Star Wars: The Last Jedi – music by John Williams

Star Wars: The Last JediStar Wars fandom may never be a cohesive whole again once the post-original-trilogy trilogy wraps up. The Force Awakens was knowingly derivative – on purpose, so we’re told in hindsight – to bring a new, younger audience into the familiar story beats of a Star Wars movie, while The Last Jedi‘s iconoclastic approach to the story’s remaining original trilogy characters seemed to split Star Wars fandom down the middle. The one unchanging constant in this whirlwind, however, has been John Williams, the architect of the orchestral Star Wars sound.

The soundtrack from The Last Jedi, appropriately for the middle chapter of a trilogy, leans heavily on themes already established. Themes for Rey, Kylo Ren/the First Order, and Poe/the Resistance are holdovers from The Force Awakens, with Rey’s theme given a great deal of development here. From the original trilogy, the Force theme (also frequently associated with Obi-Wan Kenobi) gets plenty of play here, as does a theme for another Jedi Master long past. The TIE Fighter battle theme is back as the Millennium Falcon shakes off its pursuers on Crait, with maybe two seconds of whimsy dropped in for Chewie’s new Porg sidekick. (Not heard on the album: the re-use of the Emperor’s theme for Snoke – perhaps a tacitly tuneful admission that the two were nearly interchangeable?) Luke and Leia’s reunion gets a somber, low-key treatment of their theme from Return Of The Jedi, tagged out by a short reference to Han and Leia’s love theme before Luke strides into battle against Kylo Ren.

Virtually the only truly new theme here is reserved for Finn’s winsome new partner, Rose (though that description should, perhaps, be the other way around). This leaves the movie’s major action setpieces for the majority of “new” material – percussive, raging battle music for Rey and Ren’s fight against Snoke’s guards, Finn’s final fight with Phasma, and naturally Luke’s climcactic duel with Kylo Ren. “The Battle Of Crait” rolls out a low, threatening motif for the oncoming First Order forces, as well as a choral interlude for Finn’s futile attempt to sacrifice himself for the Rebel cause.

The introduction to Canto Bight has an opulent opening (hearkening back to some of the “Coruscant” music from the prequel trilogy, which then segues into a boisterous jazz tune that sounds like it’s played by the same ensemble as the original Star Wars‘ Cantina Band music. It’s not a callback to that specific tune, but very much a delightful callback to its style. “The Fathiers”, accompanying the scenes of Finn and Rose lowering Canto Bight’s property value with large, four-legged help, is a callback of another kind – it sounds like a theme from an Indiana Jones movie slipped into the Star Wars universe.

I can handle a soundtrack falling back on old favorites more gracefully than I can handle the entire script of a movie doing so, and – spoiler alert – John Williams gives Luke Skywalker and Leia a truly epic sendoff, the 5 out of 4former with a mythic choral treatment, and the latter with her theme from Star Wars arranged for piano during the end credit tribute to the late Carrie Fisher.

With J.J. Abrams back in the driver’s seat for Episode IX, the question isn’t whether John Williams’ final Star Wars outing is worthy of the franchise. The question now becomes whether or not the movie itself will be worthy of Williams’ grand finale.

Order this CD

  1. Main Title and Escape (7:26)
  2. Ahch-To Island (4:23)
  3. Revisiting Snoke (3:29)
  4. The Supremacy (4:01)
  5. Fun with Finn and Rose (2:34)
  6. Old Friends (4:29)
  7. The Rebellion is Reborn (4:00)
  8. Lesson One (2:10)
  9. Canto Bight (2:38)
  10. Who Are You? (3:04)
  11. The Fathiers (2:42)
  12. The Cave (3:00)
  13. The Sacred Jedi Texts (3:33)
  14. A New Alliance (3:13)
  15. Chrome Dome (2:03)
  16. The Battle of Crait (6:48)
  17. The Spark (3:36)
  18. The Last Jedi (3:04)
  19. Peace and Purpose (3:08)
  20. Finale (8:28)

Released by: Walt Disney Records
Release date: December 15, 2017
Total running time: 77:49

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – music by John Williams

Star Wars: The Force AwakensJ.J. Abrams had no shortage of composers who he could’ve called into action for this project; indeed, during press junkets for Star Trek: Into Darkness, not long after Abrams was announced as the first non-Lucas director of a Star Wars feature film, he was being asked if he was going to bring longtime collaborator Michael Giacchino to the Star Wars franchise, or if he would try to rouse John Williams out of semi-retirement. As much of a Star Wars fanboy as Abrams is, it didn’t seem terribly surprising that he fully expected to work with Williams. Ultimately, you bring Williams back to Star Wars for the same reason that you pull Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher back into it: to create a point of audience identification and to make this new, outside-the-original-trilogy entry authentic.

