Goldfinger soundtrack review
It's safe to say that James Bond
would never have been quite the same without the legendary composer
John Barry. Barry's lavish scores are instantly recognisable. You know
right away it's him and that you are back in the world of James Bond.
If it was Ken Adam that made us understand what a Bond film should look
like then it was John Barry that taught us what it should sound like.
Barry's majestic music helped to make Bond an iconic brand and he
proved to be truly irreplaceable. His score for 1963's Goldfinger
(remastered in 2003) is perhaps his most famous and certainly one of
his best. One would be hard pressed to compile a list of the best James
Bond films without including Goldfinger in the top three or four.
Mint Juleps with Auric
Goldfinger in the afternoon sun, burly steel bowler hatted Korean
henchmen, Shirley Bassey, gold paint, Fort Knox, Operation Grandslam,
rolling in the hay with Pussy Galore, the Aston Martin DB5, ejector
seats, grand scale battle sequences, eye-popping production design,
double entendres, quips, a cool unflappable hero who wanders around
constantly amused by himself and his surroundings, safe in the
knowledge that the opposition don't stand a chance. Goldfinger set the
template and became the blueprint. The execution of this formula by
Goldfinger probably changed the face of cinema. And what a score by
Barry to provide the perfect backdrop to the images onscreen. Ominous,
majestic, suspenseful, exciting, melodramatic, bold, brassy, positively
shimmering with bravado. He was an impossible act to follow and - try
as they might - without him they never really replicated the Bondian
atmosphere, elegance, scope, and magic that he brought to the series.
His Bond scores, like James Bond himself, really will be forever and
stylishly transport us away to a fantasy world every time we hear them.
Goldfinger begins the
album and needs no introduction. Composed by John Barry and with lyrics
by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley and performed by Shirley Bassey.
This is the most iconic and famous of the Bond themes and set a
standard and formula for the rest to try and match. It's very brassy,
immediate and polished with those trademark obtuse James Bond lyrics
that are meaningless but effective nonetheless. Goldfinger has a web of
sin but please don't go in. Ok. Shirley Bassey was obviously born to
belt out Goldfinger until glass shattered into a million sparkling
fragments but it was actually Anthony Newley who sang the song first
before they gave it to Bassey to re-record. You can find Newley's
version of Goldfinger on YouTube and it's not bad at all although a
trifle 'ello guvnor evening squire chimney sweep Dick Van Dyke at
times. I think they were right to hand it over to the Welsh songstress.
Great work by Newley though. He had the song all in place and ready to
Into Miami is a piece of music
that plays when the main titles have ended and the camera swoops into,
er, Miami from above to herald Bond's arrival in the town. It's a
brassy trumpet festooned jazzy piece that has a very playful quality,
perfectly capturing the mood of the images onscreen. Bond has completed
his explosive PTS mission and is now relaxing in a swanky hotel by the
beach and about to match wits with Auric Goldfinger for the first time.
It's very evocative of the soundtrack as a whole. Cool and laid-back.
The sort of thing that seems like it should be easy but obviously
isn't. David Arnold must have scored half a dozen Bond films and he
never came up with anything as elegantly whimsical as this.
Alpine Drive is truly sublime. A
gorgeous string laden instrumental version of the title song that is
played when Sean Connery scopes out Goldfinger's Swiss hideaway in the
film. Just a wonderful composition and light years ahead of anything
the Bond series has done lately. I'm always wondering why I dislike the
new rebooted Bond films so much these days and find them such crashing
bores. The list of reasons is a long one (and please don't me started
on them)) but John Barry has something to do with it. It's just never
quite the same without him. I think George Martin with Live and Let Die
and Marvin Hamlisch with The Spy Who Loved Me fared the best out of all
the people who have composed a Bond film in his absence. When you watch
those films the scores are so much fun that you don't miss John Barry
so much. But then when you watch Licence To Kill or For Your Eyes Only
or any of the Brosnan films you can't avoid wondering how different an
experience the film would be with a John Barry score. Imagine Licence
To Kill or GoldenEye with a score composed by Barry. It would instantly
make them better films.
