Barry White has been to the top of the charts an admirable number of times, but only one of his hits was a ballad (a studio effort for the Quincy Jones album Back on the Block that included El DeBarge, James Ingram and Al B. Sure!). However, as a solo artist, White has never had a ballad usurp the number one spot on the Billboard charts. The Icon Is Love's featured release fills that void. "Practice What You Preach," which unites the maestro with producers Gerald LeVert and Edwin Nicholas, has a simmering arrangement, evocative lyric, and White's brawn delivery. The catchy melody and sensuous female backing vocals enhance this already stellar single. It stayed on the Billboard R&B charts for 30 weeks and had a consecutive three-week run at number one.
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.
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.