Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2016 March 28 • Monday

You can never have enough John Barry. He'll always be most famous for his James Bond film scores and that's nothing to complain about. And so our 406th Soundtrack of the Week will be one of them, namely Moonraker.

This is the album release, not the complete original score. It's my understanding that to this day nobody knows if the tapes from the original recording sessions exist.

A little over a year ago there was a Kickstarter campaign to fund a re-recording of the complete score but the plug was pulled on it. I forget why. It's a shame because that's a very worthy undertaking.

Moonraker is one of the best of the original Ian Fleming novels. The first few chapters in particular combine an exquisitely wrought comedy of manners with tense and exciting drama on a relatively miniscule scale. Nobody goes into space.

The movie might be a guilty pleasure for some but it's terrible.

But just as Bernard Herrmann didn't let the undeniable crappiness of a movie prevent him from writing some of his most beautiful and moving music, John Barry's score for Moonraker is one of his loveliest, most lyrical and expressive works.

The title song, performed by Shirley Bassey—another genius who will always be remembered for her Bond associations—is gorgeous. I believe that if the movie were better, the song would be more played and more familiar.

For the score itself, what exists on the soundtrack album anyway, Barry created a soaring, richly textured sonic world. The two highlights for me have always been "Bond Lured to Pyramid" and "Flight into Space".

The title song gets worked into the score at various points, most notable in the Rio sequence, where it has a gentle, location-appropriate groove under it.

In keeping with the awfulness of the movie itself, the album closes with a limp disco version of the title song.