The Second Disc

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Friday Feature: The Star Wars Trilogy

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It was three decades ago today that The Empire Strikes Back was released. Much has been written about what the movie did for the Star Wars trilogy as a cultural force (no pun intended), for sequels in general and so on. But let’s not kid ourselves here: when Empire first came out, it was not seen as the masterpiece it is now. The New York Times gave this film – easily the most watchable of the three Star Wars movies – a largely negative write-up. But whatever the merit of such reviews nowadays, there are many around the world who love Star Wars.

And why not? Sure, the series has come to represent everything wrong about overmarketed, overblown popular entertainment (i.e.: the prequel trilogy, the ridiculous cartoon series that airs on television today), but those first three movies – Star Wars (1977), The Emprie Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983) – were solidly plotted, action-packed space tales with colorful characters that weren’t overshadowed by the dazzling visual effects.

Part of that success, it must be noted, lay in the musical score written by film composer extraordinaire John Williams. His evocative themes – which owed a debt to Holst and Wagner as much as Erich Korngold or Max Steiner – radically shifted film music trends back to lush symphonic tunes (after a decade of pop-oriented fare like The Graduate). Those themes were eminently hummable, playable by everyone from your high school marching band to symphonic rockers Epica.

Not surprisingly, then, these three soundtracks have seen a great many releases over the years. In honor of Empire‘s 30th anniversary, join our Friday Feature in looking at the 33-year release history of Williams’ classic scores to the Star Wars trilogy. Read on after the jump…and may the Force be with you.

Williams, conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, created almost an orchestral wall of sound with the score to the original Star Wars. Its complexity and longevity earned it a coveted double-LP status when it was first released.

With winning musical cues like the brassy Rebel fanfare, Princess Leia’s gorgeous theme, the wearily noble Force motif and the classic main title, it’s little wonder that Star Wars won an Oscar (Williams’ third of five), a BAFTA, a Grammy and a Golden Globe, sold platinum in the U.S. and got two recordings of the main theme in the U.S. Top 10 (the original film version at No. 10, and the infamous disco version by Meco Monardoat the top of the charts).

The original album was 74 minutes of music (from a total of 88) out of film sequence for an optimal listening experience.

John Williams and The London Symphony Orchestra, Star Wars: The Original Soundtrack from the 20th Century Fox Film (20th Century Records 2T-541, 1977)

Disc 1

  1. Main Title – 5:20
  2. Imperial Attack – 6:10
  3. Princess Leia’s Theme – 4:18
  4. The Desert and The Robot Auction – 2:51
  5. Ben’s Death and TIE Fighter Attack – 3:46
  6. The Little People Work – 4:02
  7. Rescue of the Princess – 4:46
  8. Inner City – 4:12
  9. Cantina Band – 2:44

Disc 2

  1. The Land of the Sand People – 2:50
  2. Mouse Robot and Blasting Off – 4:01
  3. The Return Home – 2:46
  4. The Walls Converge – 4:37
  5. The Princess Appears – 4:04
  6. The Last Battle – 12:05
  7. The Throne Room and End Title – 5:28

A single (“Star Wars Main Title” b/w “Cantina Band”) was released (20th Century Records TC-2345, 1977).

For the middle act of the trilogy, Williams again led the LSO through an even denser set of musical ideas. The classic motifs were anchored by a trio of new ones: a light, almost whimsical theme for the Jedi Master Yoda; a bold, inherently evil tune for Darth Vader and a sweeping love theme for Han Solo and Princess Leia. Again, Empire was deemed worthy of double-LP status; although it failed to replicate the original soundtrack commercially, public opinion has been more than glowing (the John Williams Fan Network named Empire the composer’s best score ever).

John Williams and The London Symphony Orchestra, The Empire Strikes Back: The Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture (RSO RS-2-4201, 1980)

Disc 1

  1. Star Wars (Main Theme) – 5:49
  2. Yoda’s Theme – 3:24
  3. The Training of a Jedi Knight – 3:17
  4. The Heroics of Luke and Han – 6:18
  5. The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme) – 2:59
  6. Departure of Boba Fett – 3:30
  7. Han Solo and the Princess – 3:25
  8. Hyperspace – 4:02
  9. The Battle in the Snow – 3:48

Disc 2

  1. The Asteroid Field – 4:10
  2. The City in the Clouds – 6:29
  3. Rebels at Bay – 5:23
  4. Yoda and The Force – 4:01
  5. The Duel – 4:07
  6. The Magic Tree – 3:32
  7. Lando’s Palace – 3:52
  8. Finale – 6:28

The end of the trilogy, Return of the Jedi, has been unfairly dismissed as cutesy and ill-conceived. The music – again perfrormed by the LSO – was even more copious and the themes (while more reliant on the ideas from the first film) just as intriguing. The rumbling solo tuba for corpulent criminal Jabba the Hutt, the bouncy theme of the Ewoks and the evil Emperor’s ghastly motif were just some of the new themes written for Jedi. And yet, the film became the smallest LP in the trilogy, taking up only one single vinyl platter (blame the crumbling soundtrack market, which couldn’t justify double-LPs of Williams’ classic scores to Raiders of the Lost Ark or E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in the interim).

