Grant Kirkhope came to fame with his particularly expansive score to Rare's Banjo-Kazooie back in 1998. Rather uniquely for its time, the score interactively adapted to the large environments of the game. However, the music was still very melodic and accessible, written in the spirit of Nintendo adventure scores. The Banjo-Kazooie soundtrack was originally released in North America and Europe, featuring fifteen tracks. However, it was later superseded by an expanded release featured two extras.
The soundtrack opens with the goofy but memorable title theme for the game. It actually effectively depicts two characters in one; it blends hillibilly banjo use to characterise the bear Banjo and muted trumpets to imitate the mocking sounds of the bird Kazooie. It all works fantastically with the visuals and, though the track is intentionally a tad annoying, it's equally endearing too. "Spiral Mountain" sets the jovial tone of the adventure with some easygoing banjo melodies and a few jazz sections. Back in the day, it exposed Kirkhope's characteristic style for the Banjo series. In contrast, "Witch's Lair" sounds like a macabre arrangement of the children's song "Teddy Bears' Picnic". It's quite a quirky way to demonstrate a bear exploring the cackling villain's lair.
Most of the rest of the soundtrack is dedicated to the various worlds of the game. Although they all maintain Kirkhope's light-hearted and lyrical style, there is a pleasant variety of styles nonetheless. Whether a dainty woodwind-based dance for "Mumbo's Mountain", a brilliant orchestration for "Freezezy Peak", or some foghorn punctuations for "Rusty Bucket Bay", they all fit the context and remain easy stand-alone listening. Other stages are portrayed with clichéd use of tropical, Arabian, or pseudo-horror music, but this really fits the childish nature of the game. What's most delightful about the compositions is how each theme develops in such a expansive and multifaceted way. Some pieces such as "Bubblegloop Swamp" feature particularly surprising intricacies, and it all helps to colour the giant worlds.
Each area theme is arranged multiple times in the game to adapt to the changing environments, though the soundtrack appropriately focuses on just the original theme. However, some might be disappointed that just the spring theme for "Click Click Wood" is included when the other three seasons had charming well-developed compositions. Another glaring omission is the bridge during the "Credits" and this leaves just a straightforward triumphant march. Peculiarly featured after the end credits, "Final Battle" is a very enjoyable epic orchestration of the "Witch's Lair" theme that spans over six minutes. Sadly the two bonus orchestrations featured on the expanded release are omitted here.
Overall, the Banjo-Kazooie soundtrack is a delightful accompaniment to the game. The music is suitably childish, but has enough melodic charm, developmental intricacies, and stylistic diversity to appeal to many on a stand-alone basis. Although the soundtrack releases are pretty incomplete, they do a good job of compiling the majority of the important tracks from the game into an easy-to-digest one disc release. However, it may be better to go for the expanded soundtrack since it has a couple of bonus tracks.