‘Classified’ creates ‘bond’ between classical and pop

4/5 Stars

When the four girls of Bond debuted on the music scene about four years ago, they were initially banned from the UK classical charts. Apparently, their combination of world music dance beats and traditional strings did not fit the definition of this genre. Classical purists are likely not to warm up to what had been categorized as “classical crossover” stylings of Haylie Ecker (first violin), Eos Chater (second violin), Tania Davis (viola), and Gay-Yee Westerhoff (cello). This modern string quartet hoped to break into the United States mainstream this year with a highly successful, sold-out summer concert to promote its third album of new material, “Classified.”

“Classified” is a musical m?lange that contains more hits than misses. The inclusion of several unique and intriguing arrangements of famous compositions is a message to Bond’s harshest critics that classical can be fun, fresh and interesting.

The album opens with the group’s first single, “Explosive.” The song, which was used as the Australian theme for the Olympic Games, is easily the best and most powerful track on “Classified.” The use of synthesizers and drum machines is especially effective in creating an electric and exciting sound and an international dimension is added with a break for pan flutes. The volume escalates throughout and concludes with a bang, which is perfectly suited for this piece.

“Lullaby” is a particularly bouncy rendition of Pachebel’s “Canon in D” and is highlighted by a well-placed cello solo. Many of the album’s songs display a Latin influence and are ideal for a dance party. Such is the case with “Scorchio,” “Samba” and “Senorita.” “Senorita,” arranged by Davis, is a hip-hop flavored and salsa-ready version of the famous “Habanera” from Carmen.

On “Samba” and the disco-inspired “Fly Robin Fly,” the girls decide to add their vocals. Chater and Westerhoff are the main contributors.

Overall, their voices are rather weak but do not detract from their greater talent. The girls truly shine when they let their masterful manipulation of their instruments occupy the spotlight. As on their previous albums, the girls individually composed their own pieces. Westerhoff’s “I’ll Fly Away,” not so ironically written while on an airplane, plays with a certain bittersweet tone of longing for escape. The atmospheric “Dreamstar” by Ecker, on the other hand, counters it with hope and creates mental images of clear starry nights.

Of course, with this ambitious merging of seemingly unrelated types of music, there is a possibility of unintentionally drowning out the instrumentals. The unfortunate example of this is “Adagio for Strings,” which disappoints as the strings just about fade into a trance-like oblivion. Nevertheless, “Adagio” is one of the only songs moderate in pace and is far from offensive to the ear. On “Highly Strung,” the boisterous reworking of “Sabre Dance,” the listener may struggle to hear the instruments except in a few solos, but as it is extremely creative and borders on insane and manic, the result is quite enjoyable. So if you’re looking for a departure from the ordinary, “Classified” offers just that. Pick up your air violin (or viola or cello, for that matter) and play with the Bond girls, at least in spirit. And if you’re not that brave, you can at least dance up a storm. The girls’ amazing abilities and synergy as a group is the greatest reason to give this compact disc a listen.