Soundtrack Review: From Russia with Love

Composed by: John Barry

The soundtrack for Dr. No by Monty Norman consisted of mainly Jamaican source music and didn’t feature much in the way of orchestral score, the one track for the James Bond theme being the only highlight on the whole album. John Barry, who had helped arrange the theme (and may have even created it himself), was chosen as the composer for From Russia with Love, based on what is considered to be the best James Bond novel and also considered as one of the best of the movies. Just as that movie further steered the franchise into its successful formula, John Barry moved the music into more familiar territory.

This is the first of the films to have a theme song that has its tune incorporated into the score. “From Russia with Love” is a love song that actually plays in the middle of the movie as opposed to over the opening credits. As a love song, its main tune is usually used as a love theme as heard in “Bond Meets Tania”. It does get usage in a couple other ways, playing mournfully in “Death of Kerim”.

The opening titles themselves are scored with an instrumental number, a fast-paced, percussion-backed cue that starts with a bombastic motif. David Arnold would later use this motif in his soundtracks for the Pierce Brosnan entries. An instrumental version of the song plays before segueing into the James Bond theme, and the opening motif returns to close it out.

The other highlight is the 007 theme, an alternate theme for James Bond devised by John Barry. It has hints of peril, but is otherwise more light-hearted than the more popular Bond theme. It would become a secondary theme for Sean Connery’s Bond, playing in all of his next entries except Goldfinger. I like this theme a lot, and would love to see another composer bring it back with a twist.

The rest of the music is not that great, but it’s a step above Dr. No’s score. There’s a little motif for evil organization Spectre that underscores their manipulative villainy and pops up fairly often (“Spectre Island”). There’s also a bit of source-style music as with Dr. No (“Guitar Lament”, “Leila Dances”), but they don’t drive out the orchestral cues. The James Bond theme itself starts to appear more in the underscore, but outside of “Opening Titles” it’s only major performance is “James Bond with Bongos”, which of course ends with some bongo beats.

This is a nice score, but pales in comparison to the most of John Barry’s  other Bond scores. Some of the underscore isn’t all too interesting either. But by no means skip it. It’s got some amazing highlights in “Opening Titles” and “007” and a solid main theme.

Rating: 7/10

  1. Opening Titles: James Bond is Back/From Russia with Love//James Bond Theme (2:24)
  2. Tania Meets Klebb (1:27)
  3. Meeting in St. Sophia (1:08)
  4. The Golden Horn (2:28)
  5. Girl Trouble (2:25)
  6. Bond Meets Tania (1:18)
  7. 007 (2:45)
  8. Gypsy Camp (1:15)
  9. Death of Grant (2:00)
  10. From Russia with Love (sung by Matt Munro) (2:35)
  11. Spectre Island (1:15)
  12. Guitar Lament (1:09)
  13. Man Overboard-Smersh in Action (2:18)
  14. James Bond with Bongos (2:29)
  15. Stalking (2:01)
  16. Leila Dances (1:57)
  17. Death of Kerim (2:29)
  18. 007 Takes the Lektor (3:00)
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