Space March - Moonraker soundtrack review

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The John Barry score for the 1979 James Bond film Moonraker. It's one of Barry's greatest scores and deserves to be ranked alongside his very best work on the franchise. Moonraker marked a slight change of direction for Barry away from strident brass more towards lush orchestration and strings and was in many ways the template for all the films he would subsequently score in the 1980s. His Moonraker soundtrack is bold, brave, ambient and absolutely wonderful at times. Never has the sound of James Bond been quite so dreamy and lavish.
The title song Moonraker has Barry and Shirley Bassey back together one more time and is an affecting enough ballad that certainly sounds very James Bondian. This is a slower one but very melodramatic and wonderfully composed. Strangely, Bassey was only a last minute replacement for Johnny Mathis - who bailed when he decided he didn't like the song. They then offered it to Kate Bush but she wasn't interested at all and so Bassey got one more stab at a Bond theme. I think it all worked out for the best in the end and Moonraker is comfortably one of the better title songs they've had down the years. The lyrics (by Hal David) have that enjoyable and very James Bond mix of being both heartfelt and completely meaningless. "Where are you? Why do you hide? Where is that moonlight trail that leads to your side? Just like the Moonraker goes in search of his dream of gold, I search for love, for someone to have and hold." Right.
Space Lazer Battle is a perfect illustration of how Barry changed his style for the Moonraker soundtrack and also a good example of how bold this score was in retrospect. The You Only Live Twice Space March seems to be a touchstone for both this and the soundtrack as a whole. John Barry taking us on a majestic tour of the stars with lush romantic orchestration the order of the day and the obstreperous brassiness of previous scores eschewed. This has a choir and lilting strings and builds in gently ominous fashion. The music has a suitably large feel and plenty of sweep and majesty to convey the incredible production design of the images onscreen. Miss Goodhead Meets Bond is next and a more romantic piece of music. Again the lush orchestration is very John Barry and is a signpost to the style he would adopt in the eighties, not only with James Bond but his work in general.
One of the interesting things about the Moonraker soundtrack is how sedate and languid it is. It was very bold I think for Barry to score an action blockbuster in this fashion but the music is so dreamily epic it all completely works. What Barry essentially does with this soundtrack is underscore the images onscreen and go for a stirring and almost glacial sense of wonder rather than a sense of immediacy and noise.
Cable Car and Snake Fight is next and slightly more exotic (this section of the film was set in South America) with some vaguely ethnic strains fused into Barry's stirring orchestral marches. Again, this is a very big sound but one that doesn't feel the need to announce itself loudly and whack you over the head. It has strings and some horns and moves at a deliberate and steady pace with a few fleeting strident chords to heighten suspense. It's the perfect backdrop for what becomes a somewhat bizarre section in the film (I suppose Moonraker, God bless it, is a bizarre enough film at the best of times). Roger Moore in safari suit discovering that far out Drax base in the jungle and wrestling a snake. Those were the days! Probably.
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Bond Lured To Pyramid is wonderful. This sequence had Bond in the jungle and being lured to Drax's space age pyramid control centre - siren like by a bevy of seventies Bond babes dressed in beige cream Space 1999 style costumes. The music is the trademark, deliberately paced Barry sweep and absolutely sumptuous with an orchestral choir and stirring strains that float up and then fade in recurring fashion. More than anything this highlights that strange knack Barry had for composing film music that was simultaneously melancholic and uplifting at the same time. Bond Lured To Pyramid is a majestic example of Barry taking you to a complete "otherness" - a fantasy world where James Bond resides.
Flight Into Space lasts for nearly seven minutes and is more stately majesty from John Barry that evokes Space March again. This is a score for a Roger Moore Bond extravaganza but Barry could just as easily be scoring something like 2001: A Space Odyssey here. This slight disconnect, a sense of playing expectations against each other, is genius at times. The space special effects in the film by Derek Meddings were excellent for their time (I think so anyway) and Barry's music is the perfect backdrop for the cold, distant, lonely but beautiful expanse of the stars.
Bond Arrives In Rio And Boat Chase is composed of two different pieces of music. The first is a whimsical and exotic instrumental version of the title song with a carnival aura (this part of the film is set in Rio) and "la la's" as a choir. It's enjoyably breezy and camp. The second (used for the purposes of the boat chase) is Barry's "secondary" Bond theme, an action beat first used for From Russia with Love. It's a slab of classic Bond although (sadly) I don't think it's been used in any of the films since. Next is Centrifuge And Corrine Put Down. A playful but tense piece of music for the centrifuge scene (probably Roger Moore's greatest hour as Bond). Has that ominous restrained orchestration and I love the little triangle tinkles to suggest some suspense and danger. 

Bond Smells A Rat is like sort of stock John Barry suspense music but very good nonetheless and - finally - we have an alternative version of the Moonraker title song. The disco version version on the end credits. Disco Moonraker is of course a guilty pleasure and an enjoyable dose of camp to end what has been one of John Barry's least campy Bond scores. This is a great film soundtrack on the whole, absolutely beautiful in parts and more interesting for being slightly atypical. The only downside is that there are only ten pieces of music (most of the Bond soundtracks are double the size of this one). I believe this is because the score was composed in France for tax reasons and some of the master tapes were lost there. What you get though is still a sublime reminder of how great John Barry could be.

- Jake

c 2014 Alternative 007
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