John Williams and The London Symphony Orchestra, Return of the Jedi: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (RSO 811 761-1 Y-1, 1983)

  1. Main Title (The Story Continues) – 5:09
  2. Into the Trap – 2:36
  3. Luke and Leia – 4:44
  4. Parade of the Ewoks – 3:25
  5. Han Solo Returns (At the Court of Jabba the Hutt) – 4:10
  6. Lapti Nek (Jabba’s Palace Band) – 2:49
  7. The Forest Battle – 4:01
  8. Rebel Briefing – 2:22
  9. The Emperor – 2:41
  10. The Return of the Jedi – 5:02
  11. Ewok Celebration and Finale – 8:00

An unusual 12″ promo single (Polygram 813 774-1) was released off the Jedi soundtrack: two remixes of “Lapti Nek” (a club mix and a dub) by Steve Thompson that have never been released on CD.

By 1985, the original soundtracks were starting to come out on compact disc. However, Empire became another victim of the shrinking soundtrack market, getting cut down to a ridiculously sequenced single CD that played like an LP with mislabeled sides.

The Empire Strikes Back: The Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture (Polydor 825 298-2, 1985)

  1. The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme) – 2:59
  2. Yoda’s Theme – 3:24
  3. The Asteroid Field – 4:10
  4. Han Solo and the Princess – 3:29
  5. Finale – 6:28
  6. Star Wars (Main Title) – 5:49
  7. The Training of a Jedi Knight – 3:17
  8. Yoda and The Force – 4:01
  9. The Duel – 4:07
  10. The Battle in the Snow – 3:48

After what seemed like an eternity of waiting for more Star Wars on CD, Fox and Arista answered fans’ cries with “the Anthology” – a four-disc set featuring almost all the music from the original LPs and much more, with a gorgeous package and liner notes to boot. (A few notable names abound on this set, including producer Nick Redman and liner notes author Lukas Kendall, founder of Film Score Monthly.) Although the making of the set was a grueling process (the poor upkeep of the Star Wars score masters made it difficult to grab decent sources for presentation – this and other technical aspects of the scores can be read in this fascinating article), the finished product was something delightful. (Some fans even prefer this set to more complete assemblances of the scores!) An extra disc was planned of more music (including one of the few Empire cues present on the original LP but missing from this box set), but it was shelved in favor of another expansive reissue years later.

Star Wars Trilogy: The Original Soundtrack Anthology (20th Century Fox Film Scores 07822 11012 2, 1993)

Disc 1: Star Wars

  1. 20th Century Fox Fanfare with CinemaScope Extension – 0:22 +
  2. Main Title – 5:23
  3. Imperial Attack – 6:41 **
  4. The Desert/The Robot Auction – 2:51
  5. The Little People Work – 4:08
  6. The Princess Appears – 4:06
  7. The Land of the Sandpeople – 2:55
  8. The Return Home – 2:48
  9. Inner City – 4:44 **
  10. Mouse Robot/Blasting Off – 4:03
  11. Rescue of the Princess – 4:48
  12. The Walls Converge – 4:43
  13. Ben’s Death/TIE Fighter Attack – 3:51
  14. Princess Leia’s Theme – 4:23
  15. The Last Battle – 12:13
  16. The Throne Room/End Titles – 5:32

Disc 2: The Empire Strikes Back

  1. 20th Century Fox Fanfare with CinemaScope Extension – 0:22
  2. Main Title/The Imperial Probe (Extended Version) – 7:58 **
  3. Luke’s Escape – 3:34 **
  4. Luke’s Rescue – 1:45
  5. The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme) – 2:59
  6. The Battle in the Snow – 3:45
  7. Luke’s First Crash – 4:12 **
  8. The Rebels Escape Again – 2:59
  9. The Asteroid Field – 4:14
  10. Yoda’s Theme – 3:26
  11. Han Solo and the Princess – 3:26
  12. The Training of a Jedi Knight – 3:13
  13. The Magic Tree – 3:32
  14. Yoda and The Force – 4:02
  15. City in the Clouds – 6:50 **
  16. Lando’s Palace – 3:52
  17. The Duel – 4:14
  18. Hyperspace – 4:03
  19. Finale/End Credits – 6:18

