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The Tamarind Seed
  • Composed by John Barry

A romantic spy adventure, The Tamarind Seed stars Julie Andrews and Omar Sharif as lovers on opposite sides of the Cold War. Director Blake Edwards was famous of course for his collaborations with the great Henry Mancini, but he did deviate on occasion – and for a spy adventure in the 1970s, well, there was no more obvious choice than John Barry. His score was never released in any form and was something of a holy grail for the composer’s fans as a result – Silva Screen has finally issued it on album. It’s a slightly unusual score in that it is completely dominated by two ideas which repeat a lot of times – I wonder if that’s why it wasn’t issued as an album at the time – effective in the (frankly rather disappointing) movie as Barry scores always were, but perhaps slightly more challenging to assemble into a musical package away from the film. However, as long as expectations are suitably-set (and most Barry fans will know exactly what to expect) then there’s an awful lot here to like.

That’s because the two ideas are both absolutely wonderful. The first, the main theme, is a typical Barry sultry romantic melody and it’s a genuinely great one. A sung version by Wilma Reading called “Play It Again” is one of my favourite Barry songs, really, and in its orchestral form through the score it’s magnificent also. The hook alone, from the opening bars of the main title piece – well, it gets you hooked – and the main melody itself is gorgeous. There are numerous variations on it – “Judith Remembers” is the closest to a James Bond version, with echoes of OHMSS in particular. Also very, very Bondian is the second idea, an action/suspense theme full of mystery and intrigue which forms the basis of no fewer than seven consecutive cues starting with “File 23”; while there are subtle variations in its form, it’s very repetitive indeed and however good it is (and it is very good) patience may well be wearing a little thin as time goes by. My favourite variant is probably “Airport”, where the theme gets a stronger orchestral accompaniment from the strings for a while. After this, the remaining cues in the main programme are all variants on “Play It Again” (after which there is a lengthy sequence of bonus cues which are almost all also variants on “Play It Again”). Those core ideas are brilliant, it’s a really well-conceived and well-executed film score – is it the best album? As such a great fan of John Barry I realise it is perhaps controversial to suggest – but maybe it isn’t, really. Still – no fan of the great man is going to complain about having this score available to buy at long last.

Rating: *** | |

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  1. Jon Malone (Reply) on Monday 29 November, 2021 at 06:55

    Thanks for the review James. Very balanced and spot on. As you say, two themes, one great and the other good, but with much repetition. John Barry completists will be delighted. Speaking personally, I played it two or three times and then put it away. I won’t be in a rush to play it again (no pun intended). These two themes are captured in a suite in a Nic Raine compilation album from many years ago, which as a whole album is a more varied and enjoyable John Barry listening experience, even though it is not the original soundtrack.