After a successful 2016 Kickstarter for the release of Anthony Marinelli and Brian Banks’ score to the 1988 western, Young Guns – marking the debut of the score in any format – Rusted Wave returns to the world of Billy the Kid this week with Alan Silvestri’s score for the sequel, Young Guns II. While not the debut of that score — seeing as how Intrada put it out on compact disc in 2011 — it’s an amazing package that Rusted Wave has put together for the vinyl premiere.
It’s rather interesting, comparing the two albums. While Marinelli and Banks’ music sounds more Western, Silvestri’s music better conjures up the concept of the genre. The former’s more like a place, all wide-open spaces and saloon piano; whereas the latter is an idea, conjuring up images of action in those wide-open spaces.
As the liner notes make clear, the score for the original film “used searing electric guitars and a synth-heavy sonic palette to modernize the Western.” Silvestri’s music for the sequel, on the other hand, fully embraces “the genre’s most notable and nostalgic instrumental elements alongside the bold orchestral flourishes that had already become a key component of his sonic signature.”
This is shorthand to clue the listener into the fact that, if you liked the score for Back to the Future, this should be right up your alley. Silvestri’s scores from the ’80s had a unique way of sounding like they were from vintage Hollywood genre pictures, but updated for the then-modern world. Romancing the Stone is a screwball comedy mixed with action serials; Predator is a jungle action flick meeting up with a creature from outer space; Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is Looney Toons in a noir picture; and Back to the Future is a sci-fi high school teen scene movie.
Young Guns II is, despite being released in 1990, an ’80s teen movie. It’s like that line from another Christian Slater picture, Heathers: “Dear Diary, my teen-angst bullshit has a body count.” Think of it as The Lost Boys, but with six-shooters, and you’re really not too far off. Silvestri’s score has big, sweeping sounds, and interestingly, chooses not to use a keyboard tuned to saloon piano, but instead opts for a harpsichord-like tone, and it really elevates the sound of the picture.
Now, the opening cut, “Scars,” is pure Ennio Morricone, complete with wordless vocal choir and Spanish guitar, and the same goes for the likes of “Finish the Game.” But it’s the likes of “Battle” and “Lynch Mob” which fully demonstrate Silvestri’s ability to write stirring action pieces, where the brass really takes the lead and gets things going.
Despite being box office successes in their day, in the intervening decades, the Young Guns films have disappeared from the public eye. This is even in spite of coming on the scene several years prior to the release of Unforgiven, the movie which supposedly revived the Western for modern audiences. Here’s to hoping Rusted Wave’s excellent music presentation leads to people wanting to see the films, as much as they want to hear the scores.
Remastered from the original analog tapes and spread over the course of two 45 RPM LPs, Silvestri’s score really has the ability to stretch out and sound its fullest. It’s big and brassy on the action cuts, but even the likes of the slide-guitar “Coy Dog” sound fantastic. The way which “Coy Dog” goes into the Morricone-esque “Ride to Guano City,” and from there into “Battle,” does so completely without any wobbliness in terms of dynamics. The mastering job is just superb.
While the cover art ties in fairly well with that of Young Guns from two years ago, the photo collage from the back cover would’ve looked even cooler. It’s made up for with the excellent liner notes, complete with the orchestra credits, which it seems like don’t get included nearly often enough.
Young Guns II is available on vinyl from Rusted Wave.