I am a bit of a nut for movie soundtracks.
I don’t purchase a lot of CDs — but I do own quite a number of great movie soundtracks. Not every movie soundtrack can stand on its own — but the ones that do are pure gold. James Horner’s score for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; John William’s Star Wars scores, Howard Shore’s scores for The Lord of the Rings — these are epic creations that I can listen to over and over and over again.
Recently, two phenomenal scores from the ’80s were finally released in their complete form on CD: Alan Silvestri’s score for Back to the Future, and Dave Grusin’s score for The Goonies. Both are absolutely PHENOMENAL.
Intrada released the Back to the Future score on two discs, with disc one being the complete score as heard in the finished film, and disc two being an alternate, early version of the score. The wonderfully detailed liner notes (written by Mike Matessino) detail the process by which, after Mr. Silvestri recorded his score for the film in May, 1985, it was decided (in consultation with director Robert Zemeckis and Executive Producer Steven Spielberg) that Mr. Silvestri would re-work and completely re-record the score. This is extremely unusual. As Engineer Dennis Sands recalls: “Steven Spielberg loved the theme so much that he felt more of it was needed in the score. So Alan augmented a number of the cues and we recorded them on a second set of dates.” As usual, Mr. Spielberg’s instincts were right on the money. Alan Silvestri’s Back to the Future theme is incredibly iconic, and the filmmakers absolutely made the right decision to feature it more prominently in the finished score.
I enjoyed listening to the original version of the score on disc two, though I wouldn’t have objected to paying a little less for a version of this release without that second disc. Many of the alternate cues are pretty similar to the finished versions found on disc 1 — and where they’re different, they’re mostly inferior. It was fun to listen through once, but I doubt I’ll spend too much time listening to that second disc in the future.
But Mr. Silvestri’s final score, on disc 1, is absolutely magnificent. No surprise, the stand-out piece of music is track 19: “Clocktower.” This ten-minute-long track is a tour-de-force of action movie music, in which most of the major character themes from the score are interwoven to create a powerful, suspenseful sequence. It works wonderfully with the edited film, and is also quite effective when listened to on its own. This track has gotten a lot of play on my ipod recently.
Varese Saraband’s release of Dave Grustin’s score for The Goonies is a one-disc affair, but it also features a number of bonus tracks that contain early, alternate versions of several key cues from the film. Mike Matessino also contributed detailed liner-notes for this release, and I was intrigued to learn how, here again, executive producer Steven Spielberg encouraged the film’s composer to re-record several cues from the film in order to emphasize the main themes. A comparison of track 1 “Fratelli Chase,” with the alternate version of that cue found on track 31, reveals a night-and-day difference that reinforces Mr. Spielberg’s wisdom. The revised version (which opens the movie, and prominently features the compelling, toe-tapping “Fratelli” theme) is a show-stopper, and probably the best piece of music in the entire score.
But the rest of the score ain’t too shabby, either! Track 2, “Map and Wille,” introduces the somber One-Eyed Willie theme that recurs throughout the film, often during the quiet moments. Speaking of quiet moments, track 13, “Wishing Well,” is a beautiful piece of music that plays under one of the stand-out scenes in the film. (“This is our time!”) On the opposite end of the spectrum are the exciting action-music pieces like track 18, “They’re Here and Skull Cave Chase,” and track 20, “Water Slide and Galleon.” I also really got a kick out of track 19, “Playing the Bones.” I was really impressed at how well that piece worked even without any of the film’s dramatic visuals. The off-key organ music gives the whole thing a really spooky vibe.
What a great delight it was to see these two phenomenal scores get treated to such elaborate CD presentations, a quarter-century after their films’ original releases!