There, at least, Williams – now 81 years old – succeeds, because he set the bar for what to expect. But The Force Awakens isn’t really Star Wars from the past: it’s Star Wars for the future. For lack of a better way to put it, the “texture” of the soundtrack is very different, as it deals with a movie that takes place in settings unimagined in the six prior films, populated largely by character we’ve never met before. Williams gives Jakku a different flavor of desolation than Tatooine, and Kylo Ren’s musical signature is very different from Darth Vader’s. It’s an almost entirely new universe scored with almost entirely new music.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t some familiar tunes; outside of the main titles, the Star Wars theme makes itself heard first in “The Falcon”, an otherwise new track whose rapid-fire strings echo the past exploits of Han’s ship. It may not be “Hyperspace” or “The Asteroid Field”, but it’s still a pulse-raising piece of music. The Star Wars theme shows up as a motif elsewhere, including “Scherzo For X-Wings”. “Han And Leia” revives both the Princess Leia theme from Star Wars, and “Han Solo And The Princess” from The Empire Strikes Back, and both themes show up elsewhere as well.

It’s probably no surprise to anyone that the Force theme, whose perfect Platonic ideal performance-wise remains “Binary Sunset” from Star Wars, also reappears (what with the Force awakening and all). But what’s more surprising is to hear it coupled, in “The Jedi Steps and Finale”, with a musical callback to the prequel trilogy, referencing music from the scene showing Anakin’s final transformation into Vader. A surprising and ominous choice for a refrain.

It all adds up to a nice musical package. Some fans demand completion in their soundtracks; in some cases, I’m one of them. But Williams has always sequenced and sorted his soundtrack albums so they make cohesive musical sense as a listening experience. He picks out his favorite bits, and even though the three original trilogy movies have each received more-or-less-complete score releases, I still find myself going back to the original albums. The Force Awakens soundtrack is a lot like that: there’s over an hour of music here (something of a minor miracle given that it was recorded in Los Angeles by union musicians, a factor that many labels cite when issuing irritatingly short soundtrack releases), and Williams’ favorite material 4 out of 4is good enough for me. As much as the shiny new action figures of Rey and Finn and Poe Dameron and Kylo Ren (and, yes, BB-8) sitting on my shelf, a new CD of new Star Wars music by John Williams himself is the thing that says “It’s back!” more than anything else. (Now I’ll just be waiting for Meco’s take on the whole thing.)

With the next franchise movie (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) set to be scored by Alexandre Desplat, it’s clear that the learners weaned on Williams’ soundtracks will soon become the masters. But if this is the last Star Wars movie Williams scores, he’s left a parting shot to show the next generation of Star Wars soundtrack composers how it’s done.

Order this CD

  1. Main Title and the Attack on the Jakku Village (6:25)
  2. The Scavenger (3:39)
  3. I Can Fly Anything (3:11)
  4. Rey Meets BB-8 (1:31)
  5. Follow Me (2:54)
  6. Rey’s Theme (3:11)
  7. The Falcon (3:32)
  8. That Girl With The Staff (1:58)
  9. The Rathtars! (4:05)
  10. Finn’s Confession (2:08)
  11. Maz’s Counsel (3:07)
  12. The Starkiller (1:51)
  13. Kylo Ren Arrives At The Battle (2:01)
  14. The Abduction (2:25)
  15. Han And Leia (4:41)
  16. March Of The Resistance (2:35)
  17. Snoke (2:03)
  18. On the Inside (2:05)
  19. Torn Apart (4:19)
  20. The Ways Of The Force (3:14)
  21. Scherzo For X-wings (2:32)
  22. Farewell And The Trip (4:55)
  23. The Jedi Steps and Finale (8:51)

Released by: Disney Music
Release date: December 18, 2015
Total running time: 77:28

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – music by Kevin Kiner

Having reviewed the music from nearly the entire prequel trilogy “sight unseen” (i.e. without seeing the movie first), I thought I could get away with it again here, with the soundtrack to the CG-animated movie The Clone Wars. It may turn out that this wasn’t a good idea, because the soundtrack is as much a departure from everything that has gone before it as the film itself.

