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The Collector's Edition Soundtrack
by John Williams

Even though this was composed a few months after Star Wars, Close Encounters is about as far away from its predecessor as you can get.  It is definitely not for everyone, but I really enjoy it.  When I first bought it, I was ready to take it back the next day, but then I listened to the whole thing again and was hooked.  The famous five-note motif is only in the last few tracks, so the whole CD isn’t just that theme repeated over and over again.  This release is stupendous.  It has great packaging and liner notes, and every track except for about two has some new material.

Track by track analysis:
1. Opening: Let There Be Light (:48)
 An ingenious opening!  It begins with a dissonant string chord that gradually gets louder and louder.  Then a female choir comes in and the music builds up to a startling chord.
2. Navy Planes (2:07)
3. Lost Squadron (2:23)
 Two standard exciting Williams action cues.  They sound like they could have come out of Indiana Jones, but more dissonant.  These tracks sound great.
4. Roy’s First Encounter (2:41)
5. Encounter at Crescendo Summit (1:21)
6. Chasing UFOs (1:18)
 Basically these are all dissonant suspense cues.  There is a common motif in most of them, and fragments of themes to be heard later occasionally pop up.
7. False Alarm (1:42)
This track starts with a hint of the “wonder motif,” but this dissipates when the supposed UFOs are actually military helicopters.
8. Barry’s Kidnapping (6:19)
This might be the scariest track John Williams has ever written.  Very avant-garde.  Most people who only enjoy classic Williams will probably want to skip this.  It has ingenious orchestrations, complete with a screaming female chorus.  Don’t listen to it alone in the dark.
9. The Coverup (2:26)
 This piece introduces the conspiracy theme.  It is appropriately mysterious, but still exciting.  The government knows that something is amiss, and tries to find a way to scare people out of the UFO area.
10. Stars and Trucks (:44)
 Although very short, this is still a great composition.  After a statement of the wonder motif, the conspiracy theme returns.  This time it is a grand military march, very reminiscent of Jerry Goldsmith.
11. Forming the Mountain (1:50)
12. TV Reveals (1:50)
 These tracks develop the wonder motif.
13. Roy and Gillian on the Road (1:10)
 An exciting action cue.  The theme has been heard before in the score and sounds a little like the conspiracy theme.  In the original version, this was part of the end credits.
14. The Mountain (3:31)
 Roy and Gillian finally find what they have been looking for and have been seeing visions about.  The wonder motif get extended into a real theme.
15. “Who Are You People?” (1:35)
A full statement of the conspiracy theme.
16. The Escape (2:18)
17. The Escape (Alternate) (2:40)
These reprise some of the previous themes and motifs, including the suspense motif from tracks 4-6, but combined with the extended wonder theme.
18. Trucking (2:01)
This develops the exciting action motif from "Roy and Gillian on the Road."
19. Climbing the Mountain (2:32)
The motif from the previous track is developed some more, but a lot of the track has dissonant suspense parts.  It also contains many surreal action moments.
20. Outstretch Hands (2:48)
Avant garde action sequence.
21. Lightshow (3:43)
Atonality at the beginning is overtaken by impressionistic, wondrous music complete with choir.
22. Barnstorming (4:26)
Atonal suspense at the beginning becomes more and more frantic until a choir comes in with more impressionistic music.  The extended "wonder" motif makes an appearance near the end.
23. The Mothership (4:34)
More dissonant suspense music like that of "Barry's Kidnapping" underscores the arrival of the mothership.  Definitely not easy listening.  Once again, the wonder motif appears at the end.
24. Wild Signals (4:12)
This is the famous "conversation track."  Here, the five-note motif makes its first appearance, and the fun cue proceeds to play it in many different variations.
25. The Returnees (3:45)
This continues in the vein of tracks 20-23.
26. The Visitors/"Bye"/End Titles: The Special Edition (12:31)
Although there is some very creepy avant-garde music in the first few minutes, the fear eventually dissolves as Williams interpolates "When You Wish Upon A Star."  This epic track tries to show us that the aliens are peaceful, and that the fears earlier in the movie were unfounded.  The (unused) end titles feature a charming arrangement of "When You Wish Upon A Star" along with a final statement of the five-note motif.

As I said above, this may not suit all tastes, but even if you don't purchase the complete album, at least find a compilation with the final track.  The remastered sound quality is excellent, and the performance is exemplary.  Nearly all of the score is finally presented in its uncut form, and even at 77 minutes, it hardly ever becomes dull.  Overall, GET IT! (unless you hate remotely atonal music.  Even then, you'll probably still find something to like.)

Close Encounters: The Final Score
Music Rating 9.5/10
Packaging/Liner Notes 10/10
Orchestral Performance 9/10
Sound Quality 10/10
Length 10/10

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Close Encounters of the Third Kind is Copyright 1998 by Arista Records.  Its appearance on this site is for informational, nonprofit use and is not meant as copyright infringement.  Review Copyright 1999 by Andrew Drannon.  As always, these opinions are mine, not Tripod's, or anybody else's.