Disc 3: Return of the Jedi

  1. 20th Century Fox Fanfare with CinemaScope Extension – 0:22
  2. Main Title/Approaching the Death Star – 5:18
  3. Han Solo Returns (At the Court of Jabba the Hutt) – 4:06
  4. Fight in the Dungeon – 3:38 *
  5. The Return of the Jedi – 4:59
  6. The Emperor Arrives – 2:05 *
  7. The Death of Yoda – 6:03 *
  8. Parade of the Ewoks – 3:25
  9. Luke and Leia – 4:43
  10. The Emperor Confronts Luke – 3:26 *
  11. Into the Trap – 2:36
  12. First Ewok Battle/Fight with the Fighters – 7:18 *
  13. The Forest Battle – 4:01
  14. Final Duel/Into the Death Star – 3:37 *
  15. The Emperor’s Death – 2:41 ***
  16. Darth Vader’s Death – 2:31 *
  17. Through the Flames – 1:36 *
  18. Leia Breaks the News/Funeral Pyre for a Jedi – 2:19
  19. Ewok Celebration/Finale – 7:58

Disc 4: Extra Material

  1. 20th Century Fox Fanfare with CinemaScope Extension – 0:22
  2. Main Title (Alternate) – 2:16 (a) *
  3. Heroic Ewok/The Fleet Goes Into Hyperspace – 3:05 (c) *
  4. A Hive of Villainy – 2:12 (a) *
  5. Destruction of Alderaan – 1:31 (a) *
  6. Drawing the Battle Lines/Leia’s Instructions – 4:02 (b) *
  7. The Ewok Battle – 2:48 (c) *
  8. Attack Position – 3:04 (b) *
  9. Crash Landing – 3:35 (b) *
  10. Cantina Band – 2:46 (a)
  11. Lapti Nek – 2:48 (c)
  12. Cantina Band #2 – 3:44 (a) *
  13. Faking the Code – 4:10 (c) *
  14. Brother and Sister – 3:08 (c) *
  15. Standing By – 1:14 (a) *
  16. Leia is Wounded/Luke and Vader Duel – 2:57 (c) *
  17. Carbon Freeze/Luke Pursues the Captives/Depature of Boba Fett – 11:08 (b) **
  18. Losing a Hand – 5:20 (b) *
  19. The Return of the Jedi – 5:03 (Alternate) (c) *
  20. Leia Breaks the News (Alternate)/Funeral Pyre for a Jedi (Film Version) – 2:27 (c) *
  21. Ewok Celebration (Film Version) (c)/End Credits (Film Version) – 6:22 (b) *

+ this track is the LSO’s 1980 recording of the Fox Fanfare. The intro to Star Wars used Newman’s original recording from 1954.
* denotes previously unreleased track
** contains previously unreleased material
*** unlike the original LP/CD, this cue lacks an overdubbed synth tone.
(a) –
Star Wars, (b) – The Empire Strikes Back, (c) – Return of the Jedi

In 1997, to coincide with the 2oth anniversary of Star Wars and the ensuing special edition theatrical re-release, RCA released more thorough double-disc editions of each film score. All of them had much more music (though not all of the music from the Anthology, meaning hardcore fans should opt for both) and some fantastic liner notes by Mike Matessino. But unnecessary remixing and overcompression made these discs a bittersweet affair.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope – The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (RCA Victor 09026 68746 2, 1997)

Disc 1

  1. 20th Century Fox Fanfare with CinemaScope Extension – 0:22 ++
  2. Main Title/Rebel Blockade Runner – 2:14
  3. Imperial Attack – 6:42
  4. The Dune Sea of Tatooine/Jawa Sandcrawler – 5:01
  5. The Moisture Farm – 2:25 **
  6. The Hologram/Binary Sunset – 4:08
  7. Landspeeder Search/Attack of the Sand People – 3:20 **
  8. Tales of a Jedi Knight/Learn About the Force – 4:28 **
  9. Burning Homestead – 2:50
  10. Mos Eisley Spaceport – 2:16
  11. Cantina Band – 2:46
  12. Cantina Band #2 – 3:54
  13. Binary Sunset (Alternate)/Main Title (Master Takes #16-20) – 16:59 *

Disc 2

  1. Princess Leia’s Theme – 4:27
  2. The Millennium Falcon/Imperial Cruiser Pursuit – 3:51 **
  3. Destruction of Alderaan – 1:32
  4. The Death Star/The Stormtroopers – 3:34 *
  5. Wookiee Prisoner/Detention Block Ambush – 4:01
  6. Shootout in the Cell Bay/Dianoga – 3:47
  7. The Trash Compactor – 3:06
  8. The Tractor Beam/Chasm Crossfire – 5:18 **
  9. Ben Kenobi’s Death/TIE Fighter Attack – 3:51
  10. The Battle of Yavin (Launch from the Fourth Moon/X-Wings Draw Fire/Use The Force) – 9:06
  11. The Throne Room/End Title – 5:37