What sets The Clone Wars apart from the prequel and original trilogies is that it was done entirely in the computer. One could argue that no camera ever rolled on large chunks of Episode II and Episode III as well, but with Clone Wars there’s not even a pretense of photorealism – the characters are now seen in a stylized, animé-inspired light, and the only actors involved are voice actors. It would seem that the entirely-computer-generated scenes of the prequel trilogy were just a stepping stone.

The music marks a significant departure from the rest of the saga as well. For one of the very few times in the Star Wars franchise’s history, it has been decided to go with a composer other than John Williams, although of course the new maestro may make use of Williams’ themes from time to time. In this case, the new musical voice of Star Wars is provided by Kevin Kiner, who has scored several films and TV shows on his own (such as the Leprechaun movies and Stargate SG-1), and served a vital role in the final season of Star Trek: Enterprise when the show’s budget cuts forced its composers to fall back on synths and samples instead of real orchestral instruments; Kiner teamed up with longtime Trek composer Dennis McCarthy and fleshed out McCarthy’s music into synth-orchestral life. The best example of this available on record may be on McCarthy’s privately-released Star Trek: Borg soundtrack, whose last three tracks are explosive, memorable stuff that you’d swear was performed by a huge ensemble. Kiner is, in fact, that good.

But from the first moments of music on the Clone Wars soundtrack, it’s clear that the musical vocabulary of Star Wars is changing along with the visual vocabulary. The music is a complete departure from the traditional opening of a Star Wars film, and though Williams’ immortal theme tune is quoted, it’s quoted in an unfamiliar context. For those of us who are rushing toward (or past) the age of 40 like the Millennium Falcon making the Kessel Run, it could be seen as a sign that this isn’t our Star Wars anymore – this is Star Wars for our kids.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the early track “Obi-Wan To The Rescue”, which breaks right out of the romantic-orchestral mode into a staccato barrage of electric guitar. To be fair, screaming guitars could be heard woven into the orchestral textures of Episode II‘s wild chase through the “streets” of Coruscant, but here, it’s front and center, and instead of being an exotic flavoring, it’s rock ‘n’ roll. Similarly, tracks such as “Ziro’s Nightclub Band” and “Seedy City Swing” don’t attempt to view earthly music through a somewhat alien prism (a la Williams’ “Cantina Band” cues) – they’re on-the-nose earthly music with no pretensions of being anything but. Given that this installment of the franchise – and it subsequent TV incarnation, which will also be scored by Kiner – seems to be aimed at a younger audience, I’m not saying that these more traditional, not-so-otherworldly treatments are bad. They server their purpose as a kind musical shorthand for the action they accompany.

And yet, with cues like “Destroying The Shield”, you’d swear Williams was at the conductor’s podium – Kiner’s original pieces, for the most part, do not sound out of place next to the rest of the saga. This is partly why I listened to the soundtrack before seeing the movie: I wanted to see if the music would work just fine if there were real actors on the screen in costume. It’s not like this is John Williams meets Carl Stalling. There’s nothing I can think of that stands out as “cartoon music.” Slightly cliched bits of source music? Sure. Maybe all of a couple of minutes’ worth. This is why we have “next track” buttons.

Those expecting wholesale use of Williams’ themes all over the place, however, may be surprised – Kiner develops his own themes across the board, and while there are occasionally hints of the musical signatures originated by Williams, you don’t get big, obvious quotations of the original Star Wars themes until the very end, when some really neat variations on “The Imperial March” and the Ben Kenobi/Force theme roll out. By this time, you’ve grown so accustomed to not hearing a lot of the Williams material that their appearance comes as a shock, which is a neat effect.

Fans of Star Wars music will probably square off along a love/hate battle line to which no skirmish between clones and battle droids can compare when it comes to this album. With its orchestral-plus-occasional-rock-and-techno-beats style, this is post-Matrix Star Wars music. Oddly enough, fans who have already had their palates cleansed in advance by some of the better Star Wars game music of the past 10 years, from Force Commander’s rockin’ remixes to Empire At War’s stew of original material and Williams quotations, will be primed for this approach; those who have stuck to nothing but the original six film scores may be shocked.

