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Back to the Future
Album Cover Art
1985 MCA Records
2009 Intrada
Album 2 Cover Art
2015 Intrada
Album 3 Cover Art
Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:

Orchestrated by:
James B. Campbell
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MCA Records

Intrada Records
(November 23rd, 2009)

Intrada Records
(October 12th, 2015)
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The original MCA album reflected the top-selling LP product of 1985 and has remained an affordable commercial release. The 2009 Intrada album allowed the label to press up to 10,000 copies of the limited production, initially in 3,000-copy batches. Despite a retail price of $30, the Intrada album's first pressing of 3,000 copies sold out within a couple of weeks, though a second pressing remained available for several years. By 2015, that album had gone out of print, and Intrada re-issued the first CD's contents of that set as a standalone product of unlimited quantities for $20.
The song "The Power of Love" was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. The original album was nominated for a Grammy award.
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Availability | Awards | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... without reservation if you, like the majority of modern film music collectors, have awaited a proper treatment of Alan Silvestri's fantastic and memorable score on album for decades.

Avoid it... on the 2009 Intrada 2-CD set if you are a casual enthusiast of the film who seeks only the best of the score material to accompany the famous songs on the soundtrack, in which case the original, best-selling album should suffice.
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WRITTEN 1/4/10, REVISED 4/11/16
Back to the Future: (Alan Silvestri) It may have taken several years to get there, but 1985's Back to the Future came as close to perfection as any of Steven Spielberg's most famous productions of the era. It's so difficult to make any comedy action film about time travel without suffering from all the usual pitfalls of infinite fallacies of logic. Whatever holes that the script for Back to the Future may possess, they are negated by an extremely affable personality, precise pacing, and a knack for capturing the cheesy romantic atmosphere of popular teenager-aimed flicks of the 1980's. After shopping the film unsuccessfully through a plethora of studios throughout the early 1980's, Robert Zemeckis and his concept for Back to the Future were eventually green-lit by Spielberg's own fledgling production house. An embarrassing miscasting of the lead role led to the re-shooting of a significant amount of the film, though even a frantic post-production schedule could not derail a project that was so well conceived in the years prior. The popular contemporary and romantic elements in Back to the Future were almost of parody demeanor in the film's 1985 scenes, from Marty McFly's aspirations to be the next Eddie Van Halen to his skateboarding skills, his love interest, and his eventual receipt of a grotesquely monstrous 4x4 truck. But the tongue in cheek aspects of the plot transferred effortlessly over to the science fiction elements as well, from Christopher Lloyd's eccentric performance to his awkward choice of car to use as a time machine. Today, he'd definitely be on a few of the government's terrorist watch lists. The silliness of the entire circumstance of McFly's transit back into the past (including the use of not only time as the villain, but Libyans in search of stolen plutonium in suburban America) is adeptly balanced by his mission to lead his parents into each other's arms in the past to save his own future existence. Several parts of the production's visual landscape became the stuff of pop culture legend, including the clocktower at the heart of the studio's fictitious Hill Valley town square and the pair of streaking, burnt rubber fire tracks that the time-traveling DeLorean leaves in its wake. Even several decades later, Back to the Future is a film that defies its age; it could be made exactly the same way in retrospect today and would be just as thrilling. Among the reasons the film became a smash hit in the summer of '85 was its equally popular music, including a collection of songs that spanned the two time frames with distinction and, of course, Alan Silvestri's grandiose score.

