Soundtrack Review: Moonraker

Composed and conducted by: John Barry

One of the last James Bond novels to be made into a film was Moonraker. The timing was perfect since Star Wars had sparked a science-fiction craze a couple of years earlier. Its more realistic plot of a madman planning to fire a single earth-to-earth rocket was of course adjusted to feature an actual space station and laser battles in the climax. The villain of the Moonraker film plots to kill off earth’s human population and replace it with his own perfect race. As usual, James Bond and his love interests are there to stop him. Famed henchman Jaws also makes a comeback.

Despite continuing tax issues, John Barry was able to score Moonraker and here he provides one of his most out-of-the-box Bond scores, featuring choir and a heavier than normal dosage of romance. Unfortunately, the album was not able to be expanded in its re-release and only a half-hour of music is available on the main soundtrack. This is frustrating because I think there was almost enough room on an LP to fit the entire score. There’s also a lot of random pairings of cues in the tracks, so it would take some editing software to rearrange the music chronologically if that’s a big deal for you.

Shirley Bassey of Goldfinger fame is brought back to voice the romantic title song “Moonraker”. The song is fittingly romantic to match the score, but doesn’t quite have the replay value of the other Bond title pieces. Aside from its orchestral title version, Barry also provides a more disco-influenced version for the end title with a different opening that utilizes the fanfare from “Flight into Space”. The tune of the title song is used in “Miss Goodhead Meets Bond” and “Bond Arrives in Rio”, the latter appearance being backed by choir.

The music is mostly slow, and on a longer album this could get tedious, but it actually manages to be very entertaining regardless. One of the loveliest cues is “Bond Lured to Pyramid”, a choral piece with woodwinds that evokes an ethereal feeling. “Flight into Space” is the most powerful track, a six-minute travel cue with a villainous fanfare, choral passages, and romantic bridging. “Space Lazer Battle” is a slow march, and I wish it wasn’t put right at the beginning of the album since it’s one of the last cues in the film. Another highlight is “Corrine Put Down”, a tragic piece from one of the film’s more haunting scenes.

The James Bond theme itself is very scarce, only appearing twice in fragments in “Space Lazer Battle” and “Cable Car”. Moonraker does, however, feature the last appearance of Barry’s 007 theme in “Boat Chase”, a fairly calmer version that still remains exciting.

Moonraker is a great Bond score, but could have done with a slightly better track arrangement, and its length is a bit short even compared to other original LP releases in the series. It’s my favorite score from the Roger Moore films. It’s the most unique soundtrack Barry provided for 007 and most of the music is gorgeous.

Rating: (score) 8/10 (album) 7/10

Tracklisting

  1. Moonraker (vocals by Shirley Bassey) (3:11)
  2. Space Lazer Battle (2:49)
  3. Bond Meets Miss Goodhead (2:49)
  4. Cable Car and Snake Fight (3:09)
  5. Bond Lured to Pyramid (2:07)
  6. Flight Into Space (6:31)
  7. Bond Arrives in Rio and Boat Chase (2:39)
  8. Centrifuge and Corrine Put Down (2:37)
  9. Bond Smells a Rat (2:25)
  10. End Title-Moonraker (vocals bys Shirley Bassey) (2:30)
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