There was a time when James Bond soundtrack albums mattered. Not surprisingly, this was when Sean Connery reigned and 007 title songs were as much a part of the British Invasion as the hits from the Beatles, Stones, Petula Clark, etc. Not only was the on-screen Bond formula of guns, gadgets, and girls imitated countless times, so was the iconic John Barry music that was every bit as much a lynchpin of the 007 mythos. In fact, beyond the classic songs from Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, and Nancy Sinatra, Bond soundtracks were admired for Barry's Stan Kenton-inspired jazzy mix of swinging saxophones, muted trumpets, and lush orchestrations that became part of 11 Bond films.
Barry's golden era began with From Russia With Love (1963), took the world by storm with Goldfinger (1964), and culminated with Connery's 1971 send-off, Diamonds Are Forever. Then Roger Moore picked up the Walther PPK and things changed considerably. While the title songs continued to be a major part of the tie-in merchandising for each outing, the vinyl soundtracks had lost something. For one matter, other composers alternated with Barry including George Martin, Marvin Hamlisch, and Bill Conti, who each wanted their own stamp on the legacy.
As a result, there wasn't the musical continuity Barry had provided, not only in his distinctive sound but in recycled compositions like his "007 Theme," first heard in From Russia With Love. In addition, musical tastes had changed. Hamlisch, for one, took note of the Bee Gees and funky wah-wah sounds to shape his "Bond 77" theme in The Spy Who Loved Me. By Moonraker (1979), Barry too had evolved, leaving behind the jazzy brass in favor of lusher string sections for Octopussy (1983) and A View to a Kill (1985).
Barry's final effort, 1987's The Living Daylights, was one of his finest and pointed to new directions for the future. For one matter, he incorporated then-current techno sounds to punch up the action sequences. For another, he used three songs, the title hit from A-ha and two numbers co-written with Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders), to give him a deeper well to shape thematic material. From that point forward, Bond films tended to begin and end with different songs. But it took two films and two composers, Michael Kamen and Erik Serra, for Barry's true successor to take to the podium.