For me, the essence of a good James Bond soundtrack has always been synonymous with the name of the composer John Barry. After his soundtrack for "On Her Majesty's Secret Service", that to "Moonraker" has had pride of place in my affections. Whether it was due to a sudden discovery or exploration of the symphonies of Bruckner or Mahler, his work for "Moonraker" is signified by many instances of low sustained brass chords.
As for the theme song, Shirley Bassey returned for her third and final vocal contribution in the opening track, her words floating in the air like the shuttle above the Earth. `I've seen your smile in a thousand dreams, ...' Why was this not a big hit?
"Space Lazer (sic) Battle" follows on this CD, a slow march with brass, snare drum and choir, as well as full strings, and some subtle electronic sounds too. The sound quality on the transfer is not as good as expected, the performance being muffled in places. "Miss Goodhead Meets Bond" is a slow version of the graceful title track; it segues into a nocturnal suspense. Repeated rising notes remind me again of Bruckner, and alas, once again the sound quality of the transfer to disc is poor, especially at the very end.
"Cable Car And Snake Fight" is full of suspense. A trumpet theme on a bed of sustained brass and strings segues into another march, again heavy on the brass and with snare drum. "Bond Lured To Pyramid" has a romantic other-worldly feel, sustained notes again in the choir. Woodwind imitate birdcalls, there are harp glissandi, and strings play an upwards figure that conveys us to heaven at the end by means of a rise of an octave.
The longest track (at six-and-a-half minutes) is the majestic "Flight Into Space". The introduction is like a Bruckner chorale. There is a marvellous trumpet call over a Bond signature riff played in the strings. When the trombones take the trumpet theme and move downwards, the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end: it is a magical moment. And yet the sound quality is really bad at times, worse than my old LP. Have I been sold a pirate copy?
As you would imagine "Bond Arrives In Rio & Boat Chase" is replete with Brazilian rhythms accompanying the main Moonraker theme in an upbeat arrangement. The boat-chase theme is a reworking of one that John Barry has used before in a previous Bond movie. Brass and strings alternate between providing the main theme and providing the rhythmic accompaniment. It is very effective, and a shame it ends so early.
"Centrifuge And Corrinne Put Down" combines sustained low strings and brass, but the harp plucks ominously as the strings play faster and faster and higher and higher. The woodwinds swirl in chaos and confusion but are silenced by brass chords that indicate the deed is done. The plucked harp at the end is fatefully reminiscent. The following track is "Bond Smells A Rat" and is again quietly menacing: sustained brass and a four-note rising figure alternates with sustained woodwinds indicating the clinical atmosphere inside the lab. The ensuing death scene is very Mahlerian.
And finally we have the end-titles, a disco version of the main theme with Shirley Bassey strutting her stuff.
Alas, with only 31 minutes of music, many might scoff at purchasing this worthy CD. And the quality is really bad in places. But the music is so wonderfully atmospheric, so imaginatively composed and arranged, that I would be loathe to go without this wonderfully evocative example of a brilliant soundtrack.