Amazing Stories: Anthology Two

Amazing Stories: Anthology TwoThe second volume of music from Steven Spielberg’s short-lived TV anthology series Amazing Stories presents the complete scores from another dozen episodes, boasting the most diverse musical talent gathered on any of Intrada’s three volumes of music from the show.

After one of John Williams’ alternate takes on the show’s main theme, the late Jerry Goldsmith’s single contribution to the show – at the behest of director (and Gremlins collaborator) Joe Dante – kicks things off. Boo! starred Robert Picardo in one of his most obnoxious roles (and that’s saying something), and it seems like whenever I happen to catch a rerun of Amazing Stories, this is the episode I’m most likely to see for some reason. Goldsmith’s music here isn’t quite up to Gremlins standards, though – it’s very much a novelty piece, and – at least in this listener (and Goldsmith fan)’s opinion – not one of his better ones.

Billy Goldenberg’s score for What If…? is a bit more serious, but lovely, pleasant stuff – though it’s associated with an episode that I always felt was more heartbreaking than anything else. Dorothy And Ben, an episode I don’t recall ever having seen, certainly sounds heartbreaking; Georges Delerue was one of Amazing Stories’ most prolific composers and certainly seemed to be the go-to guy for those installments that wore their hearts on their sleeves. The Main Attraction embraces its setting by combining marching band music with occasional moments of tension and synthesizer musical effects-as-sound effects. David Newman (Galaxy Quest, Serenity) contributes the music for Such Interesting Neighbors (which stands next only to Boo! as the episode of which I’m most likely to see a rerun), and as one his earlier works it succumbs to a film scoring cliche or two, but he uses his orchestra well and comes up with what I’d describe as a fond homage to the John Williams style.

Thanksgiving, scored by Bruce Broughton (another musical frequent flyer on this series), goes down as my favorite episode of Amazing Stories, simply because it’s the one installment that reminded me, more than any other episode, of the great anthologies that started it all – The Twilight Zone and Outer Limits – complete with a macabre but poetically just sting in its tail. It’s probably my favorite suite on this anthology as well, with Broughton pouring on bravado (for David Carradine’s belligerently macho character) and wonder in just the right places.

David Shire is back for Hell Toupee on the second CD, a big, brassy homage to the way movies used to be scored, while Johnny Mandel (M*A*S*H, Being There) gives us almost cartoon-esque music for One For The Road. Arthur B. Rubenstein (Blue Thunder, WarGames) tackles the all-star Remote Control Man, an episode – predating the John Ritter movie Stay Tuned – about a guy whose new remote has some magical properties, and in this case it seems to bring characters to life who hail almost exclusively from the Universal Studios/NBC stable circa 1985/86. Rubenstein thus gets to hint at a number of theme tunes from that era, after an opening act of decent mysterioso music.

John Addison is up next with The Greibble, which darts madly between mystery and comedy every time the titular critter makes an appearance. Leonard Rosenman (Star Trek IV) cranks up the tension with the WWII-themed No Day At The Beach, which combines typical war movie action sequences with more somber passages. Another member of the Newman family gets in on the Amazing Stories action, with Thomas Newman lending a humorous, Christmas-carol-inspired score to Santa ’85.

4 out of 4Again, the packaging and liner notes detailing each episode and its music are almost worth the price of admission alone. Though there are plenty of familiar faces here, this second 2-CD set is also packed with composers who only did a single score for Amazing Stories, making it a completely different experience from the first volume, but still very worthwhile.

Order this CD

    Disc one

  1. Amazing Stories Main Title, Alternate #1 (1:03)

    Boo! – music by Jerry Goldsmith

  2. The House / Sheena (0:36)
  3. Those People / Practice / Strange Feelings (2:57)
  4. Sharp Teeth / Let’s Scare ‘Em (1:50)
  5. What Fun / It’s OK / Jungle Zombie (1:57)
  6. Zombie Attack / Each Other (1:21)
  7. The Bike (0:26)
  8. The Jewelry (1:12)
  9. Catch Us / No Fall (1:35)

