From a fabulous blast of ostentatious brass comes perhaps the most famous and heralded of all Bond songs, Goldfinger, catapulted into legend by Shirley Bassey's thunderous delivery and John Barry's sexy underscore. The tone of the song was to set the tone of the fledgling franchise: hip, groovy but more than a little tongue-in-cheek. Arguably the best, most iconic Bond offering, it sees Sean Connery on peak form, fending off an attempt to irradiate Fort Knox by the film's titular villain (Gert Frobe). Along the way he also has to contend with Honor Blackman's alluring, if sexually ambivalent, Pussy Galore, and Harold Sakata's bowler-hat wielding Oddjob (the final confrontation with whom is one of the best battles in Bond history). Scenes and images have passed into history, from the gadget-laden Aston Martin to the infamous Golden Girl.
It was here that the franchise caught lightning in a bottle: a perfect mix of parody, humour and genuine thrills. Sadly, not all Bond films were to deliver this blend with such exquisite perfection. Equally responsible for sealing Bond as an iconic figure was Barry himself, on his second outing (after From Russia with Love). Although there has been debate about the relative importance of contributions made on the actual Bond theme, what can't be argued is Barry, with Goldfinger, defined not only the sound of the films but the sound of swinging 60s adventure.
The latter is largely down to the beautifully intricate incidental suspense pieces that take up much of the soundtrack. The orchestration boasts a cool, laid back attitude. Even when the sound rarely raises above a moody grumble, the little touches, like a tinkling of triangle for Oddjob or the staccato brass in the opener "Bond Back in Action Again" simply screams bravado. Likewise, pieces such as "The Laser Beam", "Death of Tilley" and "Gassing the Gangsters" are classic Barry mood builders, building in minimalist fashion to a brazen climax. Frustratingly this expanded release, as with other Bond re-issues, is arranged out of order; organising the tracks properly presents the listening experience as it should be.
When the composer really lets go, it becomes something truly special. "Oddjob's Pressing Engagement" presents the title theme in a tremendously loud, brassy context, the kind that makes one realise no-one ever scored Bond like Barry. "Into Miami" meanwhile, at the start of the album, is a terrific, swinging jazz piece, perfect for introducing audiences to the era of the film. The action highlight however must be the wonderful "Dawn Raid on Fort Knox", a repetitious, terrific collision of martial drums and the soaring orchestra as Pussy Galore's flying circus swoop over the depository and appear to, hilariously, knock everyone out cold. For someone not known for his action material (most of the rest of the Bond scores are also composed in the singular, moody idiom), this track proves Barry can do it with the best of them.
There are two more exciting action tracks toward the conclusion, "The Arrival of the Bomb" and "The Death of Goldfinger", wonderfully ominous efforts full of building timpani rolls, xylophones and sultry brass stings that would heavily influence subsequent material in the following movies. "End Titles" and the guitar-led "Goldfinger Instrumental" brilliantly restore the sexy sense of attitude and firmly indicate the tongue-in-cheek attitude Barry has taken with the material (the only way to go, let's be fair).
Although Barry has been justly acclaimed for incisive dramatic efforts like The Lion in Winter and huge romantic epics like Out of Africa or Dances with Wolves, the groundwork for all his subsequent success can be heard in scores like Goldfinger. Jerry Goldsmith once expressed admiration that Barry was able to reinvent himself on a continual basis with the Bond franchise; Goldfinger, however, found him at the absolute peak of his 007 game: shaken, and stirred. You can find this soundtrack CD (the digitally remastered edition) at Amazon.co.uk in the UK, or Amazon.com in the US.