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STAR

WARS

by John Williams
After JAWS firmly implanted John Williams into the public conscious, he sealed his placement with the immortal STAR WARS.  For this first part of his nonvocal opera cycle, he introduced several leitmotivic themes and blended them seamlessly.  The result is, of  course, extraordinary.  Hearkening back to the glory days of Korngold and Steiner, this score is the basis for most future film music.  This rerelease features beautifully remastered sound, the cues from the original album separated and in film order, plus a few new cues.  The liner notes are superb, with detailed commentary on each track by Michael Matessino.  However, if you have the 1993 box set, unless you are a diehard SW freak or really want the cues in chronological order, I'd suggest you go for one of the other two Special Edition releases, as they have more new material.  In my case it was different, however.  I had the box set and was really debating whether or not to buy this.  At that time I was contemplating entering the BMG Music Service, and I found out that I could get this for about $5.  Needless to say, I grabbed it.  In the end, it was nice to have the complete versions of all the cues, but I wouldn't have paid much more than this for it, only because I had all but 10 minutes of the music.

Track by Track Analysis:
CD 1:   The first CD consists of  mostly low key desert music like track 4.  It begins with the immortal main title, followed by the first big action set piece - Imperial Attack.  Unless I'm in the right mood, I usually skip to the second disc after hearing Imperial Attack.

1. 20th Century Fox Fanfare (:23)
This rerelease opens with an archival (1954) version of Alfred Newman's 20th Century Fox Fanfare.  The sound on this is truly horrid, especially compared to the rerecorded version that John Williams made for the latter two films.  Oh well, I guess they wanted to preserve every single nuance of the score.

2. Main Title/Rebel Blockade Runner (2:14)
The heroic, noble main title comes next.  I don't think anything needs to be said about this, and if you haven't heard it there's something terribly wrong with you ;)  Actually, after three films full of references to this theme, it becomes somewhat wearing, although not necessarily in this track.  As a matter of fact, this is my favorite performance of the theme out of all three films, especially the spacious sound quality and orchestration of the opening brass fanfare.  On the old album, this segued into a version of the end titles, to give it the feeling of an overture.  I enjoy it much more on here without that annoying jump.  The short epilogue is the first statement of the grand Rebel action fanfare.

3. Imperial Attack (6:43)
Continuing from the previous track, this opens with an ominous statement of the Rebel fanfare over a pulsing timpani ostinato.  A trumpet fanfare heralds the coming of the Imperials, and a violent action cue erupts, giving us the first hint of the Imperial theme (not the march from TESB, but a less over-the-top action motif.)  What follows is more action based on the Rebel fanfare.  After a few seconds of quiet, we get our first glimpse of the Force/Ben's theme along with the first statement of Leia's theme.  A violent horn ostinato leads into ominous brass glissandi under harps as Vader chokes a guard.  Following another brass outburst, there are various statements of Leia's theme & assorted action sections, along a quiet version of the Imperial theme & a pleading, soaring string passage as the droids land on the planet.  Truly inspiring.  After this, we hear variations on the Imperial motif in several keys.  A first statement of the foreboding Death Star motif ends the track.

4. The Dune Sea of Tatooine/Jawa Sandcrawler (5:01)
Now we hit the desert music, which opens with desolate chords on strings.  The second part of the track is the introduction of the repetitive, playful Jawa music.  Their theme is first introduced on the bassoon under a swinging horn ostinato.  The rest of the track is a collection of permutations on this theme, eventually played by all sections of the orchestra.  I think this cue goes on too long, and a few minutes could have been shaved off.  The last section opens with the Death Star motif, followed by a wandering version of the Imperial motif.

5. The Moisture Farm (2:25)
More Jawa music.  Yay.  It expands on the theme somewhat, and ends with the first statement of Luke's theme since the main title.  A previously unreleased short coda that's not based on any thematic material ends the track.

6. The Hologram/Binary Sunset (4:10)
Opens with various flute meanderings, leading to the first full statement of Leia's theme under string chords.  Binary Sunset, one of the most potent cues on the album, opens with a yearning statement of Luke's theme followed by an expansion of surging Force theme.  Following more meanderings and another variation of Luke's theme, the Force theme returns in a celestial arrangement.  IMHO, the alternate was better.  I think that the Force theme actually gets pretty tedious after you've heard it a few times.

