Soundtrack Review: The Spy Who Loved Me

 

Composed by: Marvin Hamlisch

With the Bond series losing its touch, Eon Productions spent a little extra time and much more money on making the next film, producing a larger Bond spectacle. The Spy Who Loved Me remains a large favorite of the series, introducing large lavish set pieces, some neat action, and the iconic sharp-toothed henchman Jaws. The plot concerns Bond and a Soviet agent named Anya trying to stop an undersea madman from stealing nuclear submarines and using their cargo to destroy the surface. John Barry could not score the film thanks to tax problems. Instead song-writer Marvin Hamlisch was signed on.

The best tune on the album is from the ridiculous yet striking “Nobody Does It Better”, sung by Carly Simon with perhaps the most suggestive lyrics of the franchise. Hamlisch doesn’t weave it in as well as Barry would, but it still receives a piano instrumental version and a reprise in the end titles. “Nobody Does It Better” remains one of the most popular Bond songs, but the score is not quite up to par.

The main problem with the music on this album is that it just doesn’t date too well. Barry could take the styles of the time and apply it in a way that holds up today, but Hamlisch’s material just isn’t as timeless. The tracks on the album are not as they appear in the film. The actual material in the movie is a bit sparse and it sounds like bits of longer cues were cut and edited.

“Bond 77”, a new variation of the James Bond theme, is the best of the actual score material. It’s got a bit too much disco, but it is quite catchy. This track is used fairly often in the larger action cues. The travel cue “Ride to Atlantis” somewhat conveys a watery environment, but not in the deep menacing way Barry uses. “Mojave Club” is just source music, a bit catchy, but not particularly interesting. “Anya” is a romantic piece that doesn’t appear anywhere in the film. It’s not terrible, but I find it a bit boring.

“The Tanker” is a decent suspense track which goes on a bit too long. Tracks eight to ten actually segue into each other and might as well be one track. These include the Egyptian-flavored “The Pyramids”, a ridiculously disco-heavy “Eastern Lights”, and “Conclusion”, which is one of the few Bond cues to feature choral material

Hamlisch’s The Spy Who Loved Me actually got an Oscar nomination, losing out to John William’s Star Wars. It’s frustrating that John Barry never got nominated for any of his James Bond scores, because all of them are much better than this. The Spy Who Loved Me can has some good material, mainly in its title song and its instrumental arrangements, but it sounds a bit dated and some of its tracks are repetitious to a fault.

Rating: 5/10

Tracklisting

  1. Nobody Does it Better (vocals by Carly Simon) (3:32)
  2. Bond 77 (4:23)
  3. Ride to Atlantis (3:30)
  4. Mojave Nightclub (2:15)
  5. Nobody Does it Better Instrumental (4:48)
  6. Anya (3:23)
  7. The Tanker (4:26)
  8. The Pyramids (1:37)
  9. Eastern Lights (3:26)
  10. Conclusion (1:34)
  11. End Title-Nobody Does it Better (vocals by Carly Simon) (3:25)
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