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back – The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (RCA Victor 09026 68747 2, 1997)

Disc 1

  1. 20th Century Fox Fanfare with CinemaScope Extension – 0:22
  2. Main Title/The Ice Planet Hoth – 8:08 **
  3. The Wampa’s Lair/Vision of Obi-Wan/Snowspeeders Take Flight – 8:48 **
  4. The Imperial Probe/Aboard the Executor – 4:24 *
  5. The Battle of Hoth (Ion Cannon/Imperial Walkers/Beneath the AT-AT/Escape in the Millennium Falcon) – 14:48
  6. The Asteroid Field – 4:15
  7. Arrival on Dagobah – 4:52 **
  8. Luke’s Nocturnal Visitor – 2:35
  9. Han Solo and the Princess – 3:26
  10. Jedi Master Revealed/Mynock Cave – 5:43 **
  11. The Training of a Jedi Knight/The Magic Tree – 5:16 **

Disc 2

  1. The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme) – 3:02
  2. Yoda’s Theme – 3:29
  3. Attacking a Star Destroyer – 3:04
  4. Yoda and The Force – 4:02
  5. Imperial Starfleet Deployed/City in the Clouds – 6:03 **
  6. Lando’s Palace – 3:53
  7. Betrayal at Bespin – 3:45 *
  8. Deal with the Dark Lord – 2:36 *
  9. Carbon Freeze/Vader’s Trap/Departure of Boba Fett – 11:50 **
  10. The Clash of Lightsabers – 4:17
  11. Rescue from Cloud City/Hyperspace – 9:08
  12. The Rebel Fleet/End Title – 6:27

Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi – The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (RCA Victor 09026 67848-2, 1997)

Disc 1

  1. 20th Century Fox Fanfare with CinemaScope Extension – 0:22
  2. Main Title/Approaching the Death Star/Tatooine Rendezvous – 9:16 **
  3. The Droids Are Captured – 1:17
  4. Bounty for a Wookiee – 2:50
  5. Han Solo Returns – 4:01 **
  6. Luke Confronts Jabba/Den of the Rancor/Sarlacc Sentence – 8:48 **
  7. The Pit of Carkoon/Sail Barge Assault – 6:02 **
  8. The Emperor Arrives/The Death of Yoda/Obi-Wan’s Revelation – 10:57
  9. Alliance Assembly – 2:10
  10. Shuttle Tydirium Approaches Endor – 4:06
  11. Speeder Bike Chase/Land of the Ewoks – 9:38
  12. The Levitation/Threepio’s Bedtime Story – 2:44 *
  13. Jabba’s Baroque Recital (Source) – 3:03 *
  14. Jedi Rocks (Source) – 2:49 *
  15. Sail Barge Assault (Alternate) – 5:06

Disc 2

  1. Parade of the Ewoks – 3:27
  2. Luke and Leia – 4:45
  3. Brother and Sister/Father and Son/The Fleet Enters Hyperspace/Heroic Ewok – 10:39
  4. The Emperor’s Throne Room – 3:25
  5. The Battle of Endor I (Into the Trap/Forest Ambush/Scout Walker Scramble/Prime Weapon Fires) – 11:50 **
  6. The Lightsaber/The Ewok Battle – 4:31 **
  7. The Battle of Endor II (Leia is Wounded/The Duel Begins/Overtaking the Bunker/The Dark Side Beckons/The Emperor’s Death) – 10:02 **
  8. The Battle of Endor III (Superstructure Chase/Darth Vader’s Death/The Main Reactor) – 6:03 **
  9. Leia’s News/Light of the Force – 3:21
  10. Victory Celebration/End Title – 8:33 **
  11. Ewok Feast/Part of the Tribe (Source) – 4:00 *
  12. The Forest Battle – 4:05

+ For this release the original Fox Fanfare recording is restored.
* denotes previously unreleased track
** contains previously unreleased material

In the ten-plus years since the Special Edition scores, Sony Classical has released the same double-disc configurations another two times (once in 2004 and once in 2007). The packaging got considerably worse (no liner notes, ridiculous cut-n-paste collages) and the sound quality got no better (don’t be fooled by Sony’s Direct Stream Digital hooey). A straight-up, well-mastered release of the original LPs would be welcomed, as would a more complete score presentation (perhaps a jazz-style master takes box set). But until Sony (and Lucasfilm) wake up and heed the fans’ wishes, not even Yoda can get us what we want.

Written by Mike Duquette

May 21, 2010 at 11:00

One Response

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  1. Ah, ‘Luke and Leia’ from ‘Jedi’ such a beautiful
    theme…

    villabourani

    December 30, 2010 at 17:29


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