Favourite James Bond soundtracks


#13

I share the love of OHMSS, but I also have a deep appreciation for Barry’s Moonraker score. I consider that film the last of the truly “huge” Bond cinema spectacles in the vein of TB, YOLT and TSWLM. Bond adventures used to unfold on an epic scale, and that’s been lost, IMHO. Anyway, with hindsight I can see the “epic” feel to those entries was only partly because of the cinematography and Ken Adams’ ginormous sets. A lot of it is Barry’s music, which adds a majesty and sweep that elevates the proceedings to a whole new level.

Moonraker is the perfect example of this for me. EON went way out on a limb with this film taking Bond into space, and for some fans nothing could ever have made that work, but to the extent it does, it’s in no small way thanks to Barry. Don’t get me wrong, Derek Meddings was a special effects genius and his model work here holds up remarkably well – arguably better than a lot of CG that’s shown up between then and now – but like any effects of this nature, a certain amount of cooperation and suspension of disbelief is required on the part of the audience. We have to be willing to play along or it just won’t work. Barry’s score makes that much, much easier with the track “Flight Into Space,” majestic and ominous and awesome on an almost Biblical scale; it just screams “SPACE,” and it sells the whole crazy scenario. When the sun peeks around the Earth to light up Drax’s space station, the reveal is hugely dramatic. Sure, we could see the wires if we wanted to, but Barry makes us NOT want to; he makes us want to believe. This is what it looks like when a movie composer is really doing his job.

Imagine that scene without music, or better yet, with the wrong music. Compare it to the reveal of the satellite dish in Goldeneye, which despite the change in scenery and players is, at heart, the same scene: “huge, hidden structure revealed to awed 007.” It’s hard to remember if there even is any music in that scene, because if it’s there, it’s Serra’s usual mix of faint, distant bumps and crashes, which could as easily be the sound of wrenches falling off the dish as it rises. Despite his illness, Derek Meddings is still a master of his craft here, and he does a top-drawer job on the miniatures, but now he gets no support from the music, and so the impact is greatly lessened, if there’s any at all.

I’m also always fascinated by tracks like “Cable Car and Snake Fight,” which accompanied two dramatic action scenes in MR but are decidedly slow-paced and laid-back. It’s a counter-intuitive approach, and I’m hard-pressed to think of another composer who would resist the temptation to play up the action with a faster beat, or blaring horns. But it works. The funny thing is, MR was one of the first soundtracks I got as a kid (as soon as it came out) and I remember thinking, “There was a lot of action in that film! I don’t remember it being this slow!” But in the context of the film, it works.

I really think the Bond series as a whole has become more genericized over time, with less and less to distinguish it from the competition. One of the things that used to set it apart was Barry’s approach to the music, and for me, Moonraker is a terrific example.


#14

I’d agree, it is Barry’s score that elevates, and indeed makes, many sequences in the film. Even his moments of knowing when NOT to score to add tension to a scene, like Jaws attack at the parade.


#15

Without ranking them : FYEO, OHMSS,TLD,TND,AVTAK


#16

I got my copy of the expanded and remastered release of David Arnold´s full DIE ANOTHER DAY score yesterday - and man, I really cannot recommend this enough: pristine sound, fantastic music that was not on the previous album, plus many alternate cues.

If you like Bond film scores you gotta check this out!


#17

Totally agree. It’s well worth getting.


#18

I also just got this official expanded edition. I happen to have the bootleg as well, but want to support official releases. The sound is much more expansive. Included are both film versions and extended versions of many tracks. The bootleg had some of Nic Raine’s City of Prague Philharmonics tracks recorded on Silva records (GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies), as well as the logos music and Madonna’s title song.

This expanded edition is a much more rewarding listening experience. The score presentation is presented in chronological order, and then the bonus tracks. Yes, Arnold delves too much into the electronic, but you can hear hints of what was to come with his Casino Royale score. I hope they give this treatment to Arnold’s other scores like The World Is Not Enough (TND already has a score edition.)

FYI, the 3 disc version of Arnold’s Godzilla score is also worth checking out. I was listening to his Independence Day and Stargate scores before he was tapped for James Bond. If LaLaLand can one day give us a Moonraker or Man with the Golden Gun expanded release, that would be fantastic.


#19

Thunderball
For Your Eyes Only
A View To A Kill
The Living Daylights
Goldeneye
Tomorrow Never Dies
Skyfall
Spectre


#20

I agree for the love of Moonraker. It seems to be one of the entries that I personally underappreciated. The “Centrifuge and Corrine Put Down” track is an obvious favorite.

I think the tracks with Barry’s “From Russia with Love” go under the radar as well. Especially the sequences where Red Grant is involved. The “Meeting in St. Sophia”, albeit brief, is chilling and fits the character superbly.


#21

I think the tracks with Barry’s “From Russia with Love” go under the radar as well. Especially the sequences where Red Grant is involved. The “Meeting in St. Sophia”, albeit brief, is chilling and fits the character superbly.

I just watched “Dr No” again and while it looks great on Blu-Ray, the “music” really gives it an air of cheapness. Between the cinematography and wardrobe and Ken Adam’s amazing sets, they stretch a limited budget a long way, but the music keeps it all in “high end B-Movie” territory, IMHO.

With FRWL, that all changes. Barry comes out of nowhere and first time at bat makes everything feel more epic, classy, lush and…well…“finished” is the word that comes to mind. I don’t think it’s his best score for the series but it’s 1000 times better than its predecessor and a key factor in elevating the whole series to something grander and more accomplished.

