Soundtrack Review: Octopussy

Composed and Conducted by: John Barry

Following the more down-to-earth For Your Eyes Only, the James Bond franchise went back to an over-the-top state, although not on the level of Moonraker. Also once again, a now-outdated score was followed by the return of John Barry. With Sean Connery competing with his non-MGM Bond film Never Say Never Again, the producers were determined to establish that only their Bond was the real deal, so they helped Barry out with his tax problems so that they could have the chief composer of the series back.

John Barry did not have as much freedom as with his other scores, as the producers insisted that he use the James Bond theme more often to drive home the point that Octopussy was a real 007 film. Barry had taken to using the famed musical piece less and less, more interested in creating new themes and motifs. While this made many of his scores very distinct from each other, it’s nice to have the theme back in all its glory. In fact, it graces many of the best action and suspense cues, with “Bond Look Alike” being its best usage in Octopussy (what an absurd title. It even appears on the track listing several times since it’s the main girl’s name!).

Once again the title song is a sappy yet innuendo-driven love ballad as with many of the Roger Moore offerings. “All Time High” provides a decent love theme, although it pales in comparison with most other Bond title songs, probably Barry’s weakest contribution to the films’ opening numbers. Naturally, this makes the entire score underwhelming in comparison, as the tune serves as the film’s love them. The film’s Indian setting, which surely would have made the romance more interesting, is not too accentuated in the score except for some somewhat exotic instrumentation in “Arrival at the Island of Octopussy”.

The album’s construction itself could use a little improvement. All of the exciting tracks are frontloaded or crowded at the end while the romantic pieces and the low-key stealth track “Bond and Monsoon Palace” up the entire middle portion. This makes the album slow down a little too much, although things pick up towards the end.

So how is the score overall? The action cues are good, if a little repetitious at points. “009 Gets the Knife” is a neat perilous piece, while “Gobinda Attacks” introduces a new action motif. “The Palace Fight” is a lengthy, exciting climax with the James Bond theme in full force. “Yo Yo Fight and Death of Vijay” is noticeable for its tragic variation of the James Bond theme towards the end. The best of the romantic cues is “Arrival at the Island of Octopussy”, which best evokes the film’s setting. “Bond Meets Octopussy” is also notable for its opening, a dramatic flourish of the James Bond theme to show the impact of the hero’s first viewing of the lovely leading lady. Otherwise, the romance cues are straightforward instrumentals of the title theme. The weakest part of Octopussy are the two suspense cues, with “Bond at the Monsoon Palace” not really holding much interest and the “Chase Bomb Theme” being merely serviceable.

Overall, John Barry’s Octopussy is a good listen, but not as good as most of his other 007 works. If you want a score that has a lot of Barry romance, but also a lot of the James Bond theme, this is a good listen.

Rating: 7/10

Tracklisting

  1. All Time High (sung by Rita Coolidge) (3:00)
  2. Bond Look Alike (3:00)
  3. 009 Gets the Knife and Gorbinda Attacks (3:06)
  4. That’s My Little Octopussy (3:14)
  5. Arrival at the Island of Octopussy (3:23)
  6. Bond at the Monsoon Palace (3:04)
  7. Bond Meets Octopussy (3:36)
  8. Yo Yo Fight and Death of Vijay (3:45)
  9. The Chase Bomb Theme (1:56)
  10. The Palace Fight (4:33)
  11. All Time High (sung by Rita Coolidge) (3:00)
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