After George Lazenby declined a second outing after On Her Majesty's Secret Service - which you can't help but think was a bad career move - Sean Connery was persuaded back for one last fling in Diamonds Are Forever. The film wasn't really up to much and it almost marked the point after which the Bond films were in a bit of a funk, finally to be revived with Pierce Brosnan after two decades. The impression is that Barry never saw the Bond films as anything more than the comic strip adventure they were, but the music he supplied was always of the highest quality and Diamonds Are Forever is a distinct high point and this expanded album includes plenty of superb, previously unreleased music. Although it doesn't mention any expansion, the extra music starts with the very first note, a percussion hit that opens the song, but soon moves into the famous backing motif and then Shirley Bassey's delicious delivery of Don Black's innuendo laden lyrics. Around half of the tracks from the original album are extended by anything up to a minute, although the extra few minutes on To Hell with Blofeld is the most notable.
The most interesting new music is definitely from the previously unreleased selection that makes up more than half the album, starting with the blazing Gunbarrel and the pre-credit sequence, which throws in a few exotic, oriental textures, plus an odd variation on the song backing tune on saxophone. Some of the tracks reprise or provide variations on the better known material, but plenty come as a complete surprise. Most notable amongst these is the choral Slumber, Inc., which begins with a cheesy Hammond organ motif which then turns into a slightly surreal choral fantasy. Despite threatening to seem out of place, Barry adds plenty of brass to the more ethereal choral entry and it then becomes a mini choral epic, odd, but strangely inspiring. In fairness, Diamonds Are Forever is one of Barry's most eclectic Bond scores, so almost anything goes and nothing is that much of a surprise. That the following track, The Whyte House, is a swinging sax and strings track almost seems normal.
The album closes with a selection of miscellaneous alternate tracks, which make for an interesting montage, even if the cues within the track are often very short and the mood changes rather abrupt. An interesting, sideways glance at some of the other music written, but for some reason discarded - full marks for completism to the producers. The original album had pretty disappointing sound, but this new version sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday; there is negligible hiss and the clarity is excellent. The extra music makes for a very interesting addition to the original album which, in common with most of the short releases, contained a disproportionate amount of source material and the newly released underscore redresses the balance. As with the other new releases, the liner notes aren't terribly exciting, plus the bonus tracks are placed at the end with no indication as to the correct film order. However, on purely musical terms, this is Barry at his Bond finest, brimming with energy and imaginative ideas, for that reason, absolutely essential.
With thanks to Neil at John Barry - A Life in Music, the correct track order is:
13, 1, 14, 6, 9, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 4, 20, 3, 5, 8, 2, 11, 10, 12, 7, 21.