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Born Free
Album Cover Art
2000 Varèse
2004 FSM
Album 2 Cover Art
Composed and Conducted by:

Lyrics by:
Don Black

2004 Album Produced by:
Lukas Kendall

2000 Re-Recording Conducted by:
Frederic Talgorn

2000 Re-Recording Produced by:
Robert Townson

2000 Re-Recording Performed by:
The Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Labels Icon
Varèse Sarabande
(April 4th, 2000)

Film Score Monthly
(July, 2004)
Availability Icon
The 2000 Varèse Sarabande album is a regular U.S. release. Unlike most of FSM's Silver Age Classics CDs, the 2004 album for Born Free is not a limited release. Instead, it was distributed with a note from the label stating, "Released by Special Arrangement with Turner Classic Movies Music" and had an unrestricted production run. It is available through the FSM site or online soundtrack specialty outlets.
The song "Born Free" and the score both won Academy Awards. The song was also nominated for a Golden Globe. The score was also nominated for a Grammy Award.
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Availability | Awards | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... on both the 2000 re-recording and the 2004 issue of the original LP recording if you are a true enthusiast of John Barry's easy listening hit, for both albums have unique strengths in their presentations.

Avoid it... on the 2004 Film Score Monthly remastering of the LP record if you wish to hear the full hour-long score that was re-recorded on the 2000 album or, per chance, if you have no interest in the chart-topping song.
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WRITTEN 4/15/00, REVISED 10/3/11
Born Free: (John Barry) One of cinema's most successful nature documentaries, Born Free was a sentimental British phenomenon in 1966 that helped spur the cause of the genre on television thereafter. It tells the true story of an orphaned lioness raised by two animal rights activists in Kenya; a year after releasing it to the wild on a remote reserve, the couple returns at the end and the lion, now a mother of three, remembers her human parents fondly. Despite director James Hill's best intentions, the film was not a technical success, relying on photographic trickery to convey certain plot elements involving the animals and sometimes practically ruining the narrative by the odd insertion of stock wildlife footage and inconsistent color in neighboring scenes. The most famous aspect of Born Free has always been its music. Providing all the glory of almost every possible score-related award under the composer's belt for his creation, Born Free confirmed, along with Zulu, that John Barry was headed in a mainstream direction that wasn't restricted to his snazzy tones for the James Bond franchise. Barry's fully orchestral score for the safari tale gained him a collection of Golden Globe and Academy Awards for both his score and the associated song. Written twenty years before the composer would score Out of Africa to much acclaim, Born Free has more in common with Zulu than anything thereafter in his career. Even though the song was the vehicle which propelled the music from Born Free to so many awards, Barry's score, like those for many Walt Disney films through the decades, is still of solid quality in its wholesome demeanor. Having just followed Thunderball with the same set of musical collaborators, the grand success of Born Free's music was more of a mistake than the intent. Arguments over the level of scope for the score, as well as the vocals that eventually accompanied Barry's theme for the song, were still under debate when the song, originally performed by Roger Williams, launched itself to the top spot on the American music charts. So popular was Barry's theme that it was eventually performed by over 600 artists around the globe and even adopted as one African nation's national anthem.

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Average: 3.75 Stars
***** 314 5 Stars
**** 148 4 Stars
*** 135 3 Stars
** 78 2 Stars
* 68 1 Stars
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Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
2000 Varèse Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 53:33
• 1. Main Title - Born Free (2:55)
• 2. The Hunt (3:19)
• 3. Feeding Time (1:59)
• 4. Elsa at Play (5:32)
• 5. Playtime (3:23)
• 6. The Death of Pati (3:44)
• 7. Killing at Kiunga (2:36)
• 8. Waiting for Joy (2:19)
• 9. Holiday with Elsa (4:07)
• 10. Elephant Stampede (2:42)
• 11. The New Reserve (3:44)
• 12. Flirtation (3:23)
• 13. Abandoning Elsa (1:57)
• 14. Elsa's Kill (0:49)
• 15. Fight of the Lioness (2:53)
• 16. Wild and Free (1:45)
• 17. Reunion - Born Free (6:20)
2004 FSM Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 39:53

Notes Icon
The insert of the 2000 Varèse Sarabande album includes notes about the score, but little about the recording process of the album or Frederic Talgorn's involvement with the RSNO. The 2004 FSM album contains extremely detailed notes about the film and score. The original FSM press release was as follows:

    Born Free (1966) was a hugely successful wildlife film about Elsa, an orphaned lion cub in Africa who is nursed to adulthood by a husband-and-wife team of nature enthusiasts (Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers). Based on the true-life account by Joy Adamson (whose husband George was a game warden), the film was the rare family adventure that was adored by audiences and critics alike, and has maintained a sterling reputation over the years.

    Key to the film's success is its famous score by John Barry. Barry was red-hot from his work on James Bond films and Zulu (1964), and Born Free would cement his reputation as one of the most vibrant composers of the 1960s -- if not of all time. Barry's main theme -- given lyrics by Don Black and sung by Matt Munro -- became a pop sensation and one of the world's most recognizable movie songs, a veritable cultural landmark.

    The song "Born Free" has been so successful that it has overshadowed the rest of the score, which is a thoroughly satisfying, romantic and dramatic work. Barry maintains the predominant tone of Disneyesque charm but ranges from dark, suspenseful passages (for the hunting of a man-eating lion) to buoyant setpieces for Elsa's development, and a heartbreaking finale as Elsa is returned to the wild. The sound is symphonic, but with ethnic African touches (in Barry's inimitable style); the score is a far more serious and diverse work than most people realize.

    Barry was rushed in his film recording of Born Free and at his insistence performed it again for album release (on MGM Records). This premiere CD release presents the 39:55 LP program, remastered from 1/4" stereo tapes. New, authoritative liner notes by Jon Burlingame tell the heretofore unknown story of the film's development and production, and feature new interview material with Barry and Black.

    SYNOPSIS - Born Free is the heartwarming true story of a British couple who teach their pet lioness how to survive in the wilds of the African jungles. Joy and George Adamson (portrayed by real-life married couple Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers) involuntarily domesticate several lions while living in Kenya. They keep one, named Elsa, until she is fully grown, and rather than turn her over to a zoo, they decide to train her to live like a wild animal so that they can release her into her natural habitat. Geoffrey Keen is a sympathetic government official who convinces the Adamsons that they should set Elsa free to avoid being ordered to place her in captivity. The film, based on Joy Adamson's book, is poignant and emotional without ever becoming banal or overly sentimental. The title song and film score both won Academy Awards.

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The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Born Free are Copyright © 2000, 2004, Varèse Sarabande, Film Score Monthly and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 4/15/00 and last updated 10/3/11.
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