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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

John Williams -- Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack(Special Edition))

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The Empire Strikes Back, the second film in the Original Star Wars Trilogy, is deep and dark, more nuanced and sophisticated than its predecessor. Its soundtrack follows suit.
The music of The Empire Strikes Back is less bombastic and brassy than A New Hope's soundtrack, though it includes "The Imperial March" and "The Asteroid Field," two of the series' most aggressive tracks. These louder works are more percussive than the brass-driven rhythms of A New Hope, actually dating the album less (though as I mentioned in its review, A New Hope's datedness is timeless). The Empire Strikes Back's score is also more enveloping and atmospheric than victorious and swashbuckling. This is fitting for a film whose climax is a hair's breadth's escape, as opposed to a cathartic explosion.
Frankly, Williams score for The Empire Strikes Back does more world-building for the entire Star Wars universe than almost any element found in any of the six films. He invokes light and darkness so corporeally that The Empire Strikes Back would be just as effective as a silent film. I don't want to downplay the film's direction, set design, cinematography, special effects, script, and acting, but John Williams' work is irreplaceable. "Yoda's Theme" clearly draws the character's gentle whimsy and wisdom and personality traits. Darth Vader's "Imperial March" is even more menacing than the mask he wears. Luke's themes are just as heroic as his deeds. "Han Solo and the Princess"'s theme is just as satisfying a payoff to their cracking banter as their eventual kiss. Perhaps the most incredible mark of this all-time classic film score is Williams' ability to keep the music constantly flowing, all the while changing in tone and emotion. The fifteen minute "The Battle of Hoth..." is as representative of the whole and as good an argument as any that Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is the greatest recorded film score of all time.

NOTE: This is a review of the 1997 re-issue, which contains of all the film's music, presented chronologically. Before this 1997 re-mastered edition, large portions of this music had never been released.

1980, 1997 Sony Classical
Disc One
1. 20th Century Fox Fanfare 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 ... 14:48
6 The Asteroid Field 4:15
7 Arrival of 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 5:15

Disc Two
1 The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme) 3:03
2 Yoda's Theme 3:29
3 Attacking a Star Destroyer a 3:04
4 Yoda and the Force 4:02
5 Imperial Starfleet Depyoed/City in the Clouds 6:03
6 Lando's Palace a 3:53
7 Betrayal at Bespin 3:46
8 Deal With the Dark Lord 2:36
9 Carbon Freeze/Darth 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

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