Alan Silvestri’s Back To The Future: Part III concludes the iconic trilogy in the best way possible; with exquisite blends of brilliant old and intriguing new themes, a fresh Western-esque musical style and many an edge-of-your-seat action setpiece.
Here we are at last, with the final installment of Alan Silvestri’s iconic Back To The Future scores. This one’s actually a little different to the previous two as well; where the first sets a very 80s action adventure-esque tone and the second then followed in very similar stylistic footsteps, number three actually then takes things down a bit of a different path for a fair chunk of its runtime, with a much more strings-and-harmonica-heavy, Western-like sound. This overall results in a bit of fresh musical air for Back To The Future (as Part II did feel a little lackluster in style, being basically like an extension of the first score), which in turn makes it one of the stronger soundtrack entries in the franchise (second only to the first film’s). Varese Sarabande’s expansion of it then only cements that fact, building on an already pretty amazing score and filling in the gaps until glorious completeness is reached. Now here Silvestri’s full work is in all its orchestral glory, and so without further ado; it’s time to dive straight in.
Back To Back/ Court House opens with a gentle twinkle of percussion, hinting subtly toward the now pretty iconic musical style of the franchise before then practically bursting into the fray with it as a loud, thunderously heroic rendition of the main Back To The Future theme charges into frame on emphatic brass. From here on the cue pretty much then lives up to its title, playing back to back with Silvestri’s score from the finale of Back To The Future: Part II (and indeed, Part I – with thanks to time travel) to some properly spectacular musical results overall. Seguing into the subsequent Main Title cue, the orchestra then builds to a triumphant finish with the main theme held emphatically high, finishing the brief spiel of action pretty much as enthusiastically as possible. From here though the track then quietens down, with serene, peaceful strings, calming piano notes and even some gentle woodwinds starting to play as a brand new theme is introduced; Clara’s theme. Silvestri then fleshes out the motif all the way through the remaining three minutes of the cue, cementing it as a gently hopeful, romantic piece that we’re going to see a lot more of further into the album. For now though, the music stays firmly grounded in the Back To The Future music we know; sinister, ominous-sounding strings and worrisome piano notes open Into The Mine/Tombstone/It’s Me, playing in a manner very reminiscent of the dark future segment of Part II (complete with a rather mournful brass segment in the back half), and even a short cameo from Biff’s villainous theme.
Warmed Up then harkens back even further, reprising the gently hopeful, upbeat percussion that accompanies the time travel preparation scenes in both the first and second movies. It isn’t long as well before the main theme makes an appearance too, playing quietly at first on muted brass before then practically exploding with a loudly epic though sadly short rendition as Marty travels back into the past in the film. From here though the score then switches things up considerably; in the subsequent Indians (Film Version), loud, bombastic brass, crashes of dramatic percussion and swirls of very Western-esque strings take centre stage, driving home a change in tone right the way through the minute and a half-long track. This mood then briefly subsides in the twinkling Safe And Sound before the newly Western style is then cemented fully in Hill Valley; tense strings and low brass open the piece, before a loud burst of additional brass then briefly reprises the Wild West motif from the finale of Back To The Future: Part II. Like with Clara’s motif this one will recur much more frequently a little later on, but for now its introduction is brief and dramatic. To further the now very 1880s America-esque mood, a playful piano and harmonica begin to play, solidifying a hopeful yet also rather on-edge tone for the remainder of the cue. This serenity doesn’t last for long however as loud, frantic brass crashes into the fray for the subsequent short action piece The Hanging; for sixty seconds the pace accelerates until reaching near fever pitch, with tense strings then ending the cue. Hope however then thankfully returns in next cue We’re Out Of Gas, with the aforementioned Wild West motif reprising for a fist-pumpingly heroic though also sadly short rendition on enthusiastic brass.
Confident percussive notes open There Is No Bridge/Doc To The Rescue, with quiet brass briefly hinting toward the Wild West motif before action then loudly interrupts; bursts of aggravated, tense brass accompany crashes of frantic drums as Doc races to Clara’s rescue in the movie. This drama then all calms right back down in the subsequent At First Sight, with hopeful strings playing a short rendition of the main Back To The Future theme to start off with before gentler, more romantic strings then enter the fray as Clara’s theme appears. Here it plays a similarly full rendition to that of the Main Title cue, complete with tranquil woodwinds and light percussion that then swell toward the theme’s end for a particularly heartfelt finish. The sub-minute Yellow then briefly interjects with high tension as dramatic, high-pitched strings play before The Kiss then settles back into romance, playing Clara’s theme on the now pretty well established gentle strings and woodwinds. A rumble of ominous drums however then opens You Talkin’ To Me, with a brief hint of villainous percussion then giving off a particularly Western vibe. The score then slows down substantially for the quietly sombre duet of cues The Future Isn’t Written and Goodbye Clara; the former utilises slow, pondering strings and a quietly morose rendition of the main theme in the first half before building up in confidence towards its end, with the latter then delivering a lengthy and rather sorrowful rendition of Clara’s theme, which all then builds to a decidedly dramatic, solemn crescendo at two and a half minutes in.