In particular, I always love the sequence where the Orient Express is making its journey and the music starts up, chugs along and slows down again at the next station. I suppose some could see that as a bit too “cutesy,” but compared to the BUM!..BUM!..BUM! BUM! BUM! when Bond despatches the spider in DN, it’s the height of subtlety. That damned tarantula bit forces a laugh out of me every time.

Anyway, sometimes I often think the early Bonds were a Beatle-like, “lightning in a bottle” combination of the right actors, the right directors, the right set designer, the right effects men and with Barry, the right composer. It’s a beautiful thing to see things fall into place so perfectly. It just took an extra picture for Barry to complete the team.


#22

I always play the tarantula scene on a loop every time I watch it. It is that hilarious. The other bit in Dr. No solidifies its B-movie qualities is the scene in Crab Key where Bond kills the guard with a knife. Barry’s overwhelming music alongside Ursula Andress’ terrified reaction is uproarious.

I always get pumped with Barry’s FRWL’s theme song in the title credits, and it also helped that Maurice Binder simply using models in those early Bond flicks made it so pure to watch.


#23

Monty Norman’s music on Dr. No, Barry did the orchestration (think Nicholas Dodd to Norman’s David Arnold)

But yes, much of that film is a b-movie, but given Fleming’s novels were, to use Fleming’s own description, “the sort of pulp fiction you buy at an airport” it’s a style that mostly fits.


#24

Monty Norman’s music on Dr. No, Barry did the orchestration (think Nicholas Dodd to Norman’s David Arnold)

But yes, much of that film is a b-movie, but given Fleming’s novels were, to use Fleming’s own description, “the sort of pulp fiction you buy at an airport” it’s a style that mostly fits.

Oh, I’d agree with that. DN is endearing to me for lots of reasons, including the fact that its Bond is still the closest we’ve ever seen to Fleming’s (with all apologies to the Dalton and Craig fans out there), the “what if” factor (at this early stage, things still could have gone in all sorts of directions) and, as you say, the charming “B” movie feel you get when filmmakers with a small budget but big aspirations are improvising, inventing and throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. Once money gets more plentiful and the team starts getting a better feel for what works, yes it all gets more polished and “classy,” but it also starts getting codified, even calcified into a set formula.

And as a fan of old-school pulps (like The Spider, G-8 and Operator 5) I love even the “tacky” parts. It’s just too bad they couldn’t fit in the giant squid. I was disappointed with the decidedly lackluster “dragon”…this movie almost calls for a mutated giant grasshopper.


#25

Hmmm, been pondering this one. My top 5 in no particular order: Thunderball, Living Daylights, Casino Royale, Tomorrow Never Dies, and Skyfall.


#26

I think it’s remarkable how well John Barry adapted his sound to Timothy Dalton. It’s perfect to his characterisation. Serious (The Sniper Was A Woman), introspective and romantic (Into Vienna), dangerous (Inflight Fight) and still with rousing action cues (Hercules Takes Off). One of my favourite tracks though has to be ‘Mujahadin and Opium’. The way it’s used during Dalton’s Everything or Nothing documentary segment is nothing short of spine tingling.


#27

Indeed.

I think TLD is not only the last Barry score but also the last truly magnificent Bond film score in the series.

While Arnold picked up the mantle very well and composed one theme (“Vesper”) that really stands along the great Barry themes, neither he, Kamen, Serra or Newman could or chose to embrace the proud melancholy as the backbone of a Bond score.

Granted, action films these days are much more action oriented and composers are always urged to go shrill and overly hectic for those scenes. But still, with Barry an important ingredient for Bond films was lost.


#28

He went out with a bang. A strength for me is how strongly Barry used the melodies of A-ha and The Pretenders. If There Was A Man, Where Has Everybody Gone? and The Living Daylights are used liberally throughout the score. These days we’re lucky to get 30 seconds of a title song as an instrumental.


#29

I would agree that the TLD was one of the best scores Barry had ever conducted. Necros’ theme always gets stuck in head in ways David Arnold’s themes do not.

Arnold was very good, sometimes great. TND might be my favorite of his. The opening gunbarrel music is fantastic; the “White Knight” and “Paris and Bond” stand out as well. I like "The “Hamburg Break-In” and “Backseat Driver” themes, but the electro qualities make it a bit dated.

I might have missed hearing it, but does anyone know where this particular note fits on the soundtrack? It might be in “The Hamburg Break-Out” track, but I could be wrong/ I’ve always enjoyed that bit in the film.


#30

Top 10 (in no particular order)

OHMSS
YOLT
TSWLM (Bond '77)
LTK
CR
SF (Newman did a masterful job with SF’s soundtrack, my favorite being Brave New World, then he laid an egg with Spectre’s)
TB
LALD
TLD
AVTAK (if you ignore California Girls, the soundtrack is actually very good)


#31

I just saw (and heard) 18 additional tracks from the MWTGG soundtrack that have been uploaded to Youtube by ‘Solofett’.
Are they original?
Are they a vanity project?
Are they available?!
It would be worth getting for ‘Island Escape’ alone, although ‘Goodnight Sir’ and ‘Action Cues’ are superfluous and sound like they were separated and lifted right off the film track by someone who knows how to do that.
What a pity you can’t download from Youtube.
Anyway, does anyone out there know any more about this work and it’s availability?


#33

OHMSS and TND are both delicious. TLD is also terrific. The 1960s Casino Royale is enormous fun too,.