Film Music Review
The Sammy awards










Music composed and conducted by Dave Grusin.

34 Tracks (Playing Time = 79:26)

Album produced by Robert Townson and Mike Matessino. Score mixed by Dan Wallin. Music edited by Jim Flamberg. Remix and score assembly by Mike Matessino. Mastered by Erik Labson. Music recorded at Stage M, Record Plant Scoring, Paramount Pictures, April 18 & 24, and May 1, 6, and 8, 1985. Cover art by John Alvin. Inlay art by Drew Sturzan.

Varese Sarabande VCL 0310 1104

Limited edition of 5000 copies

Rating: ****


The 25 th Anniversary of the release of THE GOONIES is marked by the first ever available CD score release as part of Varese Sarabande’s limited edition club discs. Often listed as a “holy grail” by film music fans, Dave Grusin’s score is now given a chance to be appreciated on its own apart from the film.

THE GOONIES came at the height of a series of Spielberg films either directed or produced by him that seemed like one big blockbuster in waiting since 1981’s RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK kicked off a host of now classic Spielberg-helmed projects. 1985 saw Amblin Entertainment beginning to carve out a market niche with the television series Amazing Stories providing a return to television scoring by a host of important Hollywood composers. Though John Williams is associated with the director, the year saw Spielberg head into dramatic territory with THE COLOR PURPLE and a musical backdrop created under the eye of Quincy Jones. Jerry Goldsmith’s work on films such as POLTERGEIST, TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE, and GREMLINS was perhaps one particular sound world preferred by Spielberg with composers such as Broughton and Silvestri carrying on in a hybrid of the two more well-known masters.

The decision to turn to Dave Grusin for THE GOONIES then seems a bit odd at first. Grusin had a steady stream of film scoring under his belt prior to this project. The previous year he provided 5 scores alone. He had two pretty recent high profile pictures behind him (1982’s TOOTSIE and ON GOLDEN POND) which tended to connect more to his jazz roots. So the idea to write for a “kids movie” seemed a bit far-fetched. But Grusin soon embarked on a big orchestral score that parallels the music Spielberg got out of Silvestri for BACK TO THE FUTURE and out of Broughton for YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES—a score that captures the adventure of youth whose fantastic imaginations and reality suddenly collide. A few fun quotes from Korngold (which really stands out amidst the entire score!) and Williams’ SUPERMAN make an appearance as well from memorable moments in the film.

For THE GOONIES, Grusin relied on a combination of orchestral backdrops and a host of tamer electronic sounds from keyboards that shifted between unsettling musical ideas and lyrical statements of themes (“Map and Willie” is an early expression of this interchange). The theme for the film as it appears in “The Goondocks” allows for a more lyrical statement with warm harmonies and a restrain towards its more adventurous side which will appear in much of the later portions of the score. There are times in this track that you would swear you are hearing something by Goldsmith though Grusin will trend towards a more urban/pop sensibility when things get moving rather than on the sort of syncopated asymmetry of the other master. Grusin tends to do a great deal of tremolo writing to create tension in this score. Another common technique to spread out his material is to move slowly in ascending chromatic fashion with an angular idea flitting about the music.

One of the things that made the film a hard sell was that it is that THE GOONIES blends so many genres together from kid film, to action and adventure, to comedy, and a few light scares along the way. The result is that the music on one hand is an intriguing hodgepodge of genre approaches whose cohesion only comes from recurring thematic writing. The music maneuvers through a sound that can seem like a late-classical orchestra through contemporary pop sensibilities. The dramatic music is filled with standard clichés and tricks to help increase narrative screen tension without really standing out necessarily on its own. Those are the sorts of qualities that can increase fond memories when the main theme of a film is a good one and Grusin’s tunes in this score are mostly memorable. Later tinkering and editing of the score, coupled with rewrites and re-orchestrations are perhaps part of the problem in part, but somehow the score rises above all that to be quite engaging.

If anything, Varese’s release of THE GOONIES can only help increase the chances that other Grusin scores are on their way. From comedic scoring to intimate drama with immediately engaging themes, Grusin’s music deserves a place alongside those more familiar names from the 1970s and 1980s. Now that many of these Amblin Entertainment scores are available to hear, we can begin to discern a potential interest in creating a musical sound for the studio’s productions.

THE GOONIES musical sound is closest to Broughton’s for example, especially when it begins to approach a more classical style (heard fully in “Plumbing”) and in its ability to take cliché musical moments and craft them within the composer’s accessible musical style.


--reviewed by Steven A. Kennedy , 31 March, 2010

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