Soundtrack Review: You Only Live Twice

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Composed and Conducted by: John Barry

You Only Live Twice showed heavy signs of the future spectacle-over-story Bond films. However, it is pretty restrained compared to the Moore offerings and offers what is considered be the most chilling representation of arch-villain Blofeld. John Barry ignored the silly elements of the movie in his music, as he would do with many of his 007 scores. His fourth score for the franchise shows a shift towards the romantic, and he would use this style in nearly all of his James Bond work afterwards.

The well-regarded and lovely title song is sung by Nancy Sinatra. It’s tune provides one of those themes that stays romantic in almost every way it is used, even when loud and fast-paced. Some interesting variations include a somber take in “Death of Aki” and a villainous slant in “Countdown for Blofeld”, but the one to single out as the best is “Mountains and Sunsets”, a straightforward sweeping romantic cue.

You Only Live Twice introduces one of John Barry’s most famous themes for the franchise, named the Space March. It’s an ominous piece which builds on piano, bringing in a villainous motif that ends perilously. The most cited version of this theme is “Capsule in Space”, and it’s style, with ominous cadence and a fanfare, would be emulated by Barry himself in other space-related Bond films.

There are also quite a bit of secondary themes and motifs, mainly for the different facets of Japan. The first Japan theme, a peaceful tune, warranted two appearances on the original album in “Death of Aki” and “The Wedding”. The second Japan theme isn’t as prominent and debuts towards the end of “James Bond in Japan”. Barry introduces yet another action motif in “A Drop in the Ocean”. This motif joins a suspense motif, the James Bond theme, and the Space March for a rousing finale in “Bond Averts World War Three”, one of Barry’s best climaxes.

For all the wonderful themes, the music can get repetitious and drawn out on a seventy plus minutes album. Many fans love all the romance, and I have no trouble with it myself, but there is simply too much quiet material. If I had to recommend certain ones, I’d say “The Wedding” and “Mountains and Sunsets”.

The extended release is inferior to those of the other Bond movies. Most of the music is just retreads or lengthy passages of low-key romance. “James Bond – Ninja” is basically all the less interesting suspense and action surrounding tracks 9-11 on the original release. “James Bond in Japan” is a ten-minute long, but solid track which introduces all of the Japan themes. The best of the new additions is “Little Nellie”, with its variations of the 007 theme.

Reordering the tracks to be more chronologically correct won’t work as well here, since most of the originally missing music is piled together in lengthy suites (for example, “James Bond-Ninja” has music from before and after tracks 9 and 10).

In general, I would say that You Only Live Twice isn’t quite up with the best of the James Bond soundtracks if listened to in its entirety, but it has some of the most highly-regarded cues in “Capsule in Space”, “Mountains and Sunsets”, and “The Wedding”.

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

Tracklisting

  1. You Only Live Twice (sung by Nancy Sinatra) (2:46)
  2. Capsule in Space (2:46)
  3. Fight at Kobe Dock/Helga (4:01)
  4. Tanaka’s World (2:05)
  5. A Drop in the Ocean (2:58)
  6. The Death of Aki (4:19)
  7. Mountains and Sunsets (3:09)
  8. The Wedding (2:45)
  9. James Bond – Astronaut (3:29)
  10. Countdown for Blofeld (2:37)
  11. Bond Averts World War Three (2:17)
  12. End Title: You Only Live Twice (3:33)
  13. James Bond in Japan (10:41)
  14. Aki, Tiger, and Osato (5:43)
  15. Little Nellie (3:45)
  16. Soviet Capsule (2:05)
  17. Spectre and Village (3:46)
  18. James Bond – Ninja (7:06)
  19. Twice is the Only Way to Live (2:49)
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One thought on “Soundtrack Review: You Only Live Twice

  1. You Only Live Twice boasts a lavish soundtrack, the Capsule in Space piece is dark, powerful and ominous. The oriental pieces offer a gentler spiritual element. Although not my favourite soundtrack, there are some high points on this.

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