7. Landspeeder Search/Attack of the Sandpeople (3:20)
This semi-action cue begins with a running horn ostinato, and a playful version of Luke's theme follows.  This leads into harsh, percussive music for Sand People.  The actual attack begins with an ominous string run followed by a flute motif, followed by more percussive Sand People stuff.  This section is slightly reminiscent of the Skeleton Battle from Herrman's Seventh Voyage of Sinbad.  Eventually comes another statement of the Force theme.

8. Tales of a Jedi Knight/Learn About the Force (4:29)
Another celestial arrangement of Ben's theme opens the track, followed by ominous Sand People music.  The second part is a quiet arrangement of the Imperial theme, along with more Force theme.  Already it's becoming tedious!  Oh yeah, Leia's theme appears too.

9. Burning Homestead (2:50)
A mournful trumpet solo opens this, leading to an ominous woodwind motif.  As Luke races home to find his Burning Homestead (hence the name) Williams does a desperate version of the Force theme.  The rest accompanies Leia's torture scene, which begins with a full statement of the Death Star motif, Imperial motif, and Leia's theme.  The track ends with a desperate string motif followed by timpani.

10. Mos Eisley Spaceport (2:16)
More thematic meanderings, which lead to a brass fanfare depicting Mos Eisley Spaceport from overhead.  The rest is various ostinati and an unremarkable flute rendition of the Imperial motif.  More Force theme ends the cue.

11. Cantina Band (2:47) - Source Music
Everyone knows this.  It's the jazzy source music from, gasp!, the Cantina!

12. Cantina Band #2 (3:56) - Source Music
See above.

13a. Binary Sunset (Alternate) (2:19) - Archival Bonus Track
I think this would have worked much better in the movie than the one chosen.  It doesn't utilize the overused Force theme, and is more ominous, describing Luke's future.  A string motif plays over chromatic trumpets in the opening, and the rest is minor key passages.

13b. Main Title Archive (12:00) - Archival Bonus Track
At the end of disc one, the producers inserted a nice extra - all five takes of the main title.  The orchestrations vary between each one, and the early versions had no trace of the opening brass fanfare.  It's interesting to hear once, but that's probably all you'll want to hear.

CD 2: For the second CD, Williams really lets loose, giving us many signature action cues and a stunning 9 minute climactic battle.

1. Princess Leia's Theme (4:27) - Concert Arrangement
Basically an expansion on Leia's theme.  It's pretty good, but sticks out like a sore thumb in this position.  I think it would go better at the end of the disc.

2. The Millenium Falcon/Imperial Cruiser Pursuit (3:51)
Underscore returns with this ominous cue, with various chromatic passages (chromaticism (is that a word?) is really prominent in this score, especially in the first CD with the desert music.)  The middle portion of "The Millenium Falcon" is (not surprisingly) based on Luke's theme.  The second cue begins with a march version of the Imperial motif, followed by an outburst of action based on the Force theme.  More harsh chromatic horn passages occur, as well.  The action continues to build, climaxing in an awe-inspiring statement of the Death Star motif, now fully developed.

3. Destruction of Alderaan (1:32)
For this mechanical march, no thematic material is utilized.   A hovering flute motif represents Leia as she realizes that her home planet's toast.  For the actual destruction, Williams uses a threatening horn march.

4. The Death Star/The Stormtroopers (3:35)
One of my personal favorite cues on the album, this opens with dissonant brass chords as the Millenium Falcon approaches the Death Star.  The chords become a military march, and the bass ostinato segues into an incredible variation of the Rebel Fanfare.  The cue ends with a pounding string ostinato.  Previously unreleased, "The Stormtroopers" opens with (yawn) the Force theme, which leads into a march of the Imperial motif.  Following a timpani outburst, Williams uses a tension-building rendition of the Imperial motif.  Another outburst of action, with hints of Luke's theme.

5. Wookie Prisoner/Detention Block Ambush (4:01)
Previously titled "Mouse Robot" this opens with a playful passage that segues into a trombone call followed by various percussion stuff.  Hints of the dissonant brass chords, this time played on the strings, figure into the piece.   Luke's theme returns and more tension music follows.  Eventually another of Williams' signature brass action cues breaks into the orchestra, based on Luke's theme.  The Rebel Fanfare returns near the end, which precedes a short statement of Leia's theme, and the rest is more Luke theme. Joy.

