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After a one picture hiatus (during which George Martin filled in admirably with Live and Let Die), legendary composer John Barry returned to the James Bond franchise for 1974's The Man with the Golden Gun. This is regarded to be one of Barry's weaker Bond scores (it was apparently composed in three weeks with deadlines looming larger than a shady SPECTRE assassin in a neon lit alleyway) and perhaps the fact that the film is not as famous, iconic or well regarded as gilt-edged Barry composed Bonds like Goldfinger and Thunderball has also added to its somewhat overlooked status. One important factor too was that while Barry was absent Sean Connery had been replaced by the unflappable Roger Moore. Guy Hamilton, the director of The Man with the Golden Gun, consequently asked Barry to make his music lighter and more playful than he had during Connery's tenure. While the end result is not the very best of John Barry this is still an underrated and interesting score that not only reminds one of the surreal aura of Diamonds Are Forever but also signals that Barry is prepared to adapt his sound away from the lush strings and brassy cues that served him so well during the sixties Connery era. The soundtrack begins with the title song - performed by age defying Scottish songstress Lulu. Although it isn't very highly regarded (John Barry absolutely hated it by all accounts) I've always quite liked it myself. This is a very funky and very seventies poppy bauble that is faster than most Bond songs and has enjoyably prosaic and to the point lyrics. "He has a powerful weapon, He charges a million a shot, An assassin that's second to none, The man with the golden gun!"
Scaramanga's Fun House is music composed for the weird colour strewn "Hall of Mirrors" funfair room that Christopher Lee's wonderfully urbane villain Scaramanga uses as a playground for duels against the unfortunate gunslingers and gangsters he has lured to his island to test his prowess as an assassin. Barry appropriately takes his cue from funfair circus type music and adds a layer of that trademark John Barry ominous air. There is a snatch of Western saloon music just to add to the surreal atmosphere. This music is indicative of the soundtrack as a whole. It's very atmospheric and very bizarre at times but still very much John Barry. Note by the way how Barry creates a distinct parallel "stalking" theme for Scaramanga. Very nicely done - especially in light of the fact that he apparently only had a few weeks to compose the music for this film. He isn't just scoring a Bond film. He's thinking all the time about what will be appropriate for the images and characters he will serve as the sonic backdrop for. Chew Me In Grislyland is in the vein of Barry's off-kilter Scaramanga's Fun House and maintains the somewhat surreal aura to the soundtrack but this also weaves in the James Bond theme in winning fashion. It's a restrained almost mournful rendition of the Bond theme though and very effective - suggesting both sadness and intrigue/danger.
Next is a kooky upbeat Jazz instrumental version of The Man With The Golden Gun. One can see how a snatch of this would work well within the film (a particularly surreal part of the film mind you) but it's not really something you are going to put on and listen to in isolation. It gave me a bit of a headache to be honest and I struggled to get to the end. Getting The Bullet is much better. It begins with a blast of saxophone and then some frantic orchestration with the BIG John Barry sound. Very Bondian and great stuff. The music here reminded me very much of Barry's equally surreal and offbeat score for Diamonds Are Forever. It begins with a blast of saxaphone and then some frantic orchestration with the BIG John Barry sound. Very Bondian and great stuff. The music here reminded me very much of Barry's equally surreal and offbeat score for Diamonds Are Forever. Goodnight Goodnight is a shimmeringly beautiful instrumental version of the title song with cello and an elegiac wistful air that is absolutely wonderful. This is exactly the sort of thing they lost forever when Barry departed from the franchise. The ability to do something simply but generate a genuine sense of romance and emotion.
Let's Go Get 'Em is the main action beat from the film. An instrumental version of The Man with the Golden Gun but funkier and more uptempo than the previous piece of music. This is pretty good. It's exciting and fast when it needs to be but also slows down with eastern influences (the film was set in the Far East lest we forget) and what sounds like some flute. It also incorporates the Bond theme and has some stock Barry "intrigue" music. Listen out for the much maligned "slide whistle" sound effect from the amazing spiral car stunt involving the fragments of a bendy bridge that occurs in the film. Hip's Trip begins in very John Barry fashion with pounding background drums and chimes of orchestration before turning lighter and infusing some oriental strains. One can see sometimes how this soundtrack is sometimes regarded to be a trifle lightweight but there is a great deal of skill involved in the arrangement and orchestration of the music. Kung Fu Fight is fun. It begins a bit hokey with more oriental cues but then segues in the action arrangement of the main title theme. In Search Of Scaramanga's Island is one of the very best things on the soundtrack. The search for the lair of our golden gun toting villain produces some suitably lavish and grand music from Barry with beautiful orchestration and a sense of wonder and danger at the same time. A blast of that old John Barry grandness and scope.
Return To Scaramanga's Fun House scores the final duel between Bond and Scaramanga in the strange funfair room. Very nicely done again by Barry. He manages to create the right amount of tension without being too melodramatic. Finally, there is The Man With The Golden Gun - Reprise. This was played over the end credits in the film and nicely dovetails in with the ending as Lulu adds some additional lines at the start that play on Roger Moore's joke at the end where he puts the phone down on M. Legend has it that Alice Cooper thought he had the theme song in the bag before Lulu nabbed it away from him. I've listened to Alice Cooper's The Man with the Golden Gun song and it's an absolute dirge so I'm glad they went for Lulu in the end. This is a superior soundtrack on the whole if not one of the very best examples of John Barry's legendary work on the James Bond franchise. It's a slight shame though that you only get 12 pieces of music as some of the Bond soundtracks include as many as 23. At the time of writing you can buy The Man with the Golden Gun soundtrack album for under five pounds.