Looking back, the immense popularity of the song placements in Back to the Future in comparison to Silvestri's contribution was understandable. The 50's songs were staples of their own era and the 80's alternatives tore up the radio waves when the film was released. Silvestri, despite providing Back to the Future with perhaps his best career achievement, was a relative unknown at the time, and film scores were suffering from a change in corporate emphasis in music that diminished their availability on LPs and tapes. The fact that it took until 2009 before the Back to the Future score would receive its own comprehensive album presentation was surely frustrating during the interim, but no grudge can really be held against the songs in the production. The two songs written and performed by Huey Lewis and the News were the cornerstones of the film's advertising, and "The Power of Love" was a chart-topper that saturated the radio waves and led to an Academy Award nomination. Although the group's more subdued "Back in Time" also received significant air time, "The Power of Love" was an instant classic that has managed to survive the test of time quite well (aiding in the film's continued appeal so long after its debut). Anchoring the 1950's era's songs was an important juxtaposition of "doo wop" style, embodied best by the memorable incorporation of "Mr. Sandman" and "Earth Angel" to accompany the innocent side of that culture, and the transition to rock and roll, which McFly single-handedly introduces by mangling "Johnny B. Goode" on guitar in a fashion that would make Van Halen proud. A smart collection of songs, mostly on the 50's side, is used as source material for the radios and other dance pieces in Back to the Future, all of which rooting the film in the appropriate atmosphere of both eras. Even Van Halen himself makes an important contribution to the film; an unused rough draft of a song he has previously worked on was used by McFly when he dresses in his radiation suit and claims to be Darth Vader, blasting Van Halen's wicked guitar performances from a Walkman into his father's ears in the middle of the night (truly one of the funniest scenes in the history of cinema). That song would never actually be used by Van Halen in any of his future music, and no expanded version of the excerpt heard in that scene has ever existed. Silvestri provided Back to the Future with its remaining source pieces, three instrumentals for the 50's and a few transitions in which his orchestral material was meant to mingle with (and, in the case of "Earth Angel," overtake) the songs.

Spielberg originally expressed lingering doubts about whether or not Silvestri was up to the task of writing a score as boisterous and thematic as necessary for Back to the Future. The composer's history with an orchestral ensemble, especially one pushing 100 members, was very limited. But when Silvestri was half finished with the score, Zemeckis switched out the temp material with it for a few scenes, Spielberg applauding what he thought was new temp music when in fact he had enthusiastically praised what Silvestri had written. Because of the numerous production changes that affected the film, Silvestri had the luxury of scoring most of it twice. With the songs taking up so much time in the film (the first piece of the score is heard 19 minutes into its running time), the task of revisiting the 45-minute score wasn't too monumental. Several small pieces of even the second recording of Back to the Future still didn't make it into the picture, though that is due to no fault with Silvestri's material. It is as well organized and precisely crafted a score ever to exist, a perfect match for the suspense, fantasy, and sense of humor conveyed by the story. The composer's thematic motifs and structural tendencies in the work cause it be extremely cohesive in all of its parts. You could pull any single cue from this score and within seconds a learned film music collector will know that it derives from Back to the Future. That extremely well reasoned approach is likely why Silvestri simply extended the same general sound (and in some cases, almost identical cues) into Back to the Future Part II four years later. In fact, whatever brevity that exists in the treatment of any motif in Back to the Future is likely rectified by the sequel, despite decreased sound quality and a sense that there isn't really anything refreshing about the follow-up. That loyalty to the first score, which extends to a lesser degree into the third film in the trilogy, is testament to its very effective applications. The first recording conducted by Silvestri reflected a darker, more suspenseful variation on the script (in part a result of the miscasting of McFly), with more expansive dissonant passages. The mood was lightened for the second and final recording of the score, with the more frequent employment of the title theme a request directly from Spielberg. Zemeckis had always requested the score to be "big," but Silvestri easily enhanced both the bold statements of the main theme's two halves and the "magical" motif surrounding Doc Brown and the concept of time travel. A greater emphasis on the thrill of the ride and wonder of the travel was the ultimate result.