    What If…? – music by Billy Goldenberg

  10. Bubbles / Nails / Kitchen Odyssey (4:34)
  11. Obnoxious (1:47)
  12. Pregnant Lady (0:57)
  13. Crossing Guard / Steve / Born (5:04)

    Dorothy And Ben – music by Georges Delerue

  14. Twenty Three Thousand Dollars (0:47)
  15. Wrinkles (0:38)
  16. Be Quiet / Ben Leaves (2:45)
  17. Face Changes (0:59)
  18. Dorothy (4:49)

    The Main Attraction – music by Craig Safan

  19. Brad’s March / Brad’s Parking Space (1:58)
  20. Shirley (1:42)
  21. Meteor / Brad’s Fear / Attracting / Attractions (4:10)
  22. Brad Runs / Locker Room / Brad’s Honor (2:07)
  23. Magnetic Love (2:01)

    Such Interesting Neighbors – music by David Newman

  24. Al Driving Home (1:30)
  25. Water Vibrates (0:51)
  26. Through The Window / Off To Meet The Neighbors / Glad To Know You / Rose Eater (5:20)
  27. May Have Something (0:41)
  28. Microwave And Meatloaf / Off Kilter (2:54)
  29. Heat Seeker On Al (0:43)
  30. Emotional (2:31)
  31. Wide-Eyed Reaction (2:23)

    Thanksgiving – music by Bruce Broughton

  32. Momma’s Breath / The Package (2:39)
  33. Dora’s Message (2:12)
  34. Dora’s Gifts / Calvin Returns (2:33)
  35. Chicken Preferred / Turkey (4:42)
    Disc Two

  1. Amazing Stories Bumper #2 (0:04)

    Hell Toupee – music by David Shire

  2. I’m Harry Valentine (0:30)
  3. Can’t Remember / …As A Woman (2:47)
  4. Hell Toupee (0:17)
  5. Scratched Head / The Escape (2:00)
  6. Toupee Shop / Change Your Life (1:49)
  7. What Is It? / The Chase (5:10)
  8. Finale (0:53)

    One For The Road – music by Johnny Mandel

  9. Brainstorm (0:42)
  10. Free Drinks All Around (0:30)
  11. The Cupboard Was Bare / Pass The Oil (1:58)
  12. To Your Health (2:06)
  13. The Banquet (1:36)
  14. The Bridge (1:02)
  15. Reincarnation (0:30)

    Remote Control Man – music by Arthur B. Rubenstein

  16. Walter (1:47)
  17. From The Forties (0:34)
  18. Right Away (0:51)
  19. Super Over Source (0:50)
  20. Neon Signs And Fog (1:15)
  21. Something Just For You / Queen And Mrs. Cleaver (4:00)
  22. Simmons (0:45)
  23. Enjoying Yourself? (0:24)
  24. No Mice (0:35)
  25. To Bed (0:58)
  26. Pop Off (0:28)

    The Greibble – music by John Addison

  27. Off To Work / Tidying Up (1:40)
  28. Daily Soap (1:00)
  29. First Encounter / Is It Dangerous? (3:44)
  30. Lamp Eater (1:08)
  31. Nummy, Nummy (1:36)
  32. Hardware Dump (2:10)
  33. Gun Threat (0:58)
  34. Friends (1:10)
  35. Revelation (1:54)

    No Day At The Beach – music by Leonard Rosenman

  36. No Day At The Beach / Picking Up Cards / Turkey In The Face (2:06)
  37. Hey Casey / Get Some Sleep (1:32)
  38. Battle Stations (0:25)
  39. Gun Fire (0:22)
  40. Charging Pill Box (1:54)
  41. Dead Arnold (0:16)
  42. He Never Got Off The Boat (4:11)

    Santa ’85 – music by Thomas Newman

  43. From The Sky Above The House / From The House To The Within / From The Chimney And In Through The Window (5:42)
  44. Caught By The Law (1:42)
  45. The Reindeer / No Fingerprints / From The Jail To The Chase To Left Off (5:18)
  46. The Ray Gun (0:50)
  47. By Candlelight (0:28)
  48. Amazing Stories End Credits (0:29)
  49. Amblin Logo – Christmas Version (0:15)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2006
Disc one total running time: 78:03
Disc two total running time: 76:28