4 out of 4The story of Star Wars, and its music, are under new management (though with George Lucas standing over everyone’s shoulder, clearly with the approval of the old guard), making new Star Wars stories for a new audience. And going by this first installment, there really isn’t anything necessarily wrong with that. It’s cracking good adventure movie music with a few nods back to some old favorites. Star Wars was such a boon to my generation when we were in our single digits – it single-handedly got me fascinated with the visual medium, orchestral music, and the concept of space as a whole, all of which have stayed with me my entire life. So even if this is the sound of Star Wars for our kids…that’s cool. They should be so lucky to have that same kind of inspiration.

Order this CD

  1. A Galaxy Divided (1:13)
  2. Admiral Yularen (0:56)
  3. Battle Of Christophsis (3:19)
  4. Meet Ahsoka (2:44)
  5. Obi-Wan To The Rescue (1:24)
  6. Sneaking Under The Shield (4:24)
  7. Jabba’s Palace (0:46)
  8. Anakin Vs. Dooku (2:18)
  9. Landing On Teth (1:43)
  10. Destroying The Shield (3:08)
  11. B’omarr Monastery (3:10)
  12. Battle Strategy (3:07)
  13. The Shield (1:36)
  14. Battle Of Teth (2:45)
  15. Jedi Don’t Run! (1:22)
  16. Obi-Wan’s Negotiation (2:07)
  17. The Jedi Council (2:04)
  18. Ahsoka (3:39)
  19. Jabba’s Chamber Dance (0:42)
  20. Ziro Surrounded (2:20)
  21. Scaling The Cliff (0:46)
  22. Ziro’s Nightclub Band (0:53)
  23. Seedy City Swing (0:34)
  24. Escape From The Monastery (3:12)
  25. Infiltrating Ziro’s Lair (2:21)
  26. Courtyard Fight (2:41)
  27. Dunes Of Tatooine (2:00)
  28. Rough Landing (3:03)
  29. Padme Imprisoned (0:50)
  30. Dooku Speaks With Jabba (1:28)
  31. Fight To The End (3:59)
  32. End Credits (0:51)

Released by: Sony Classical
Release date: 2008
Total running time: 67:23

Star Wars: Christmas In The Stars

Star Wars: Christmas In The StarsWhile just about every Star Wars fan knows about Meco and his classic Music Inspired by Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk album, most are unaware that he produced this holiday-themed Star Wars album after writing directly to George Lucas for permission to do so. Apparently, Lucas did not feel disillusioned enough following The Star Wars Holiday Special and gave the project the go ahead.

What resulted is exactly what you’d expect; a bunch of super-sugary sweet Christams-y songs that refer to elements of the Star Wars universe. For the most part, it’s the droids that get the attention, as Anthony Daniels as C-2PO and the sounds of R2-D2 introduce all the songs and Daniels sings (or speaks) a few himself.

The only original song that really stands out and deserves any kind of long-term re-play is “What Can You Get A Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb)?”, which fulfills all the promise that preposterous title indicates. The rest are worth a chuckle or two, but mostly produce groans from all but the youngest Star Wars fans. The non-original tracks (“Sleigh Ride” and “A Christmas Sighting”) work better, as they are solid novelty versions of classic well-worn material.

I should make note of this album’s other claim to fame: the fact that it features the first recorded material by Jon Bon Jovi. Credited under his birth name, John Bongiovi, he sings lead on “R2-D2 We Wish You A Merry
Christmas” four years before Bon Jovi’s debut album. He’s virtually unrecognizable, not only because he was younger, but his voice is slightly altered (as all the voices are – to sound like elves, I guess). Still, if you’re a fan, you should get ahold of this little piece of Bon Jovi history.

Ultimately, Christmas In The Stars proves to be less than it could have been. It is neither a 3 out of 4timeless work (like Meco’s Galactic Funk) nor a monumental, so-bad-it’s-fantastic disaster like the Holiday Special. It’s a wacky novelty album that kids will love and adults can chuckle over. Star Wars fans will want it for completeness, but playing it at Christmastime is a tradition more likely to be honored in the breach than in the observance.

