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Artwork copyright (c) 1969 Danjaq and United Artists; review copyright (c) 2003 James Southall



After waiting pretty much forever, a generation of film music fans' dreams came true when EMI finally decided to re-release the James Bond scores in 2003, remastered and sometimes featuring extra music.  The original releases were very shoddy.  The musical content followed the original albums, which is forgivable, but the sound quality was on the whole terrible, which isn't.  On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the sixth outing for Bond, is a paradox of a movie - a pathetic, laughable performance by George Lazenby as Bond is countered by an intelligent and satisfying plot and a great, great score by John Barry.

It was notable as the first movie since the series really found its feet not to feature a title song - well, the title wouldn't really lend itself too well to lyrics - but instead a strident, thrilling instrumental theme by Barry which captured the imagination of a whole generation of fans and in its way sums up not only the sexiness and excitement of the Bond movies of the time, but the sexiness and excitement of life in Britain at the time.  Nobody could have done it better than Barry (as has been seen since).

The other main idea in the score is the love theme.  The unthinkable happens - Bond gets married, to Diana Rigg, who is then brutally murdered.  Somehow Barry and lyricist Hal David managed to sum all this up with the ironically-titled "We Have All The Time in the World", made all the more poignant by Louis Armstrong's performance, the last he ever gave in a recording studio.  Everything about the song is perfect - the beautiful main melody, the brilliant arrangement, the touching lyrics, Armstrong's throaty performance - and it has rightfully become an untouchable standard.  It's the best song Barry's ever written - and he's written some good songs in his time.  The various instrumental versions on the album are highly-attractive too, not least the previously-unreleased "Journey to Draco's Hideaway".

Not entirely clear from the original album is the amount of action music in the score, which can now be corrected.  Of course, we were always familiar with "This Never Happened to the Other Feller" and "Battle at Piz Gloria", but now these can be joined by things like "Escape from Piz Gloria" and "Bobsled Chase".  Another unreleased gem is the suspenseful "Gumbold's Safe", after which Barry fans have clamoured for years (34 of them to be precise).  And finally we get the original version of the gorgeous "Who Will Buy My Yesterdays?" theme, later released on a Barry compilation, presented here as "Sir Hillary's Night Out".  Also a joy to hear are the snippets of extra music that have been added to tracks we've heard before, like the gunbarrel music being added to the start of "This Never Happened to the Other Feller" and so on.

Musically, this release is a dream come true - one of Barry's best scores presented (almost) in its entirety, in crystal-clear sound.  Unfortunately, and it pains me to say it, that's where most of the praise for the album must end.  In common with the other albums in the re-released series, the unreleased cues are just stuck at the end of the tracks that were released originally.  Apparently there are contractual reasons for this (though it does seem odd that nothing other than Bond scores seem to have the problem) but it rather spoils the music.  As the album is released, it is very difficult to enjoy that much, so you should make every effort to reprogram it into a more sensible order should you have the facility to do so.  Another disappointment is the packaging.  Jeff Bond's liner notes give lots of information about the film but barely a couple of paragraphs to the score.  Now, he's one of the best writers of liner notes in the business so I can't believe it was his decision, but I doubt that there can be a single person who's going to buy the album who hasn't seen the film countless times, so surely some sort of anecdotes about the recording of the music, perhaps an analysis of how it is used in the film, a look at the cultural impact it had at the time - something else - would have been in order.  And instead of publicity stills we've seen a trillion times before, how about a few photos of the score being recorded or of Barry with Armstrong or with the director?  The way these albums have been put together makes it seem like they were cobbled-together in a few days, which couldn't be further from the truth - but someone really ought to have spent more time somewhere on them given how much care and attention was given to the music.  Such a pity that with the opportunity to do something really special, EMI didn't take it.

Still, the importance of liner notes and photographs pales into insignificance when compared with the importance of the music which, provided you can change its idiotic sequencing, is first-rate.  Barry at his best - film music at its best.

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  1. We Have All The Time in the World Louis Armstrong (3:15)
  2. This Never Happened to the Other Feller (5:06)
  3. Try (3:26)
  4. Ski Chase (3:39)
  5. Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown? Nina (3:21)
  6. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (2:35)
  7. Journey to Blofeld's Hideaway (4:53)
  8. We Have All The Time in the World (2:59)
  9. Over and Out (3:11)
  10. Battle at Piz Gloria (4:03)
  11. We Have All The Time in the World / James Bond Theme (4:38)
  12. Journey to Draco's Hideaway (3:41)
  13. Bond and Draco (4:34)
  14. Gumbold's Safe (4:59)
  15. Bond Settles In (2:16)
  16. Bond Meets the Girls (3:27)
  17. Dusk at Piz Gloria (2:32)
  18. Sir Hillary's Night Out (4:46)
  19. Blofeld's Plot (5:19)
  20. Escape from Piz Gloria (4:53)
  21. Bobsled Chase (2:03)