The primary theme of Back to the Future is divided into two parts, both based on three-note phrases that prove to be surprisingly malleable. Arguably the more famous of the parts is the heroic fanfare, a nine-note sequence that typically finishes the theme with all the bravado of the ensemble. It's the redemptive half of the idea, often punctuating McFly's triumphs. It was meant to open the film with a brief, robust performance, but this cue ("Logo") was dropped from the finished cut. The theme's first usage is thus as a suspenseful phrase of disbelief and foreshadowing in "DeLorean Reveal." As McFly escapes from the crazed Libyans at the end of "'85 Twin Pines Mall," the theme makes its first heroic charge. While this treatment, very similar to one in the latter half of "Skateboard Chase," is the most memorable tone from the score, the idea's translation to romantic strings in the latter half of "George to the Rescue - Pt. 2" is a key example of the theme's adaptability. Still, whenever it comes to announcing the arrival of the score, as in the opening of the end credits suite (complete with plentiful cymbal accents on almost every note), Silvestri clearly chooses the fanfare as the primary identity of the work. That said, the secondary part of his theme for Back to the Future is the not only more enjoyable but also the propulsive heart of the score's action pieces. Easily identifiable due to its distinct, opening three notes, this often rhythmically rolling theme often introduces the fanfare, as it does in its first full statement in the aforementioned portion of "'85 Twin Pines Mall." After McFly has arrived in 1955, this part of the theme is frequently referenced in solo performances of the first three notes, sometimes hidden within longer lines of otherwise random phrases. Solo horn performances at the start of "Lorraine's Bedroom" and "1.21 Jigowatts" are versatile references to the larger adventure. Between the theme's extensive employment as a source of adventure in "Skateboard Chase" and "Clocktower," it wouldn't be surprising if this half of the theme is perhaps more recognizable to some average movie-goers than the actual fanfare. Silvestri's frequent applications help that distinction; he uses the theme to draw the romance of McFly's parents into the action realm, too, not only applying it as a set-up tool in "Tension - The Kiss," but also integrating it directly (and with high class) at the end of "Earth Angel." No performance of this theme, in conjunction with its fanfare counterpart, is as satisfying as the lengthy "Clocktower," however, one of the most exhilarating cues of anticipation ever written for the screen.

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Average: 4.02 Stars
***** 472 5 Stars
**** 154 4 Stars
*** 85 3 Stars
** 62 2 Stars
* 81 1 Stars
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FVSR Reviews Back To The Future
Brendan Cochran - October 22, 2015, at 10:36 p.m.
1 comment  (681 views)
Holy crap, it's awesome!   Expand >>
Richard Kleiner - January 1, 2011, at 10:48 p.m.
3 comments  (2444 views)
Newest: August 28, 2011, at 5:37 p.m. by
Richard Kleiner
Back to the Future Formula
Bruno Costa - November 13, 2010, at 3:12 a.m.
1 comment  (1688 views)
A great day for film score fans!   Expand >>
Richard Kleiner - January 27, 2010, at 8:27 p.m.
3 comments  (2502 views)
Newest: January 30, 2010, at 10:17 a.m. by

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
1985 MCA Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 38:04
• 1. The Power of Love - performed by Huey Lewis and the News (3:43)
• 2. Time Bomb Town - performed by Lindsey Buckingham (2:45)
• 3. Back to the Future (original score by Alan Silvestri) (3:17)
• 4. Heaven is One Step Away - performed by Eric Clapton (4:08)
• 5. Back in Time - performed by Huey Lewis and the News (4:17)
• 6. Back to the Future Overture (original score by Alan Silvestri) (8:16)
• 7. The Wallflower (Dance With Me Henry) - performed by Etta James (2:41)
• 8. Night Train - performed by Harry Waters, Jr. (Marvin Berry and the Starlighters) (2:15)
• 9. Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine) - performed by Harry Waters, Jr. (Marvin Berry and the Starlighters) (2:59)
• 10. Johnny B. Goode - performed by Mark Campbell and Tim May (Marty McFly with the Starlighters) (3:05)
2009 Intrada Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 89:08
2015 Intrada Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 49:28

Notes Icon
The insert of the 1985 MCA album includes no extra information about the score or film. The 2009 and 2015 Intrada albums are beautifully packaged, with extensive photography and notes about the film, score, and album production.
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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 Back to the Future are Copyright © 1985, 2009, 2015, MCA Records, Intrada Records, Intrada Records and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 1/4/10 and last updated 4/11/16.
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