6. Shootout in the Cell Bay/Dianoga (3:48)
Another one of my personal favorite action cues, this is based mostly on the Imperial theme and the Rebel fanfare.  IMHO, "Dianoga" should have been thrown on to the beginning of the next track, since the two are related.  Unused in the film, it introduces the trash compactor theme, played on horn with fluttering flute accompaniment.

7. The Trash Compactor (3:07)
Finally, another track that doesn't utilize thematic material!  Basically it is an expansion of the trash compactor theme, introduced in "Dianoga."  It continues to build, eventually reaching epic proportions as our heroes nearly get crushed by the compactor.  But, of course, they're all immortal, so nothing bad happens.  Another one of my favorite cues.

8. The Tractor Beam/Chasm Crossfire (5:18)
Fittingly titled "Ben Creeps Around" on the conductor's score, this is a collection of foreboding string passages punctuated by various percussion.  The second part is another swashbuckling action cue based entirely on Luke's theme.  I like the nice ostinato that opens it, but the rest is repetitive variations on Luke's theme.  As I said above, I really find that particular theme tedious after about the, what, 50th time we've heard it?  Oh well, I guess it's nice the first few times.

9. Ben Kenobi's Death/TIE Fighter Attack (3:51)
Now we get to the absolute highlights of the score.  This epic set piece fits the movie like a glove.  It opens with a melancholy statement of the Force theme, followed by variations on the most tragic theme of the score, Leia's theme.  The rest of the track is an exhilarating action cue based on the Rebel Fanfare, one of my favorite themes of the entire trilogy.  After more Force theme, a bouncing motif plays in the strings, which builds into the bulk of the piece, permutations on the Rebel Fanfare.  As the last fighter explodes, Williams gives us a triumphant version of the Death Star motif.  Also, the motif of chromatics figures prominently into this, appearing a couple times.

10. The Battle of Yavin (9:07) - Easily my favorite suite on the entire set.  The themes meld together seamlessly.
        a. Launch From the Fourth Moon
                As the fighters launch, Williams plays desolate string chords.  The rest of the cue is based on a militaristic ostinato.    More chromatics, too.
        b. X-Wings Draw Fire
                This is partially based on the Force theme.  The Imperial motif appears for the last time.  Much of this will later be used in one cue from Return of the Jedi.  The action becomes more dissonant and desperate as the piece progresses.
        c. Use the Force
                After a long pause, a morose horn fanfare enters.  More dissonant action.  Like the previous track, the action becomes more desperate and hopeless as the piece progresses.  My favorite moment starts when the minor key version of Luke's theme enters.  As it becomes more and more hopeless, the Force theme enters in a soaring statement, and Luke's theme becomes a major key.  It is transposed back down into a minor key, but even while the dissonant death throe chords of the Death Star are playing, we know now that nothing bad is going to happen.  Hints of the Rebel fanfare end the track.

11. The Throne Room/End Title (5:38)
The final scene is based on a clever variation of the Force motif.  The end credits, as we all know, is Leia's theme bookended by two renditions of the main theme/Luke's theme.

Even though the 20+ playings of Luke's theme and the Force theme eventually become wearing and tedious, and the first disc is mostly desert music (not necessarily boring or bad, just very slow and repetitive,) Star Wars is, simply, the father of most modern film scores.  (The grandfathers are the adventures of the 30's and 40's composed by Steiner and Korngold.)  This CD release has excellent liner notes, improved sound, and a host of other surprises.  Although I don't really think it's the best score of all time (that place is reserved for the sequel) I must still highly recommend this.



 
Star Wars: The Final Score
Music Rating 9/10
Packaging/Liner Notes 10/10
Orchestral Performance 10/10
Sound Quality 9/10
Length 8/10



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Star Wars is Copyright 1997 by RCA Victor.  Its appearance is for educational use only.  Review Copyright 1999 by Andrew Drannon.  Opinions are mine.  Ich spreche Deutsch nicht so gut.  Du bist blod.  Wow, that was a long review.