songbook is a veritable treasure trove. It’s guaranteed to bring back memories of secret agents from the past. Many will be old favorites, others long forgotten. That’s been the case for me. Listening to Come Spy With Me-The Secret Agent Songbook is like a  trip down memory lane. During that trip, we meet everyone from James Bond, Harry Palmer, Matt Helm, Captain Amos Burke and Peter Gunn. Some names are instantly recognizable. Others, well that’s not the case. After all, how many people saw Dr Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine and Come Spy With Me? What’s instantly recognizable, is the music.

Indeed, the music on Come Spy With Me-The Secret Agent Songbook is like a who’s who of film music. No wonder. Among the artists on Come Spy With Me-The Secret Agent Songbook are John Barry, Dusty Springfield, The Walker Brothers, Astrud Gilberto, Laio Schifrin, The Supremes, Matt Monroe, Sarah Vaughan, Jimmy Smith and Smokey Robinson and The Miracles. Truly, Come Spy With Me-The Secret Agent Songbook is a veritable feast. The listener taken on a magical mystery tour. This musical journey through the genres includes pop, jazz and soul, right through to Latin and soul jazz. That’s why Come Spy With Us-The Secret Agent Songbook, which was recently released by Ace Records, is best described as eclectic, treasure trove of music from the golden age of the secret agent.



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