Oddjob's Pressing Engagement is
next and an obstreperous version of the title song that is very loud
with big booming trumpets. It's quintessential John Barry and was
played during the scene when Oddjob took that bloke to the junkyard. I
think. "Forgive me, Mr Bond, but I must arrange to separate my gold
from the late Mr Solo." They don't write little dry quips like that
anymore. Where have those witty screenwriters all gone.
Bond Back In Action Again is one
of the highlights of the album. A super retro version of the James Bond
theme for the gunbarrel and then trumpet flares and staccato brass.
It's a great action beat that incorporates the Bond theme majestically.
This part of the score was used for the PTS where 007 plants some
explosives in a factory type facility to destroy a Drug lord's HQ ("At
least they won't be using heroin flavored bananas to finance
revolutions...") and then unzips his black jumpsuit to reveal a white
tuxedo. It's James Bond with the volume turned up to eleven and no one
ever did this sort of stuff quite as wonderfully as Barry.
What I love about the Goldfinger
score as a whole is that it positively reeks of suspense and intrigue.
Wonderfully atmospheric. Teasing The Korean is a whimsical little piece
that (if memory serves) was played when Bond was put in that cell by
Goldfinger and started pulling funny faces at the guard outside in
order to improve his chances of escape. It's a clever composition,
playful and amusing but it also has those strident John Barry moments
and some amazing strings.
Gassing the Gangsters is a short
piece that accompanied the sequence where Auric Goldfinger had just
asked that group of hoodlums to come in with him on his scheme to rob
Fort Knox of its gold and now had to kill them in classic Bond villain
fashion. A great scene in the film and the music is the perfect
backdrop. Those ominous cymbal chimes at the start and big pounding
drums before more trademark John Barry strings. Auric Goldfinger was
such a great villain. "Man has climbed Mount Everest, gone to the
bottom of the ocean. He's fired rockets at the Moon, split the atom,
achieved miracles in every field of human endeavour... except crime!"
Another version of the title
song next. This one is very enjoyable. It's done with funky guitars and
in the style of a sixties pop group. John Barry meets Britpop. Shades
of the John Barry Seven but much better. Dawn Raid On Fort Knox is
brilliant. This composition is from the sequence in the film where
Pussy Galore and her female pilots fly over Fort Knox to spray sleeping
gas on all the soldiers stationed there. The orchestration here is
preposterously bold and grand and the repetitious nature of the music
is quite hypnotic, the way it loops back on itself. It has big booming
drums and is a great action beat. I love the way Barry builds it up to
a huge crescendo and then takes slows it down and begins all over
again. One of the great things about this is the way that it keeps
throwing different sounds and changes in tempo at the listener so you
never get bored and you never quite know what is coming next.
The Arrival Of The Bomb
And Count Down is more of a moody ominous piece that is very John
Barry. You can definitely detect this music in most of the Barry Bond
scores - including much later films like The Living Daylights.
Xylophones, strings, brass. He just had a very distinctive sound. Lush
orchestral works, vibrato atmospherics. The Death Of Goldfinger is
similar to the previous composition but more strident and melodramatic
while Golden Girl slows things down somewhat. It still has those
electric sparks of energy though that feature heavily in Barry's score
here. The Laser Beam is a suitably tense piece of music to accompany
the famous scene where Bond is strapped to that table and Goldfinger
decides to give him a demonstration of his laser gun. It has one of the
most famous lines in the history of the franchise ("Do you expect me to
talk?") and is rife with suspense.
Death Of Tilley must have played
in the film when Bond discovered Shirley Eaton covered in gold paint
and is a more sombre low-key piece for the most part but very
atmospheric. Finally we have Pussy Galore's Flying Circus, a brassy
ominous piece and quite superb. This is a classic film score and about
as iconic as it gets. It's interesting how the non-Barry Bond scores
have dated horribly (trying listening to Bill Conti's disco themed
music in For Your Eyes Only these days) but the old Barry ones have a
timeless quality. A super retro sheen that never seems to completely