This is something I recently asked on the James Bond Music Facebook page, so I'd be interested to know your thoughts. What’s your favourite and least favourite score from the composers who have worked on more than one Bond soundtrack?
Let’s start with the Guv’nor, John Barry. I think my top three Barry soundtracks are You Only Live Twice, OHMSS and The Living Daylights, but if I had to pick my favourite, it’s OHMSS. There’s so much to love about this score; the masterful title theme which works so well in the action sequences, the hauntingly beautiful ‘We Have All The Time In The World’ which acts as a leitmotif for Bond and Tracey’s relationship, not to mention other notable cues such as ‘Gumbold’s Safe’ and ‘Journey To Blofeld’s Hideaway’. I also love the inclusion of the Moog synthesiser. There’s very little to fault here.
It feels slightly sacrilegious to say there’s a worst Barry Bond score, but I think his weakest is The Man With The Golden Gun. Like the production of the movie itself, the score was clearly thrown together in a hurry (something I know Barry was very open about). The title song is rather unremarkable, particularly after the tour de force that was ‘Live & Let Die’ and it feels like a pale imitation by comparison. This unfortunately then influences the score as it features throughout. I think the most effective Barry scores are when he uses the title song for a specific purpose (i.e. romance in ‘A View To A Kill’, action in ‘The Living Daylights’). Confusingly the title song in TMWTGG is used for both action and romantic sequences, which I think undermines its value.
That’s not to say that there aren’t some memorable moments; ‘Getting The Bullet’, ‘Goodnight Goodnight’ and ‘Slow Boat To China’ are cues which spring to mind. I also like the way Barry shifts the James Bond theme to a string arrangement to reflect Roger Moore’s lighter portrayal of the role. But we’re somewhere in-between the bombastic brass and wind of ‘Diamonds’ and the symphonic score of ‘Moonraker’ and it doesn’t quite hit the mark.
In terms of the David Arnold scores, it’s a toss-up between The World Is Not Enough and Quantum Of Solace for my favourite score. Given that QoS may end up being Arnold’s final Bond soundtrack, he goes out on a high. It’s a very subtle score, capturing the beauty of the Italian locales with hints of the James Bond theme. I also love the end titles remixed by Four Tet.
TWINE narrowly beats it for me though. Arnold is really starting to find his feet in the franchise, with less reliance on the traditional Bond sound and more experimentation with electronic elements. We also start to see specific musical themes develop for characters, which is something Barry did so effectively. ‘Welcome To Baku’, ‘Snow Business’ and ‘Elektra’s Theme’ are beautiful cues and it’s wonderful to hear the main title woven throughout the score, something conspicuously absent in the films since The Living Daylights.
Arnold’s worst effort in my opinion is Die Another Day. The James Bond theme is used to death, all the electronic elements are overblown and are often misguided in their placement in the film. The score generally feels, just like the movie, excessive and bloated. ‘Welcome To Cuba’ is the only cue I think of fondly.
For Thomas Newman I’d simply say Skyfall is the better score, given that Spectre borrows so liberally from it!
I’d be interested to know your views…