Although Dr No was the first Bond film, the series really hit its stride over the next couple of films, starting with From Russia with Love and then perhaps most famously with Goldfinger. From Russia with Love marked John Barry's first assignment as sole composer on the series after Monty Norman's duties on the first film. Although the legal entitlement of the Bond theme rests with Norman, Barry did contribute substantially to the arrangement (for which he received a small one off fee) and it was presumably that and his success arranging songs for such 60's icons as Adam Faith as well as scoring Beat Girl which starred Faith in his first film appearance.
The (very minimal) packaging seems to suggest that the title song was written by Lionel Bart alone, which surprised me as I had assumed all the early Bond songs had music by Barry in collaboration with lyricists Bart or Don Black. Whatever the case, it is superbly crooned by Matt Munro midway through the album and given a marvellous instrumental arrangement to open the album. I don't recall if the song appears over the opening titles or not in the original film, but the album seems to suggest it was a non-vocal opener. Barry evidently wanted to make a substantial thematic contribution to the score and he introduces his 007 motif in the track of the same name. Something of an action extension of the Bond theme, it didn't really catch on in quite the same way, but functions as a good alternate action motif in many of the early Barry efforts. While containing several of the score's important musical moments such as 007 Takes the Lektor and Smersh in Action, many of the tracks are actually source music. Apparently, some of these weren't even used in the film, but items such as Gypsy Camp and Leila Dances are part of the musical Bond experience that Barry engineered for his scores, that is often missing from the more straight laced recent efforts.
While it doesn't have the blistering memorable set pieces of Goldfinger or the refinement of the later ones, From Russia with Love is certainly a fine debut effort. Like many of the earlier Bond scores, the sound (and packaging) could be better, the orchestra distorting badly during the louder moments. Unfortunately a better sounding, longer release is currently on hold pending the usual wranglings that accompany this kind of thing. A pity that politics and corporate interest denies us quality releases of some important scores. I think I'd appreciate it considerably more if the underscore content was more substantial and sounded better, but until then, this is a somewhat substandard release of a fine score.