Various - Barbarella (OST)
Alongside the images of a half-buried Statue Of Liberty or primal apes baffled by a dark monolith stuck in the ground, Jane Fonda’s memorable zero-gravity striptease during the opening credits of cult sex-romp Barbarella ranks as one of the most characteristically iconic moments of late sixties’ science-fiction. The overall merit of Roger Vadim’s fun big-screen version of Jean-Claude Forrest’s comic strip is still being debated more than thirty-five years after the film’s release. Despite this, no-one contests the merits of certain individual facets of the film, such as Jacques Fonteray’s costumes, the sex-kitten charm of Jane Fonda or most importantly, the exuberant musical score that accompanied the film.
Composed by Bob Crewe and Charles Fox, with certain portions often un-credited to Michel Magne, Barbarella’s score is a quintessential sixties’ masterpiece that fiercely demonstrates many of the decade’s more defining musical motifs. Deliciously mixing pop song with orchestration-lead instrumental, the score has a life-of-its-own flavour when removed from the on-screen proceedings. Who can forget the opening title song, with its seductive chorus of “Barbarella Psychedella”, sung with pure bubble-gum sentiment by Glitterhouse lead singer Mike Gale. It’s as if the song celebrates Barbarella’s seductiveness in a natural, organic way as opposed to pandering to risqué eroticism. Far from acting as a musical accompaniment to cheap soft-porn, the score to Barbarella is beautifully drenched in naïve sixties idealism, as if the sense of encouraged promiscuity is channelled through a liberated hippie ideal as opposed to exploitative gratuity.
The score propels the listener towards many different directions, from rapid paced intensity on Fight In Flight, the lurking and sinister on Smoke (Viper Vapor) or the ultra-groovy on Dead Duck, which comes complete with a gorgeous central bass-riff. Listening to the latter track, you can detect the origins of a homage by French group Mellow on their CQ soundtrack, which itself was a fun, if misfired nod towards all things sixties and kitsch.
Splendidly complementing these instrumental cuts are some delicious songs sprinkled around the tracklisting. Love, Love, Love Drags Me Down is a big-sounding punch that contains everything including the kitchen sink, whilst the perfectly-titled I Love All The Love In You oozes in love-struck refrain. Soundtrack closer An Angel Is Love has clear similarities to anything written by Burt Bacharach or Jimmy Webb, and is even sung by Bob Fox himself after listening to suggestions from celebrity-producer Dino de Laurentiis.
It helps that Bob Crewe and Charles Fox were both tremendously skilled in penning perfectly crafted numbers for the film. Fox later earned two Oscar nominations for songs written for films, whilst Crewe was the gifted composer behind such twentieth-century gold as Can’t Take My Eyes Off You and Big Girls Don’t Cry. More recently, songs such as Livin’ La Vida Loca and Lady Marmalade demonstrate his flexability in changing with the times and his effortless skill in fashioning chart hit after chart hit.
It’s always refreshing when a reissue label gives a release the respect it deserves, and thankfully Harkit have bestowed upon Barbarella’s some choice bonus cuts. Firstly, we are presented with five excellent jazz re-imaginings of the score by Bob Crewe-affiliated band The Young Lovers, which sees them cover the majority of the songs featured in the film, and the stand-out instrumental Dead Duck. Further adding to the collectible quirkiness of the title, Harkit add three radio spots used by Paramount to promote the film, which gives off an aura of being unearthed from a sixties time capsule.
Whilst Barbarella is clearly an important film in the annals of film history, it struggles to justify itself as a masterpiece of cinema. Yet the film can be deeply proud of its accompanying score, which manages to convey the optimism of the period it was unleashed upon, and act as a blissful stand-alone body of work, in which the majority was created by two gifted composers still on a creative peak. There is a time and place for a dose of Barbarella sentiment in everyone’s life, and therefore the soundtrack album is just as equally worthy. The sound is pristine, rendering the notion that this was a score from 1968 very hard to swallow. The dated trappings have revolved full-circle to sound fresh and vibrant again, and will quickly make you yearn for another period in the future in which soundtracks like this were released regularly.
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