Order this CD

  1. Christmas In The Stars (3:17)
  2. Bells, Bells, Bells (3:15)
  3. The Odds Against Christmas (3:04)
  4. What Can You Get A Wookiee For Christmas (When He Already Owns A Comb)? (3:24)
  5. R2-D2 We Wish You A Merry Christmas (3:16)
  6. Sleigh Ride (3:36)
  7. Merry, Merry Christmas (2:09)
  8. A Christmas Sighting (‘Twas The Night Before…) (3:43)
  9. The Meaning Of Christmas (8:08)

Released by: RSO
Release date: 1980
Total running time: 33:52

Meco – Star Wars Party

Meco - Star Wars PartyTwenty-seven years after his first Star Wars-themed album, Music Inspired By Star Wars And Other Galactic Funk, Meco Monardo returns in time for the release of the final Star Wars film, Revenge of the Sith. This album of (mostly) new material, Star Wars Party, has a very different feel to Meco’s Star Wars work of old.

Rather than go the direct disco route, the covers on Star Wars Party see Meco stretching into wildly differing directions. “I Am Your Father” is a trance-like dance track. “Star Wars Love Themes” melds cues from both trilogies into an odd march-like affair. “New Star Wars” is basically Meco’s modern take on a dance version of the main Star Wars theme, with lots of samples. “The Empire Strikes Back” is not really a new track, but a remix of the 1980 original that basically adds new sound effects to the mix. (I question the wisdom of including this track, since it basically outclasses the new covers completely.) “You Are Reckless” is a rambling hodge-podge of Star Wars music overdubbed with Yoda dialogue. “Lapti Nek” is certainly the best of the new crop; a decent rendition of the now redundant Max Rebo track, with solid use of dialogue sampling that doesn’t distract from the song.

The original tracks “Star Wars Party”, “Jedi Knight” and “Live Your Life” are lightweight fluff pieces that can’t stand up alongside even the questionable quality of the covers. The lyrics are absolutely atrocious (and not in a good way) and while the music is not horrible, neither is it memorable.

But the biggest problem with Star Wars Party isn’t Meco’s unusual musical choices or his lousy lyrics and simplistic original music, it’s his reliance on dialogue clips. While his choice of dialogue is fine and how he chooses to use it within a song is usually spot on, the problem is that only about a third of the clips are authentic (or at least close enough not to matter). It’s jarring hearing unknown voices speaking such classic lines (and then to hear them sampled over and over again). The worst are the people speaking Han and Leia’s lines in “Star Wars Love Themes” and the grating fake Yoda sprinkled throughout the CD. To make matters worse, there will often be authentic dialogue right next to these poor imitations, making the failure more glaring than it otherwise might be. If Meco wanted all these voice samples, he should have gotten clearance to use only original dialogue or given up on the idea.

But just when it seems that Star Wars Party will inevitably wind up filed somewhere between useless and unnecessary, we come to the final track on the disc, “Boogie Wookie”. Silly as its title may sound, it’s a lush disco dance track that is as close to the perfection Meco achieved on the original Galactic Funk album as Star Wars Party gets. With a generous sprinkling of Wookie dialogue throughout and no real lyrics to speak of, Meco falls into none of the traps that damage the other tracks. I won’t go so far as to say that “Boogie Wookie” is good enough to make me recommend this disc, but I found it good enough to justify the purchase to myself, at least.

Star Wars Party doesn’t live up to the legacy of Meco’s classic work from the golden age of Star Wars, but it isn’t a complete disaster. The remix of “Empire” is pretty good (but expendable) and “Boogie Wookie” and the “Lapti Nek” cover deserve attention. The other tracks have little value (and what value they have is mostly destroyed by the awful voice sampling). Ultimately, your enjoyment of Star Wars Party will likely be determined by how far three good tracks can take you.

rating: 2 out of 4

Note: Star Wars Party was simultaneously released under the alternate title Music Inspired By Star Wars. Both are available for purchase, but Star Wars Party is only available from Amazon.com and CDbaby.com. All other online retailers and brick and mortar stores sell only Music Inspired by Star Wars.

Order this CD

  1. I Am Your Father (3:07)
  2. Star Wars Party (3:10)
  3. Star Wars Love Themes (4:00)
  4. New Star Wars (3:07)
  5. The Empire Strikes Back (3:30)
  6. You Are Reckless (3:05)
  7. Jedi Knight (4:03)
  8. Lapti Nek (3:23)
  9. Live Your Life (3:18)
  10. Boogie Wookie (6:24)

Released by: Mecoman Productions
Release date: 2005
Total running time: 37:43

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith

Star Wars Episode III soundtrackThe final installment of the Star Wars saga not only brings closure to the story of the Skywalker family, it also closes off a legacy of around ten solid hours of some of the most memorable music of the past 50 years – and note that I didn’t narrow that down to “film music” either. John Williams returns to cap off the musical story with his intense, dark score for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith, and it’s an appropriate musical summation of both the underrated prequel trilogy and of the saga as a whole.

