Cool, classic John Barry soundtrack for superb Michael Anderson spy thriller starring George Segal, Alec Guinness, Max Von Sydow, Senta Berger. Music first appears on LP from Columbia label in 1966. Inspired by fresh script from Harold Pinter, drawn from Adam Hall best seller, Barry avoids James Bond style of spy music, nods instead towards atmospheric West Germany locale, bleak theme of rising neo-Nazi movement. For the record, composer produces perfect album offering majority of his score in vivid stereo sound. Haunting main waltz-theme "Wednesday's Child" anchors, suspenseful cues play in contrast. Album also features Matt Monro in vocal version of theme. Intrada CD features album program in stereo from Columbia master tapes, courtesy Sony. For album fans, original artwork features on one side of booklet, all new artwork features on other side. Take your pick! John Barry conducts.
Diamonds Are Forever has undergone a somewhat less significant though thoroughly pleasing expansion with the February 2003 release of the remastered, expanded version. Still mid-priced, the disc features 24 additional minutes of music from the completed film – included is "Gunbarrel and Manhunt," alternating between original John Barry music and Barry's variations on Monty Norman's "James Bond Theme," and the musical accompaniment to various key action scenes, as well as some playful romantic scoring for some of Sean Connery's romantic activities. The main virtue is the improved sound (which greatly benefits Shirley Bassey's finely nuanced performance of the title song) on what was an entertaining and distinctive, if not terribly creative or ambitious score, a somewhat closer relative to Barry's work on Goldfinger and to the exoticism of You Only Live Twice or the bold, near-symphonic scope of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. The annotation is reasonably thorough, although on this occasion it focuses far more on the movie than on the music.
While director Francis Coppola's potboiling crime drama set against the gloriously tumultuous backdrop of Harlem's famed Cotton Club nightspot of the '20s and '30s didn't quite come together as a cinematic whole, John Barry's efforts at supervising, scoring, and recreating the energetic jive and wail of the era very nearly carry the day. The opportunity was likely a dream come true for the former jazzman turned film scorer; his adaptations of standards by Ellington and Cab Calloway are reverent yet energetic, infused by original music that weaves it into an accessible and rewarding tapestry of time, place, and art. Great soundtrack.
Though John Barry achieved popular recognition for the swinging, loungey, noir-ish soundtracks he composed for the James Bond films, he moved to the front rank of film composers with his score for 1966's BORN FREE. Stylistically, the music of BORN FREE is miles removed from Barry's Bond soundtracks, though the composer's fondness for brass fanfares, stirring strings, and lush, intricate charts with stunning dynamic range is still intact. On the whole, however, the music to BORN FREE has a playful, innocent quality, evoking the nature of the wild animals at the film's center. As the movie is set in Africa, Barry employs a range of African percussion instruments, and sections of flute music (which often seem to echo the sounds of birds or other creatures). The arrangements are expansive and sweeping, giving rise to the sensation of open plains, and Barry's recurring musical themes parallel the film's action (the track titles indicate plot events). The score is, for the most part, surprisingly subdued, with occasional bursts of energy (mirroring tumultuous events onscreen) and its stirring title theme the exceptions. Barry won an Academy Award for the score in 1966.
John Barry's best score for any James Bond movie – including the best song ("We Have All the Time in the World") ever written for any movie in the series – is reasonably well represented on this CD. Barry had already begun adding more diverse and complex orchestral pieces to his underscoring and greater lyricism to his songs with the preceding movie, You Only Live Twice, and he continued the process with On Her Majesty's Secret Service. The serious nature of its plot, however, and the unique mood of the movie, dictated that almost an entirely new score be devised: the brassy "007 Theme," which had appeared in three prior films, was absent, and the "James Bond Theme" was re-arranged. Barry also wrote one of his longest and most easily embellished action themes (heavily featuring the synthesizer, an instrument new to film scores), and dressed it up with a string section playing running scales that is startling to hear in stereo, with the discreet separation of the orchestral parts. And then there was "We Have All the Time in the World," the best song ever written for the Bond series; a serious, poignant love song that underscores the doomed romance between Bond and Tracy (Diana Rigg), it was sung by Louis Armstrong in what proved to be the jazz legend's final recording session.
While many of the traditional Barry phrases and sonic textures can be heard throughout this score, there is no hint that the composer was resting on his laurels and doing a journeyman job. Rather, he chose to reach for new textures, inspired by plainchant and driven by the need to match the subtext in the film that involved the influence of the Catholic church on the lives and choices of the characters. Consequently, Barry's score shifts in the most fascinating way between regal fanfares and haunting chant, resulting in this score being possibly the best work Barry has ever done. The Legacy remastering does not add anything new, but the sound is considerably improved.
He may have gotten his start with the hep swing of BEAT GIRL, then became a musical sensation for creating the cool jazz action of Agent 007. But for all of the lush stylings that John Barry used to define symphonic scoring as a contemporary “with it” sound, the composer proved he could make his approach sound just as contemporarily moving in the service of such historical dramas as MARY QUEEN OF SCOTTS, THE LION AND THE WINTER and THE LAST VALLEY. For if any music conveyed the feeling of untouched forests, royal intrigue and romantic mythmaking, then it was Barry’s theme-heavy scoring. Sure he’d latch onto a melody and beat you to death with it. But what a way to go, as Barry usually came up with a motif that you wouldn’t mind hearing ad infinitum, especially as his theme took on new life with each variation for strings, brass and winds. This was the kind of melody that helped make legendary figures into breathing, loving people, even when their movie got its kicks from turning such Technicolor heroes as Robin Hood and Maid Marian into characters just about ready for assisted living.