Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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"The way I see it, if you're gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?"

I decided to make Sunday evening an early night. I had just the movie I wanted to watch, too. I ordered some Chinese food and settled on my couch to watch Back to the Future for the first time since the Intrada Records release of complete score with alternate takes. There is a certain satisfaction that comes from being able to watch an old favorite and knowing that I have every piece of score in the film (and then some), and in sterling sound.

A couple of years ago, I was having a (frustrating) conversation in which I was being asked what genres I thought several movies fit into. However, when Back to the Future came up, it gave me pause. I think that one of the primary reasons why I think that the film is so popular is because it too much of any one single genre, but rather being a well-balanced blend of comedy, science fiction, adventure and teen romance. The movie literally had something for everybody and became a smash hit (shades of Robert Zemeckis' previous success Romancing the Stone, which combined romance with adventure, two genres previously kept very far apart beyond a casual love interest), a cultural phenomenon and remains an evergreen with career-defining performances for Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd; there are very few people out there without fond memories of Back to the Future.

Alan Silvestri's huge orchestral score was represented by only two tracks on the original LP (where they are credited to "The Outatime Orchestra"). There was an bootleg out there, but it was so plagued by distortion and wow that I found it unlistenable as well as unmentionable. A substantial suite from the score was recorded by John Debney for Varèse Sarabande's Back to the Future Trilogy album, which is often maligned, but which I thought was a decent effort to fill a major gap in any film music enthusiast's library (although I found the use of the original film tracks for the Back to the Future Part III material — they had issued the soundtrack album — to have been something of a cheap move).

Intrada's two disc set is the Real McCoy, however, and Silvestri's most iconic score can finally be heard in its full glory. I can only say that I am even more impressed with it than I was expecting to be; his themes are so infectious that not only have I listened to the score countless times since I've received my copy on Friday evening, but when I haven't been listening to it, I've been humming the themes to myself. Not just the main adventure theme, but that pastoral Americana theme and the frantic scherzos for Doc Brown — the latter of which is the sort of thing that I would have expected to wear out its welcome much faster than it does, but it only adds another dimension of entertainment to the score.

Of course, with the revival of interest in the score for the first film, I also pulled the scores for the second and third off of the shelf and gave them the first spin in a very long while. The sound quality on those CDs is not up to the standards of Intrada's production for the first film, so the earlier recording ironically has superior sound to the two later ones.

Back to the Future Part II took the premise of the first film and built an incredibly complex and at times rather dark story out of them. Silvestri leaned very heavily on his material from the first film, and as a result, for a very long time,= this album was the closest surrogate for the unreleased first film's score, although the more ominous nature of the narrative means that the score has a foreboding aspect to it that would not have been appropriate in the original film's score. I believe, however, that the reason that so much of the second film's score recalled that of the first was because of a desire on the part of both Zemeckis and Silvestri to link the new film to the original after the five year interim (picking up as it does right where the previous left off).

Back to the Future Part III has its fair share of detractors, but this author is not one of them. In fact, I consider its breezy tone to be an excellent antidote after the entangled gloom of the previous installment, especially if the trilogy is viewed as a whole.¹ Furthermore, while the score Part II was in many ways a retread of the original film's score, Silvestri announces immediately that the third film's score will be going in some new directions by presenting an all-new theme for Marty and Doc in the main title. He also provides a sweet love theme for Clara and a rollicking Coplandesque melody for the Hill Valley of the Old West that makes one really wish that Alan Silvestri would have the opportunity to score an old-fashioned Western one day.²

I know that I've mentioned a bunch of mixes recently that haven't materialized yet. This is sometimes due to available time, sometimes due to the project not being quite as exciting as it could have been. This is a case, however, where the only reason I hadn't made a compilation was because I couldn't without the Back to the Future score. I am going to see what I can do about the sound quality on the latter two albums, but this is definitely going to happen.

¹ ― I highly recommend spending a day watching the entire Back to the Future trilogy. The films themselves are not only relatively short, but each has a very distinct tone which keeps them from getting stuck in a rut. Furthermore, the latter two films work much better seen in context of a three-act story; it should not be forgotten that the Back to the Future franchise was one of the first that was developed with home video in mind, with a "…To Be Continued…" card added to the end credits of the VHS release of the original movie.

² ― Yes, I know he provided rather fun scores for both The Quick and the Dead and Young Guns II (still awaiting a release), but those are highly revisionist Westerns that have prominent Italian influences.
Tags: alan silvestri, film music, mix workshop, science fiction
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