Belstone Fox/Laurie Johnson
April 12, 2015
DRAGON’S DOMAIN DDR 601 LIMITED EDITION OF 1500
Belstone Fox Theme
Back in the 70’s film soundtracks were filled with melodies, ones that you could remember and hum for days until you heard another one by such composers as John Barry, Henry Mancini, Jerry Goldsmith, and John Williams among many others. Part of that group included the extremely talented British composer Laurie Johnson who you might remember as doing the “Avengers” theme. Johnson has written scores for over 400 film and television series. His style reflects at least on this recording his formal training from the Royal Academy of Music in London.
Without investigating the story seems to be an excellent children’s story about a fox, abandoned, and raised with fox hunting dogs. However, if you watch it you’ll see that there is violence in it with the killing of the baby foxes early on and the fox hunting dogs later on. I think it is not terribly popular today due to the banning of fox hunting as a sport. I was also not impressed with the way they spotted the music but neither of these two things has anything to do with the superb score of Laurie Johnson and if your into some of the older classic scores this is a must buy for you. It was released on a Ronco LP in 1973 and this is the second release on the Dragon’s Domain company who will specialize in limited hard to find soundtracks. It is being distributed by BSX.
The “Belstone Fox” theme dominates the first fifteen minutes of the film. It begins with a single low note, a trumpet call and then the English Horn introduces the sad melody who turns it over to the strings who eventually turn it back to the English Horn. This melody will be heard often during this soundtrack. It isn’t until there is a scene with the growing puppies that a second theme appears. “Early Days” begins with fox theme but into the track we hear a second theme, a bouncy upbeat one tht is also used quite often. The theme returns with the clarinet playing the theme with nice harmony from the harp. Johnson makes excellent use of his woodwinds which include Clarinet, Oboe, English horn, and bassoon. His string harmony is also quite unique, something I’ve not heard before. “The Friendship” starts with the strings offering a new theme until a new upbeat theme is introduced from the English horn with the flute participating. It ends with some nice horn work doing double tonguing. The first three tracks give the listener a nice idea of how well Johnson is classically trained. “Reunion” features a fox hunting theme with horns leading the way. If you’re familiar with Bernard Herrmann one can hear a hint of him in a couple of the chords as well as Bruckner from his 4th symphony. “The Belstone Hunt” turns to dissonance coming from all parts of the orchestra to a background of a steady beat with violins repeating the same notes over and over. “Badger Hill,” the final track begins softly with ominous tones in the background as the strings don’t play a theme but chords as do the trumpets. It ends as it began with the return of the fox theme in a heartfelt style.
The sound quality I found to be most adequate if you keep in mind it is an analog recording. I’m glad that Mark and Ford found this hidden gem. Not only are the themes great but the arranging and orchestrating are some of the best I’ve heard.