By Chris M. Junior
It was the year Marty McFly traveled back to the 1950s in a plutonium-powered car, Pee-wee Herman experienced his own unique adventure and an investigative reporter known as Fletch found himself mixed up in a shady deal.
It was also a year in which such familiar figures as James Bond, Mad Max, Rocky Balboa and John Rambo were back in action and doing what they do best.
Hollywood had a lot to offer movie fans in 1985, and so did the companion film scores and soundtracks from 30 years ago. The box set “Back in Time … 1985 at the Movies” reflects that musical variety by gathering related major pop hits as well as original and redone scores, all housed in a package that’s as stylized as anything that appeared on the big screen back then.
The first disc contains 16 re-recordings of songs written by such heavyweights as David Foster, Dave Grusin, Quincy Jones and Henry Mancini. Conducted by movie-music veteran David Newman, these tasteful remakes are very faithful, and some include the same musicians who played on the original scores. The mild additions and subtractions that were made to the music are actually improvements. The extra punch in “Fratelli Chase” (a Grusin composition from “The Goonies”) is welcome, as is the more natural-sounding drums in “St. Elmo’s Fire: Love Theme” (the big snare and electronic tom-toms in Foster’s original version are laughably dated).
The second disc’s track list reads like a collage of Billboard Hot 100 chart entries or a block of mid-1980s MTV programming. Here you’ll find Survivor’s “Burning Heart” (from “Rocky IV”), DeBarge’s “Rhythm of the Night” (“The Last Dragon”) and Billy Ocean’s “When the Going Get’s Tough, The Tough Get Going” (“The Jewel of the Nile”), just to name a few. Not all of them have aged well — Stephanie Mills’ fussy “Bit by Bit” from “Fletch” is the audio equivalent of parachute pants or a Pontiac Fiero GT — but the fun and nostalgia they provide is undeniable.
Orchestration rules the rest of “Back in Time … 1985 at the Movies.” Danny Elfman’s score for “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” dominates the third disc, and The Royal Scottish National Orchestra plays the “Back to the Future” and “Out of Africa” scores on discs four and five, respectively. The sixth disc has Grusin’s original score for “The Goonies.”
When pop-music fans of a certain age think of “The Goonies,” however, what probably comes to mind is Cyndi Lauper’s goofy soundtrack hit “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough,” which is not part of this collection. Neither are Pat Benatar’s “Invincible” (from “The Legend of Billie Jean”) or the David Bowie-Pat Metheny Group collaboration “This Is Not America” (“The Falcon and the Snowman”), two other notable absentees. “Back in Time … 1985 at the Movies” covers a lot of ground, and quite well, but it is far from comprehensive, leaving the door wide open for a possible sequel to this movie package.
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The above article appeared as a sidebar to the feature "The Cinematic Sounds of 1985," which appeared in Goldmine‘s Police/Soundtracks issue (August 2015, Volume 41, No. 9, at left). If you would like a digital copy of the issue, click here. It’s only a $4.95 download! Or if you would like a print copy (the cover itself is worth framing!) call 1-800-726-9966, Ext. 13369, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.