Soundtrack Review: Live and Let Die

Composed by: George Martin

The James Bond franchise experienced a radical change around the time of Connery’s departure. The films grew more light-hearted and goofy and the producers were having a hard time trying to find an actor who would stick to the series in the main role. Television star Roger Moore stepped up to the plate and would become the longest-running James Bond of the official series (Connery was in an equal number of films, but one of them was Never Say Never Again, which fell outside the main Eon Productions series).

Live and Let Die takes a break from the epic world-ending plots of the previous films. This time James Bond is running around the Caribbean trying to end the machinations of petty dictator Kananga, meeting a virgin psychic, numerous swampland threats, and the unkillable Baron Samedi. Overall, it is considered a very fun film and doesn’t get the grilling of most of the Roger Moore offerings.

John Barry also started to disappear during the 1970s, with tax problems preventing him from coming to England to score many of the Moore films. This resulted in several composers having a one-film go at the series. In general, their scores seem to have not aged as well, even though Barry himself would sometimes utilize bits of popular music styles in his work. George Martin’s score certainly sounds straight out of the late sixties to early seventies, but it’s actually quite good.

The main title song is pretty much one of the best ones out there. “Live and Let Die” is done by former Beatles member Paul McCartney and his band the Wings. It actually features barely any lyrics, but makes up for it with an awesome upbeat tune. It starts off slowly with a piano until the film’s title is announced, accompanied by brass hits. What follows is the aforementioned upbeat tune. George Martin surprisingly underutilizes the tunes from this song. The tune from the opening lyrics would make a good love theme, but is only used in “Bond and Rosie”. The fast action theme from the song fares better, with prominent appearances towards the end of the film.

Martin liberally uses the James Bond theme, which appears in nearly every track and virtually every action cue. Martin does put his own twist on it, even adding an extension motif, so he’s not lazy about it. The amount of romance is considerably scaled down from the Barry works, with the only sizeable love cues being “The Lovers” and “Bond and Rosie”

Like Diamonds are Forever there is a large dose of source music, but here it’s actually entertaining and adds to the light-hearted flavor of the film, with notable examples being “Baron Samedi’s Dance of Death” and “San Monique”.

“Sacrifice” is a tense, dissonant tribal cue which builds in intensity through orchestral strikes and, despite its simplicity, is very thrilling. The action does get a little repetitious on album, as Martin’s variation of the Bond theme pops up continually. But some do stand out. “Boat Chase” is a short but great chase cue which actually features “Here Comes the Bride” as James Bond’s adventures crash a wedding, along with one of the best uses of the upbeat theme from the title song. “Underground Lair” is a very good closing cue for the extended 2003 album, featuring abundant references to Paul McCartney’s song.

George Martin’s style here probably wouldn’t work beyond this one film, but it makes for a very fun and pleasing listen. Live and Let Die features one of the greatest title songs in history, upbeat yet dramatic cues, and heavy usage of some very good themes, resulting in one entertaining package which thrills.

Rating: (score) 8/10 original album (6/10)

Tracklisting

  1. Live and Let Die (sung by Paul McCartney & the Wings) (3:12)
  2. Just a Closer Walk with Thee/New Second Line (2:15)
  3. Bond Meets Solitaire (2:41)
  4. Whisper Who Dares (1:43)
  5. Snakes Alive (2:41)
  6. Baron Samedi’s Dance of Death (1:42)
  7. San Monique (1:57)
  8. Filet of Soul – New Orleans/Live and Let Die/Filet of Soul (3:20)
  9. Bond Drops In (3:34)
  10. If He Finds it, Kill Him (1:20)
  11. Trespassers Will be Eaten (2:45)
  12. Solitaire Gets Her Cards (1:50)
  13. Sacrifice (3:21)
  14. James Bond Theme (1:47)
  15. Gunbarrel/Snakebit (1:31)
  16. Bond to New York (2:47)
  17. San Monique (alternate) (2:46)
  18. Bond and Rosie (3:51)
  19. The Lovers (2:09)
  20. New Orleans (2:53)
  21. Boat Chase (2:01)
  22. Underground Lair (4:17)
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