Tuesday August 7, 2012
An emotive compilation
With inspiring, haunting and party tracks, the Olympic album Isles Of Wonder is as British as can be.
MOMENTOUS, stirring and a little puzzling – that was the overall feel at the much-anticipated Opening Ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games, as the event zoomed in on British pop music of the last few decades.
Many of the tracks performed at the event, which took place on July 27, are included in the commemorative two-disc Universal Music release Isles Of Wonder.
There were certain segments in the multi-sensory ceremony that seemed rather far out, like the slew of Mary Poppinses that rushed out to slay a giant Lord Voldemort on stage – British humour, anyone? – but overall, the album contains meaningful tracks which capture that familiar essence of Olympic nostalgia that you only experience once every four years.
With tracks from 1990s electronic duo Underworld, David Bowie and The Chemical Brothers, who performed at the opening ceremony, the album, a summation of Britain’s most iconic artistes, has been selling like hot cakes with more than 10,000 copies zapped up within 24 hours of the opening ceremony’s conclusion. A couple of weeks ago, British news portal The Guardian reported that the album is No.1 in the iTunes store in Britain, Belgium, Spain, and No.2 in the United States and on Amazon’s best-selling downloads.
The musical score for the three-hour extravaganza was overseen by Underworld’s Rick Smith, who composed two original pieces, And I Will Kiss and Caliban’s Dream, for the event. Smith recently said: “Music is Britain’s cultural heartbeat; it’s a perpetual act of revolutionary thought. From William Blake to the Beatles via the Clash and the Chemical Brothers, the soundtrack to our lives fizzes and hums all around us like a stray signal from a radio dial that your internal antenna just can’t help but tune into.”
Featuring Scottish virtuoso percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie and 1,000 drummers, Smith’s gripping 15-minute And I Will Kiss kicked off as an epic score, which epitomised the Industrial Revolution in Britain.
With British household names such as lead singer and guitarist Alex Trimble, male voice choir Only Men Aloud and a children’s choir, Smith’s second composition Caliban’s Dream, played during the arrival of the Olympic torch in the stadium and subsequent lighting of the cauldron.
Nine older hits, such as Confusion The Waitress, Moon In Water and Crocodile, all by Underworld, are included in the album, too.
Multi-instrumentalist and composer Mike Oldfield’s reworking of the classic Tubular Bells, from his debut album in the early 70s, and In Dulci Jubilo, which he performed as accompaniment to the performance that depicted the army of National Health Service (NHS) nurses and children from Great Ormond Street Hospital, are both included as a single continuous track in the album.
There are the more sombre tracks, too, like those by Zambian-Scottish singer and songwriter Emeli Sandé such as Abide With Me and Heaven, with their hauntingly gripping quality providing a sharp contrast to the more upbeat numbers by indie rock band Arctic Monkeys and High Contrast.
And then, it’s inexplicable why tracks by Led Zeppelin and Oasis, which were performed at the event, were omitted from the album. At least there’s a remix version of U2’s 1980s hit Where The Streets Have No Name.
The soundtrack comes in two discs: the first revealing a number of songs from performing artistes at the ceremony, such as Dizzee Rascal, Emeli Sande and Arctic Monkeys, and LSO with Chariots Of Fire – Rowan Atkinson’s “performance” at the event makes it even more memorable now – while disc two offers music from the official welcome, which includes David Bowie’s Heroes, which was played as team Great Britain trooped into the stadium.
The theme of the £27mil (RM133mil) spectacular was inspired by a passage from William Shakespeare’s comedic play The Tempest, which has also inspired other literary works, such as sci-fi production The Forbidden Planet.
Isles Of Wonder will be available at all major record stores nationwide from early September.