Today my favorite Bond score is Live and Let DIe.
It was the first Bond soundtrack I owned, purchased on LP for something like two dollars at a small convenience store in a small town during a small period of my youth. It must have been late 1976, early 1977. Bond was returning to the big screen soon with The Spy Who Loved Me and this album became my gateway to the world of Bond music. I'd watched many of the earlier films on television, with my dad. It was always an event, a great bonding experience (if you'll pardon the word choice). But I had yet to see James Bond on the big screen. That summer, when The Spy Who Loved Me arrived in our tiny town, I got to see it. What a fabulous introduction to Bond at an impressionable age. No wonder I've been a Bond fan ever since.
But before that, I had Live and Let Die. The title song is perfect, one of the absolute best of the entire series. And I love the way the song is so fully integrated into the score. George Martin deconstructs, rearranges and highlights every segment of the song, allowing it to fully inhabit the film. He also does a great job incorporating that opening Bondian motif as a tool for suspense and continuity. For a film that, in many ways, tried to sever itself from past outings, the score is a marvelous combination of moving forward (into an admittedly now-dated early-seventies sound) while keeping a footing in the past. Martin's presentation of the James Bond Theme, the first one I owned, remains one of my favorite. The whole score is infused with the gunmetal guitar sound that first made moviegoers take notice in 1962. Here, not quite ten years later, the sound has overtaken the score, giving the entire thing a gritty feel. There are also some lovely moments of flute love themes and some agreeably funky source cues. The expanded version adds some great material, especially the Boat Chase music that now always plays in my head when I speed through coastal Georgia rivers in my father-in-law's speed boat.
Sometimes my favorite Bond score is On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
I mean, come on. That Main Title theme. It's just amazingly perfect. The love song. The suspense cues. That great sax piece when Bond Meets the Girls. Great stuff.
Sometimes my favorite Bond score is The Living Daylights.
I like TImothy Dalton as Bond. I love the "modern" "edge" Barry added with his (admittedly now-dated sounding) synths. I love the Pretenders songs, especially Where Has Anybody Gone. I even like the title song.
Sometimes my favorite Bond score is Goldfinger.
Because how can it not?
Sometimes my favorite Bond score is Tomorrow Never Dies.
I love Arnold's completely over the top approach, his insistence on plastering the Bond theme everywhere, his manic sense of "I'm going to cram everything I've ever wanted to put in a Bond score into this in case I never get asked to do it again." There are a few tracks I can do without, but for sheer fun and energy, this one is almost always a go-to score for me.
My opinions waver, they change and shift over time. I don't know how my opinion couldn't change as I become a new person, as the years pass and seasons change and music finds new holds in my heart.
But one thing has remained timeless for me, unchanging, a single point of immutability in an ocean of time: aside from the Bond theme itself, the score for Doctor No sucks.