2018 has held many surprises for fans of the work of James Horner. The latest arrives this week courtesy of Intrada with Balto. Released in 1995, it was the last of eight animated films set to music by James Horner.
1995 was an exceptional vintage, both in terms of quantity and quality, with unforgettable works such as Braveheart, Apollo 13 (both scores were nominated for the Best Original Score Oscar), Casper, Jumanji, a detour into darker realms with Jade and of course Balto.

Based on actual events, the film tells the story of a half-wolf sled dog, Balto who in 1925, saved the children from a diphtheria outbreak in the small town of Nome, Alaska by bringing back the serum essential to healing despite deplorable climatic conditions.

Produced by Amblin Animation by Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy and Bonne Radford, Balto allows James Horner to lead the London Symphony Orchestra once more and offer music that follows the stylistic change the composer started after Legends of The Fall and Braveheart. Balto has indeed an emphasis and a thematic material which is a testament to a renewal in terms of orchestrations, harmonic intervals and energy. The action music is extremely dynamic, aired by comic snorkel solos and jazzy spurs for the interactions between the goose Boris and the bear cubs Muk and Luk, and a theme of incredible nobility to describe the wild origins of our snow hero and so the quintessence is exposed several times throughout the score.

The original album released by MCA, although fairly representative, has been out of print for years and its high secondary market cost prevented fans of this music from acquiring it. In addition, the album omitted about fifteen minutes of original music, including the exciting music that accompanies the avalanche sequence and that of the cave, and bookended the album with the song Reach for the Light by Barry Mann, James Horner and Cynthia Weil and performed by Steve Winwood. However, neither of the two versions of the song contained the musical introduction that would transition between the last scene of the film and the beginning of the ending credits where this song appears. The new edition by Intrada corrects this oversight. With 78 minutes of music, Intrada offers all the music as written by James Horner, 62 minutes spread over 21 tracks. A variety of bonus tracks follows with alternate versions, unused material and album edits from the original release totaling 16 minutes. The remarkable sound quality is faithfully reproduced from the two-track mixed recording sessions by Shawn Murphy.
Thanks to Roger Feigelson

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