Amazing Stories: Anthology One

Amazing Stories: Anthology OneProduced and overseen by Steven Spielberg from 1985 through ’87, Amazing Stories was a lighthearted take on the anthology/playhouse series format that hadn’t been seen on television in two decades. There was no recurring cast of characters, and no connected stories – but unlike The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents or The Outer Limits, Amazing Stories was built on one prerequisite set by Spielberg – a sense of wonder and the fantastic, not the fatalistic. To this end, Spielberg – largely on the power of his own name – drew A-list Hollywood writing, acting and directing talent into his orbit for the show’s first season, and an absolutely stellar, unprecedented A-list of composers, a gathering of genius the likes of which – in all honesty, and not intended as hyperbole – we may never see again on one project.

We’re talking about composers who weren’t even “doing” TV anymore at this stage in their careers. We’re talking Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams and James Horner. We’re also talking composers who were on the brink of making it big – Danny Elfman, Bruce Broughton, and others. How the show looked and felt was up to the individual directors and cast members of each story, but Spielberg put the money up front from the word go to make sure that Amazing Stores would sound amazing.

Although a single-disc compilation of two Amazing Stories scores was released by Varese Sarabande a while back, it was obvious that there was room for more music from this series. Intrada stepped up to the plate with a trio of 2-CD collections, covering several episodes per set and presenting the widest variety of composers’ works possible. Though several episodes were still left out by the time the third and final volume was rolled out, the result is a much more comprehensive collection, sure to please fans of many of the major film composers of the 1980s and ’90s.

John Williams’ music from the first episode, Ghost Train, sits nicely alongside his movie scores from the same era (E.T., etc.), and for a relatively short suite of music (though it’s also every note he recorded for the episode), it all develops beautifully. Two scores with period flavorings follow, James Horner’s Alamo Jobe – which, whenever it breaks out of its western feel into something more traditionally contemporary, sounds like a lot of Horner’s other output from the ’80s – and Bruce Broughton’s more whimsical, century-spanning (and Mark Hamill-starring) Gather Ye Acorns. Georges Delerue’s wistful, low-key The Doll follows, but the next suite – a jarring selection from early Spielberg collaborator Billy Goldenberg’s score from The Amazing Falsworth – is an unsettling wake-up call after Delerue’s calm music.

The second disc opens with a 4-second “station ID bumper” version of John Williams’ main theme, and dives into the music from Moving Day, scored by David Shire, who, fresh from scoring 2010: The Year We Make Contact, brings synth collaborator Craig Huxley with him for some music that sounds remarkably similar to that movie at times. Delerue returns for Without Diana, a heartfelt score that oozes tragedy even without the accompanying visuals. Contrast is once more the name of the game as this is followed up by an early Danny Elfman score, Mummy, Daddy, dripping with the kind of wackiness and whimsy that would become his hallmarks. Hollywood pastiche is the name of the game for another Bruce Broughton score, Welcome To My Nightmare, which brings things to a close (well, technically the Amazing Stories end credit music does that).

4 out of 4Where sound quality is concerned, there are a few quirks that stem mainly from the material being recorded at the twilight of mono sound mixes for television: some of the recordings are in stereo, while others aren’t. But the quality of the recordings is rich and crisp, like the sessions were recorded just last week. The shortest episode suite on this volume is just under nine minutes in length, so the double CD set is more than justified, and the packaging and liner notes are top-notch and informative. Overall, the Amazing Stories collections may be the best thing indie soundtrack label Intrada has ever done, and they’re a treat for fans of the composers whose work appears here.