“Revenge Of The Sith” packs a surprising punch, coming out of the familiar main title music not with a gentle, sinister interlude, but with a tradition-shattering, in-your-face battle sequence that simply does not let up; at nearly eight continuous minutes, it’s breathtaking stuff. (Though it’s also savagely edited – if you’ve seen the movie, you know that we still got the traditional sinister interlude at the beginning.) Stylistically, there’s something about this track that screams “prequel trilogy” at me – it’s from the same sonic continuum as Episode I‘s rousing podracing music (reused for battle scenes in Episode II and, indeed, in this movie) and the final battle from the same movie.

Track 2, “Anakin’s Dream”, opens up with a surprisingly intimate reading of the Anakin/Padmè love theme from Episode II before treading into darker, murkier waters, twisting that theme subtly until it’s disturbingly dissonant.

“Battle Of The Heroes” is to this score what “Duel Of The Fates” was to Episode I, and in fact I seem to remember reading in 1999 that Lucas had earmarked “Fates” for a reprise during Obi-Wan’s final battle with Anakin. And while “Fates” does make a reappearance in the movie – over Yoda’s epic battle with Darth Sidious – I’m glad that Lucas changed his mind on this front and decided that the Anakin/Obi-Wan battle needed something different. “Heroes” and “Fates” are nice companion pieces, but “Heroes” is brimming with an appropriately tragic inevitability, played out on an operatic scale. “Duel Of The Fates” may have been a little catchier with its low, urgent ostinato – “Heroes”, by contrast, has an undulating, long-lined melody that changes subtly over the course of the piece – but a straight reprise of “Fates” by itself wouldn’t have had the same emotional dynamic that this movie needed. And now we can happily sit and listen to the two of them back-to-back.

“Anakin’s Betrayal” has something of the same operatic sensibility as “Battle Of The Heroes”, and something of its tragedy as well, but it’s a much slower build, almost a stately funeral procession. And we’ll get back to that idea a bit later.

“General Grievous” drags us back into fast-paced action music whether we’re ready for it or not, with busy, dissonant, stabbing brass stings, and low, dark iterations of the Force theme shared by both trilogies; musically, it has a lot in common with the chaotic action scenes toward the beginning of Episode II.

“Palpatine’s Teachings” startled me with how Goldsmithian it was; it’s all low meditations on the established themes for the Emperor and Vader, with solo French horns standing out in stark contrast, and menacing strings that almost make it sound like Jerry Goldsmith returned from the other side just to score a cue for the last Star Wars movie. The cue ends with a triumphant restatement of the Coruscant music from Episode I, one of my favorite pieces of music to have emerged from the prequel trilogy, though it’s used here to represent Senator Organa’s ship: it’s become a theme for the last shards of the Republic’s democracy, not merely a particular place.

“Grievous And The Droids” gets us back to some action music which is probably as close as this score gets to the action cues of the original trilogy. “Padmè’s Ruminations” is another more atmospheric track.

“Anakin Vs. Obi-Wan” starts out in much the same vein as “Battle Of The Heroes”, but it is this cue where we get the first full-blooded statement of Vader’s theme (a.k.a. “The Imperial March”, heard here in a form very much like the scenes from Return Of The Jedi in which Vader watches Luke’s torture at the hands of the Emperor. Eventually the music returns to “Battle Of The Heroes”, but not after a full musical notification that we’re reaching the point of full circle (and, plotwise, the point of no return) with the original trilogy.

“Anakin’s Dark Deeds” is apocalyptic, operatic, and quite chilling. I’m not sure what else I can say here or what else really needs to be said. “Enter Lord Vader” is dark, but far more bombastic. There’s a quiet interlude for a mournful rendition of the Anakin/Padmè love theme again, but after that, for all intents and purposes, the music accomapnies the footsteps of evil, concluding in another full-blast iteration of Vader’s theme. The next track (I’m deliberately not mentioning the title here, though it is in the track list toward the bottom of this review) covers one of the movie’s most disturbing scenes with the right doses of horror and sympathy.

