Album Reviews

John Barry: John Barry Plays 007 & Other 60s Themes For Film, Television, and Radio (el Records)

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John Barry
John Barry Plays 007 & Other 60s Themes For Film, Television, and Radio
el Records

John Barry‘s name is rightly synonymous with the Swinging London era, as it was a very fruitful, prolific time for him. His international claim to fame came with his soundtrack work for the James Bond serial, his work blending a cool, contemporary vibe to traditional symphonic and orchestral composition. John Barry Plays 007 was released in 1965, and compiled the best of the best, even though it featured only two songs from the series. This el Records reissue expands that classic release with an additional two dozen tracks, providing a fascinating snapshot of the range of Barry’s work.

That only one more song from the James Bond series (“James Bond Theme,” which is offered three times, in a stereo, mono, and single mix) on this expanded edition might seem like an oversight, but it really isn’t, because Barry’s other work of the era is equally compelling, and runs quite a diverse gamut. Highlights include Elizabeth Taylor dreamily reciting Elizabeth Barrett Browning, a hip, swinging update of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Mikado, and a dramatic, tense score for the historical action/war film Zulu. Also included are his theme songs to the popular BBC radio programs Easy Beat and Saturday Club, and “Hit or Miss,” his famous theme song to the influential show Juke Box Jury.  He could swing with little effort between the straightforward classical of “The London Theme” and “Four In The Morning” to the delightful pop confections of vocal songs like Shirley Anne Field‘s “It’s Legal” to Barry protégé Adam Faith‘s “The Time Has Come” without missing a beat, taking on diverse styles with great aplomb. 

Barry’s discography is massive, and one disc is never going to encompass the width and depth of the man’s storied, superior catalogue. John Barry Plays 007 & Other 60s Themes For Film, Television, and Radio, however, does an excellent job of highlighting the best work of Barry’s earliest and most influential work.

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