Order this CD

    Disc one

  1. Amazing Stories Main Title (1:02)

    Ghost Train – music by John Williams

  2. Ohpa’s Arrival (0:30)
  3. Grieving Ohpa (1:17)
  4. Ohpa’s Tales (3:44)
  5. Ohpa Remembers (2:25)
  6. The Ticket (3:05)
  7. The Train Arrives (4:17)

    Alamo Jobe – music by James Horner

  8. The Battle / Jobe Runs (3:01)
  9. Travis Dies (0:51)
  10. First Chase (3:43)
  11. Antique Shop (2:16)

    Gather Ye Acorns – music by Bruce Broughton

  12. The Boy / The Gnome (4:34)
  13. 1938 Radio Source (1:42)
  14. Jonathan’s Room / The Car (0:48)
  15. Nothin’ But A Bum / 1955 / Tumbleweed Connection (2:50)
  16. Regrets (1:27)
  17. 1985 (0:51)
  18. Gas Station Source (2:58)
  19. Holy Moly! / Sow Ye Wild Oats (3:06)

    The Doll – music by Georges Delerue

  20. Doll Shop Sign (1:08)
  21. The Carousel / Doll On Floor / Well, Miss… (3:12)
  22. A School Teacher (0:46)
  23. An Occasional Model (0:36)
  24. She’s Not Married / An O.S. Clunk / Door Opens (1:54)
  25. John Walks To Mantle (2:17)

    The Amazing Falsworth – music by Billy Goldenberg

  26. Falsworth / Strangling / Retrospect (3:30)
  27. Leering / Frigity-Feet (0:30)
  28. Top Floor / Lights (0:53)
  29. All In The Fingers / Lunge (3:07)
  30. Falsworth (E.T.) (0:36)
    Disc two

  1. Amazing Stories Bumper #1 (0:04)

    Moving Day – music by David Shire

  2. Alan’s Dream (1:20)
  3. It’s Not The Same / Discovering The Room (1:37)
  4. My God! (2:40)
  5. Tonight / That’s Alturis (2:30)
  6. Your Ring (2:14)
  7. Departure (2:01)
  8. Finale (0:57)

    Without Diana – music by Georges Delerue

  9. Park (1946) (1:44)
  10. Only Eight / Forest Walk (2:30)
  11. Sorry Policeman / Not By George Alone (2:33)
  12. George In Doorway / Diana’s Story (2:20)
  13. George Will Be (3:22)

    Mummy, Day – music by Danny Elfman & Steve Bartek

  14. Mummy Movie / Baby Chase / Gas Station (3:21)
  15. Country Source (0:26)
  16. Gun Shot / Stinger / Swamp / Old Man / Real Mummy (3:35)
  17. Kung-Fu Mummy (1:00)
  18. Motorcycle / Caught (1:23)
  19. Lynching / Horse Ride (1:25)
  20. Corridors / Caught Again (0:27)
  21. Baby / Finale (1:30)

    Vanessa In The Garden – music by Leonard Niehaus

  22. It’s Lovely / Whoa, Rock, Whoa / I Hurt Vanessa (1:47)
  23. Beautiful Portrait / Humming From The Garden (4:09)
  24. Vanessa’s Laughter / A Summer’s Day / Do It Together / Create A Life (4:07)
  25. Vanessa (piano with orchestra coda) (3:19)

    Welcome To My Nightmare – music by Bruce Broughton

  26. Harry Wakes Up (2:00)
  27. Harry Takes A Shower / Horro Movie / Kate (1:57)
  28. Fraternity Of The Undead / Bad Milk (1:41)
  29. Harry & Kate (0:39)
  30. Harry’s Prayer / The Comet Theatre / Harry At The Movies (7:24)
  31. Back Home (2:13)
  32. Amazing Stories End Credits (0:29)
  33. Amblin Logo (0:15)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2006
Disc one total running time: 64:31
Disc two total running time: 70:33

War Of The Worlds – music by John Williams

War Of The Worlds soundtrackJohn Williams’ War Of The Worlds score is the latest in a long line of John Williams / Steven Spielberg collaborations. Whether one of Spielberg’s summer blockbusters (Jaws, E.T., the Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park trilogies, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind) or one of his more dramatic films (Artificial Intelligence: A.I., Minority Report, Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List), Williams’ compositions are an essential component to these films that have added to the emotional impact made by each one of them.

Throughout the War Of The Worlds soundtrack, Williams takes his time building those emotions and delivers a slow ascension of impending disaster in much the same way the film does. Many of the tracks are as suspenseful and heart pounding as scenes from the film itself. You’ll find no catchy themes to whistle the day after here. War Of The Worlds is a horror film, and the soundtrack directly reflects that.