“Grievous Speaks To Lord Sidious” opens up with another blast of operatic fury, but then settles into something quieter but still sinister. “The Birth Of The Twins” and “Padmè’s Destiny” brings back the music from Qui-Gon’s funeral in Episode I, but on a far more grand scale – think along the lines of a gigantic Catholic Mass, and you’ll get the idea.

“A New Hope and End Credits” puts us firmly on the road toward the original three films, with gentle, childlike renditions of Luke and Leia’s theme, followed by a lonely restatement of the “Binary Suns” cue from Star Wars as Obi-Wan begins his exile. From there we segue into the traditional end credits which, for the first few minutes, are virtually the end credits from the original Star Wars – the full recaps of Luke and Leia’s themes act as a bit of musical foreshadowing, eventually leading us to “Battle Of The Heroes”. After that, however, Williams starts reaching much further into the original trilogy, bringing us up to the end of the first movie with several repetitions of the Rebel medal ceremony. This last cue is over 13 minutes long – that’s a lot of credits – and while I find the choice of music fascinating and appropriate, it’s really my one disappointment with the CD as a listening experience. With that kind of running time, it just seems as though Williams squandered his opportunity for one final summation of the entire saga, from Phantom Menace through Return Of The Jedi. There was certainly enough time to something more than eight minutes of the medal march. Something marrying Anakin’s themes from the first two prequels with the themes of his children might have been more appropriate. I wouldn’t be griping, except that I’ve always loved how John Williams synthesizes all of the major themes of a given film in his end credit suites – it’s always been where he shows off some of his most ingenious work. With this kind of running time, this is a grand finale that just doesn’t seem grand enough. To be fair, however, the decision to use – and re-use and re-re-use – that theme may have been made by someone other than the composer himself.

With the movie’s music itself, and not just what’s heard here on this CD, there is the same slight gripe that I had after seeing Attack Of The Clones – there’s a lot of material lifted from earlier movies, though I strongly suspect that some of it was spliced in during editing in order to keep the music coming. The score for Revenge Of The Sith is almost continuous – there are very few scenes that don’t have something in them. I suspect we won’t see an expanded release of this score or the score from Clones, simply because so much of it is edited in from the Phantom Menace score. I was surprised – though I shouldn’t have been – to hear the rousing action music from Anakin’s podrace reprised yet again during the escape from Grievous’ ship. I’m not sure if the decision to do stuff like that was made by the composer or by the director, but that kind of “tracking from library,” from my perspective, denied us the chance to hear Williams strut his stuff one last time. Even though I was underwhelmed with portions of Clones, I still think that giving John Williams a chance to create new soundscapes can only be a good thing. To do otherwise turned portions of each subsequent movie into, effectively, a greatest hits album. I know that podrace music is hard to beat for pure, pulse-pounding action, but does that mean we’re not going to give the man a chance to try?

So there it is, the final Star Wars movie score – at least where Star Wars movies made by their creator are concerned. I realize the word “tragic” probably appears 45 times in the above review, followed immediately by you, the reader, saying “well, duh!”, but that just means that the music hit its marks, doing what John Williams’ music does best and serving as a Greek chorus all its own. There are TV projects waiting the wings, and whether or not Williams is involved with those, or if others add their own music to the legacy or merely re-edit or re-interpret Williams’ themes, there’s no way to deny that he’s made an indelible mark on film music, and on the musical consciousness of at least two generations. It’s hard to really calculate the impact he’s had, but it’s easy to say that it’s been a great ride.

    Order thsi CD in the Store

  1. Star Wars and The Revenge Of The Sith (7:31)
  2. Anakin’s Dream (4:46)
  3. Battle Of The Heroes (3:42)
  4. Anakin’s Betrayal (4:04)
  5. General Grievous (4:07)
  6. Palpatine’s Teachings (5:25)
  7. Grievous And The Droids (3:28)
  8. Padmè’s Ruminations (3:17)
  9. Anakin Vs. Obi-Wan (3:57)
  10. Anakin’s Dark Deeds (4:05)
  11. Enter Lord Vader (4:14)
  12. The Immolation Scene (2:42)
  13. Grievous Speaks To Lord Sidious (2:49)
  14. The Birth Of The Twins and Padmè’s Destiny (3:37)
  15. A New Hope and End Credits (13:06)

Released by: Sony Classical
Release date: 2005
Total running time: 70:51

Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones

Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The ClonesThis may be the daftest review ever to appear in the many pages of theLogBook.com’s music review section, but here goes. I’ve been carefully avoiding any story spoilers for Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones for something like three years now. I will check out Lucasfilm’s official web site for the movie, but I haven’t been looking for story summaries, spoilers, scripts, or any of that. I was actually honked off at the fairly major spoilers included on the action figure packaging for the new movie. And I debated whether or not to get the soundtrack in advance of the movie.