A flourish of anxious strings opens What’s Up Doc/Marty Gallops/To The Future (hell of a track title!) followed by swift, dramatic brass hinting in style toward later action cues. This rather short track then segues loudly into Wake Up Juice, where several bursts of emphatic brass rudely awaken Doc Brown within the first few seconds. A short, gentle rendition of Clara’s theme then briefly sounds through before Callin’ You Out/Count Off and The Showdown/The Kick dial up the tension to maximum for several minutes of nail-bitingly ominous score. The former cue plays through several quiet, worried renditions of the main theme with the latter then continuing the tension for a minute or so before the main theme then bursts back through for a loudly triumphant, finishing playthrough. It’s at this point though that things then start to get really interesting, as the action finale of the score steps on to the stage.
A Science Experiment (The Train – Part 1) opens with a loud explosion of brass, with a flutter of some rather specific-sounding percussion flaring up then dying down almost as quickly as it arrived; it will come into play a lot more though as the action continues. Further into the track, a quiet hint toward the main Back To The Future theme then builds into a much more prominent playthrough as ferociously heroic brass crashes into view, accelerating the action to near breakneck speeds with the aforementioned percussion from earlier now taking a much more central role. As I mentioned before as well this percussion sounds quite specific, and I absolutely love it as a result; it actually, genuinely sounds like a train (more specifically the movement of a train), and the way this idea is then used musically after it’s unveiled here just blows my mind… every time. The way it surges forward throughout the entire action finale of the album, getting faster and faster as tensions rise in the film, taking more and more prominence with the orchestra rallying behind it just sounds absolutely incredible, and it dramatically elevates the action here as a result.
It’s Clara (The Train – Part 2) features this percussion quite substantially, with the main and now Clara’s theme held emphatically high for much of the five minute piece as the train-like percussion, tense strings and ferocious brass continue to surge frenetically foward. A brief, worrisome hint toward the Wild West motif also makes itself known towards the end of the track, then seguing rather seamlessly into final part Point Of No Return (The Train – Part 3). A semi-triumphant rendition of Clara’s theme opens the cue, with the aforementioned percussion continuing to pull the musical train along at a now blinding pace. The Wild West motif returns once again at the two minute mark, accelerating the music even further with the main theme also joining the fray for a few short, worried playthroughs until then bursting through with a triumphantly dramatic final appearance right toward the end of the piece, with the Wild West motif then guiding the final few seconds of the action to a hair-raising crescendo.
With the action finished and the album now starting to draw to a close, It’s Destroyed/Back To The Girlfriend/It Erased quietens things down with a gently mysterious rendition of the main theme – one that stylistically harkens all the way back to Lorraine’s Bedroom from the first film. It does however continue where that cue left off, finishing the full rendition of the theme on a downtrodden, almost sorrowful strings-based note. This solemnity doesn’t last for long though as the main theme then starts to pick itself back up on hopeful brass, leading into second-to-last track Doc Returns. Strings once again return here, playing a rather wondrous and happily lengthy rendition of the main theme together with a welcome re-appearance from Clara’s motif. These specific playthroughs then come to a sudden end however on a loud brass note, as loud percussion then joins the fray and additional, now triumphant brass begins to play the now traditional finale-esque rendition of the main theme (again harkening all the way back to the first film, this time to Doc Returns). This is then followed by a finishing rendition of the main theme before End Credits then takes the stage, giving us a proudly fist-pumping playthrough of all the main themes – Wild West, Clara and main – closing the score overall in as epic a way possible, and concluding the Back To The Future franchise on a dramatically high note.
All-in, Part III breathes a breath of fresh stylistic air into Alan Silvestri’s Back To The Future work, while still keeping the score firmly grounded in the now pretty iconic musical style of the franchise. Over the course of it’s surprisingly short hour long runtime, the composer blends both orchestral and Western styles rather excellently, providing a well-composed and highly enjoyable listening experience from beginning to end. His use of themes is of course the highlight as usual, with some returning (the main theme and the Wild West motif introduced right at the end of Part II to name but two) and the new theme for Clara helping to bridge the gap between past and future as the album progresses. The action too is naturally really good too, with the finale in particular standing out – the way Silvestri uses certain percussion to represent and emphasize the accelerating train at the end of the film is just fantastic, and I love the way that all of the orchestra follows suit throughout that nearly twelve minute action setpiece. Overall then, with reprisals of both new and old themes, a fresh orchestral style and many an enjoyable action cue, Silvestri simply knocks it out of the park with Part III, concluding the franchise in as brilliant a way possible while also cementing it as one of the best sci-fi soundtrack works pretty much ever composed.
‘Nuff said, really.
Standout Cue: 26. End Credits
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