Dinosaurs seem to bring out the best in composers. There's James Newton Howard's glorious score for Walt Disney's computer animated Dinosaur, John Williams' classic score for Spielberg's Jurassic Park (and to some degree The Lost World). And then there is James Horner's wonderful music for The Land Before Time.
Composed in 1988 this score was written around the same time as Willow and although the films are completely different the scores are somewhat related when it comes to style, albeit the music for Willow is far more dark and agressive. Parallells can especially be found in the action music, which in both scores is very expansive, grand and powerful. But while Willow above all is dominated by (sometimes extremely dissonant and difficult) action, the score for The Land Before Time is more lush, emotional and beautiful. And melodic.
Performed by the excellent London Symphony Orchestra and The King's College Choir, The Land Before Time is James Horner's largest score for an animated film. And it is also his best so far, with the opening cue, "The Great Migration", being one of the most effective and best pieces the composer has ever written. With the gorgeous French horn solo opening the cue, and the score, and the lush, beautiful writing for choir and orchestra, these six minutes are worth the prize of the disc alone.
I remember seeing this film as a kid and crying my eyes out and although I didn't realised it back then - this was years before I even started to notice music in films - this was mostly thanks to James Horner's emotional score. Goofy, cartoonish music is pretty much absent in this score, which is one of the reasons I enjoy it as much as I do. "Whispering Winds" contains some of the best emotional and sad music of Horner's career. There is, for instance, a simply wonderful rendition of the scores' main theme about six minutes into the cue, performed by soft childrens' choir.
This theme also forms the base of the films' only song, "If We Hold on Together". Performed by Diana Ross, this is one of the better Horner songs out there, although it, like most of Horner's songs, has a tendency to get a little too schmaltzy at times. But it's mostly very sweet and lovely.
The Land Before Time is a score that belong in every film music collection. You're not a real Horner fan if you don't own this soundtrack. It's right up there in the top ten list of scores for animated films and in the top five list of Horner scores.