John Barry, who died on Sunday, will always be remembered as the composer and orchestrator of 11 James Bond movie themes, including Goldfinger, From Russia With Love, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever and Moonraker. He also orchestrated the theme to Dr. No, which is probably the most identifiable of the all the Bond instrumentals.
Barry's Bond scores always featured explosive brass attacks, uplifting swells and gliding resolutions. Through these jazzy themes, Barry, who was born in England, not only framed the Bond character's debonair and dangerous image but also managed to make the film viewer feel like Sean Connery (or Ursula Andress)—determined or desired. More than just songs, each theme left you feeling pretty darn cool, and the music to this day remains as exciting and fresh as when it was written and arranged.
In William Grimes' obit of Barry in The New York Times yesterday, he included this telling quote from Barry:
" 'I think the genesis of the Bond sound was most certainly that Kentonesque sharp attack,' Barry told Film Score Monthly in 1996, calling it a brassy wall of sound with notes hitting extreme highs and lows."
In tribute to Barry (and other Bond penmen), here are my five favorite albums of James Bond theme interpretations, in order of preference:
- James Bond Songbook—Buddy Collette (1966)
- Basie Meets Bond—Count Basie (1965)
- Intrigue—Perry and the Harmonics (1965)
- Hammond Bond—Ingfried Hoffmann (1966)
- Shaken & Stirred—David Arnold (1997)
JazzWax clips: Here's John Barry's orchestration for the Dr. No theme with re-tooled graphics and remastered sound...
Now compare Barry's Dr. No orchestration to Stan Kenton's Intermission Riff...