The post-Connery era of James Bond began with a bang courtesy of a certain Beatle and his uber-producer. Live and Let Die is famous for the title track by Paul McCartney, but the excellent score was composed and arranged by the fab four’s producer, George Martin. Martin took on the assignment with relish, giving a great blaxploitation feel to the score while retaining the classical Barry strings. His interpolation of the McCartney theme is to die for, and his theme for Jane Seymour’s Solitaire is one of the best of the series. It’s a shame Connery’s Bond didn’t like the Beatles – what a square.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Disco is a dirty word to most film score fans, but it’s hard to deny just how cool ‘Bond 77’ – Marvin Hamlisch’s arrangement of the Bond theme for The Spy Who Loved Me – is. Despite only being used in a couple of sequences, it’s usually the reason for fans’ rejection of the score, but they don’t know what they’re missing – from the dreamy ‘Ride To Atlantis’ to the gorgeous renditions of ‘Nobody Does It Better’ to the jagged action of the Lotus chase, Hamlisch’s score is a joy at times. Sadly, the album is limited to source music and album arrangements and as such is not at all representative of the actual score.
Licence To Kill (1989)
Far from the outlandish volcano lairs and space-based hijinks of previous villains, Licence To Kill was a hard-edged revenge thriller that took its story from the tales of the Latin American drug cartels. Now occupying the same space as movies like Lethal Weapon and Die Hard, it’s not surprising that Michael Kamen was brought on board to bring 007 down to earth. While an attempt to create a new riff on the Bond theme with Eric Clapton was aborted, Kamen still brought his trademark mix of orchestra and guitars, allowing the film a serious edge but with all of the swagger that JB demands.
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
David Arnold came on the scene for Pierce Brosnan’s second Bond adventure, 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies, and immediately showed everyone why he was seen as the heir apparent to John Barry. Arnold’s talent was instantly displayed with the gunbarrel cue, presenting all the classic elements with extreme precision and confidence, and followed with the astounding action cue ‘White Knight’. Arnold brought a mix of orchestral and electronic elements in for the film, although never allowing the latter to overwhelm the former as can happen with some composers. While the film isn’t brilliant, Arnold’s score was reason alone why he was kept on for the next four films.
Casino Royale (2006)
Probably Arnold’s greatest score came as a new Bond arrived on the scene. With Daniel Craig and pseudo-reboot Casino Royale, Bond was blunt, brutal, and uncompromising. Gone were the multiple Bond theme quotes, replaced by hints of the melody along with the title track ‘You Know My Name’, which built up while Bond was still becoming Bond. The action cues are incredible, with ‘African Rundown’ a fantastic piece tracking Bond chasing a building-hopping terrorist, but the centrepiece is the stunning ‘Miami International’. Arnold composed a classic theme for Bond and doomed lover Vesper (‘City of Lovers’), but the entire score builds up to the finale, where 007 finally steps into his shoes, accompanied by a classically huge rendition of
the James Bond theme. Cue cheering.