But if I hadn’t done that, we would’ve missed out on the chance to have this extremely strange chat.

The first track, opening with the traditional Star Wars theme, descends into a repetitive musical motif that spirals downward and then begins again. Remember, I have no idea what’s happening in this scene, so I have no idea how appropriate it is. Nice music, though.

“Love Theme From Attack Of The Clones” is the film’s big romantic statement, and judging by the rest of the disc, seems to serve not only as a theme for the burgeoning relationship between Anakin and Padmè that has been hinted at in the theatrical trailers, but also as a theme for Anakin himself.

“Zam The Assassin and The Chase Through Coruscant” is a lengthy track – over ten minutes’ worth – loaded with action and suspense music. Perhaps the biggest surprise here is the inclusion of wild distorted electric guitar riffs in a few places, which may have some fans up in arms, but not me. It actually sounds kinda cool – it’s not exactly a Force Commander-style remix or anything, but just another voice in the orchestra, and it integrates well. Again, no idea what’s going on in this scene, but a lot of the rumbling action cues remind me a great deal of Williams’ score from Nixon, and that’s not a bad thing. (It’s not as if he’s pulling a James Horner cut-and-paste scoring job on us, either. It’s very different music with a similar stacatto rhythm to it.) Maybe they’re chasing Zam through Coruscant. Guess I’ll find out soon enough, eh?

Other tracks of note include “The Tusken Camp and Homestead”, a track which surprised the heck out of me by jumping full-blast into “Duel Of The Fates” from the soundtrack of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. This is a rare case where I’m pretty sure I do have a good guess as to what happens in this scene, and why that particular motif comes up. And I’m not telling.

“Love Pledge and The Arena” includes some references to such Star Wars chestnuts as the Force theme and something presaging the AT-AT music from The Empire Strikes Back, but the biggest surprise in both this track and “Confrontation With Count Dooku and Finale” is the bold statement of “The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme)”. I have absolutely no idea what’s happening here, and the fact that this particular theme appears in this movie makes me wonder just what is happening, and whether or not it would’ve been more appropriate to hold it until Episode III. But I can’t really say until I see the movie.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed the Episode II soundtrack as a listening experience alone. Some fans have railed against such things as the electric guitar and the seeming lack of strong thematic material in what’s on this album, but it’s important to remember that this is just the suite album, and a two-disc Ultimate Edition with the complete score is probably about 6-8 months away, as was the case with the Episode I Ultimate Edition set. Don’t fret over the guitars, either. Did you freak out when Williams used sax and steel drums in the original Star Wars? Of course not – not only did we have no precedent for Star Wars music then, but it was novel and appropriate and wouldn’t have been the same without it. And maybe that’s the case here too. On the virtue of the music alone, I like it.

4 out of 4You may think it’s a waste of your time to read an almost-spoiler-free music review of the soundtrack from someone without a clue as to its context in the film, but we’ll give the complete score release a more thorough review with that in mind when it hits the shelves. And I wanted to experiment with reviewing the music with no preconceived notions of whether or not it fits the scene – reviewing the music purely as a listening experience. And for the record, it’s a good experience.

Order this CD

  1. Star Wars Main Title and Ambush On Coruscant (3:46)
  2. Love Theme From Attack Of The Clones (5:33)
  3. Zam The Assassin and The Chase Through Coruscant (11:07)
  4. Yoda and The Younglings (3:55)
  5. Departing Coruscant (1:44)
  6. Anakin And Padmè (3:56)
  7. Jango’s Escape (3:48)
  8. The Meadow Picnic (4:14)
  9. Bounty Hunter’s Pursuit (3:23)
  10. Return To Tatooine (6:56)
  11. The Tusken Camp and Homestead (5:54)
  12. Love Pledge and The Arena (8:29)
  13. Confrontation With Count Dooku and Finale (10:46)

Released by: Sony Classical
Release date: 2002
Total running time: 73:31