Soundtrack Review: Goldfinger

Composed by: John Barry

James Bond already had two films, but 1964’s Goldfinger is what turned him into both a pop culture icon and ensured a still ongoing movie series. There was an intriguing plot involving a theft of the gold vaults at Fort Knox, the hat-throwing henchman Oddjob, and the popular, bombastic theme song sung by Shirley Bassey. I think, for all the great elements it has, the film is a bit overrated thanks to a heavy dosage of Bond villain stupidity, but its score surely isn’t. John Barry returned and established himself as the primary Bond composer. Finalizing the formula for these soundtracks, the main song was played during the opening credits.

This is a near-monothematic entry. Outside of the James Bond theme, most of the motifs are just variations of the same tune derived from “Goldfinger”. This big, brassy number serves as a fanfare for the titular villain. The lyrics don’t have much variation, but the tune and Bassey’s singing voice more than make up for this. Even the James Bond theme, showcased this time in “Bond Back in Action Again”, is woven into the title song and thus is woven into the film’s theme in most of its appearances.

There is little of the romantic writing that John Barry would later be known for. Aside from a couple sweeping statements of the main theme, there’s “Alpine Drive”, a more subdued version of Goldfinger’s theme, and “Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus”, which starts off gorgeously, but also gets into some ridiculously sexy trumpet music (only fitting since Pussy Galore is such a ridiculously sexualized name).

The highlights of the score are the brassy action cues, all tremendous in their power. These include “Oddjob’s Pressing Engagement”, which mixes the Bond and Goldfinger themes, “Dawn Raid on Fort Knox”, a highly energetic build-up piece with military percussion and a variation of the Goldfinger theme, and “The Arrival of the Bomb and Countdown”, which literally features ticking percussion at its opening. The suspense is top-notch, too, especially the escalating “The Laser Beam”.

This is widely considered one of the best James Bond soundtracks. Personally I appreciate some of more diverse offerings, but this is one of the most consistently entertaining scores by John Barry. It features one of the best title songs and if you would rather hear Bond action than Bond romance, this is your thing.

There are actually two different original releases. The UK version had fourteen tracks, while the US release cut out four of those and inserted a special instrumental version of the title theme. The expanded album is just the missing UK tracks inserted on the end.

Thanks to some odd contractual reasons, those Bond scores with expanded albums had to put most of the previously unreleased material on the end as opposed to being inserted chronologically, so editing and reordering is necessary if you have to have the music play in a more satisfying order.

Rating:  (original album) 8/10 (full score) 9/10

  1. Goldfinger (Performed by Shirley Bassey) (2:47)
  2. Into Miami (0:57)
  3. Alpine Drive/Auric’s Factory (4:27)
  4. Oddjob’s Pressing Engagement (3:08)
  5. Bond Back in Action Again (2:29)
  6. Teasing the Korean (2:12)
  7. Gassing the Gangsters (1:03)
  8. Goldfinger Instrumental (2:08)
  9. Dawn Raid on Fort Knox (5:43)
  10. Arrival of the Bomb and Countdown (3:25)
  11. Death of Goldfinger/End Title (2:34)

Bonus Tracks

  1. Golden Girl (2:10)
  2. Death of Tilley (2:04)
  3. The Laser Beam (2:54)
  4. Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus (2:48)

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