Soundtrack review: James Bond – Diamonds are forever (John Barry – 1971)

“Diamonds are forever” has another one of the most memorable Bond theme songs. Shirley Bassey’s unique voice gives John Barry’s music and Don Black’s lyrics just what they needed to turn into a powerful ballad. It is also one of the more easily recognizable and both the song and the title became part of popular culture. As in the case of almost every other James Bond soundtrack, there was trouble with this main theme because one of the two producers hated it and wanted it off the movie because of the innuendos in the lyrics. Again, as most other scores, this one had an original release and another one expanded with 8 more cues from the archives. I am reviewing this longer version for “John Barry month”. Let our journey in the wonderful world of Bond music continue with the score of the last movie starring Sean Connery. The story has our hero impersonating a diamond smuggler to infiltrate a smuggling ring and thus uncover a plot by his arch-enemy Ernst Stavro Blofeld to use diamonds to build a giant laser. Usual Bond stuff…

The music is playful in the beginning. It should be so, since “Moon buggy” plays for the silliest scene in the entire movie. How could we forget that antenna and those robot wings flapping? “Circus Circus” is also fun and it’s interesting to hear John Barry’s usual sound smiling a bit wider than usual. It’s unexpected but welcomed.

The maestro goes back to his more serious tone once “Death at the Whyte house” starts. Is it just me or is his Bond sound so clear, so unique that we could hear just 10 seconds of a cue like this and immediately recognize the character? I say 10 seconds because very soon the instrumental insert of the main “Diamonds are forever” theme appears and there would be no doubt.

The love theme “Bond and Tiffany” is a little too laid back jazzy for me. Yes, it includes the ever-present main theme but it sounds too much like lounge or elevator music to be interesting to me. I could listen to it while doing other things and I wouldn’t miss much. Same with “Tiffany case”. The themes involving this character are too soft for my taste. I prefer “Death of Wint and Kidd” which just adds enough emotion to make it interesting. This time you wouldn’t guess the music was about some death scenes, I promise you.

I wonder if John Barry made a conscious decision to make the music of “Diamonds are forever” softer because the topic of the movie was jewels. Everything evolved in a more delicate environment. I expected thunders from a cue like “007 and counting” and got a fluffy composition once again. I think the score is a little spoiled by the sillier and more comedic nature of the movie. The Blofeld moments are the most exciting. The music has no place to hide there. There are parts I really enjoy in “To hell with Blofeld” but not the entire cue.

The good thing about James Bond’s scores is that even if John Barry isn’t at his best, there’s always the “James Bond Theme” and the main theme of the movie to save it. There’s no way a Bond score will be completely forgettable because of these two elements. “Diamond is forever” is one of my least favorite Bond scores but I still was able to listen to all 76 minutes of it with almost no trouble. It’s just that the soft jazzy sound that drives it wasn’t for me. This felt more like a collection of feel-good jazz songs rather than a Bond story.

  • Cue rating: 72 / 100
  • Total minutes of excellence: 6 / 76
  • Album excellence: 8%
  • Highlights:
  • Main Title: Diamonds Are Forever
  • Circus, Circus

One Comment

  1. Rolf said:

    Dear Penny, I like your emotional and personal soundtrack reviews on this website and I feel the very same about Braveheart, Gladiator, Dark Knight, Blade Runner. In the case of “Diamonds are Forever” I have a different opinion though. From all Barry’s Bond scores – and I admire each and every one of them – this is my favorite. Diamonds has an extra portion of “class”, a futuristic and dreamlike quality throughout which I love very much. Barry’s detached strings, noble horns and wonderful saxophone solos performed by John Scott (who later became another well-known film composer) deliver a really unique listening experience.
    I’d give it a 10/10 rating.

    P.S. The sequencing on the expanded album is not perfect, I suggest this sequence of tracks:

    November 22, 2020

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