One unique feature of this soundtrack are the opening and closing monologues performed by Morgan Freeman, reprising his role as the narrator from the film. Pure soundtrack fans may find it annoying, but helps set the tone and mood of the story for those who haven’t seen the film.

Overall the soundtrack is eerie and suspenseful, with a bit of terror thrown in for fun. Some of the tracks (“Escape From The Basket”) take over five minutes to develop, building suspense the entire time. Other tracks, like “Escape From The City”, climax quickly and convey the terror and panic from the film’s action scenes.

rating: 3 out of 4Unfortunately the soundtrack, whiile technically impressive, isn’t very entertaining to listen to on its own. The lack of repeating themes or memorable catches will keep it off most people’s favorite lists. As a soundtrack it’s great, as a stand alone album it’s only good.

Order this CD

  1. Prologue (2:52)
  2. The Ferry Scene (5:49)
  3. Reaching The Country (3:24)
  4. The Intersection Scene (4:12)
  5. Ray And Rachel (2:41)
  6. Escape From The City (3:49)
  7. Probing The Basement (4:12)
  8. Refugee Status (3:51)
  9. The Attack On The Car (2:44)
  10. The Separation Of The Family (2:36)
  11. The Confrontation With Ogilvy (4:33)
  12. The Return To Boston (4:29)
  13. Escape From The Basket (9:24)
  14. The Reunion (3:16)
  15. Epilogue (3:11)

Released by: Decca
Release date: 2005
Total running time: 61:07

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’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

Superman: The Movie – music by John Williams

Superman: The MovieThe music from the Star Wars trilogy alone would qualify John Williams as a genius. The music from Superman confirms this, as do many other of his works. One of these days, despite the pop culture roots of his work, Williams will overcome all the naysayers’ claims that he’s merely been running Wagner, Holst and Korngold through a musical cuisinart.

Need proof? One need look no further than Williams’ score for the 1978 Richard Donner opus Superman, that rare commodity known as A Good Superhero Movie. (Indeed, as far as this viewer is concerned, the next Good Superhero Movie was 2000’s X-Men, but that’s a whole other article.)

While it shares a few common musical threads with the music from Star Wars, Williams’ accompaniment for the world’s most famous superhero has, in places, an inexplicably more down-to-earth feel. The main theme is just as well known as the signature tune of Star Wars, yet the rest of the score has some true gems as well, including “The Trip To Earth”, “The Death Of Jonathan Kent” and “Leaving Home” (these two are practically joined at the hip), “The Big Rescue” and “Turning Back The World”. Many of these pieces, surprisingly, were not on the original soundtrack album, but fortunately the entire score was located and remastered for this 2-CD release (which preceeded the DVD release of the movie by several months). The sound is excellent, the liner notes booklet is positively brimming with a wealth of fascinating information on both movie and music, and for 4 out of 4those who actually want to hear “Can You Read My Mind?”, there are no fewer than four different versions here, two of them featuring the poetic reading of the lyrics by one Margot “Lois Lane” Kidder. (For those who actually want to hear all four of these, knock yourself out – I must admit, I don’t listen to ’em too often.)

Order this CD

    Disc one

  1. Prelude and Main Title March (5:29)
  2. The Planet Krypton (6:40)
  3. Destruction of Krypton (7:52)
  4. Star Ship Escapes (2:21)
  5. The Trip To Earth (2:28)
  6. Growing Up (2:34)
  7. Death of Jonathan Kent (3:24)
  8. Leaving Home (4:51)
  9. The Fortress of Solitude (9:17)
  10. Welcome to Metropolis (2:11)
  11. Lex Luthor’s Lair (4:47)
  12. The Big Rescue (5:55)
  13. Super Crime Fighter (3:20)
  14. Super Rescues (2:13)
  15. Luthor’s Luau (2:47)
  16. The Planet Krypton alternate (4:24)
  17. Main Title March alternate (4:36)
    Disc two

  1. Superman March alternate (3:48)
  2. The March of the Villains (3:36)
  3. The Terrace (1:34)
  4. The Flying Sequence (8:13)
  5. Lois and Clark (0:50)
  6. Crime of the Century (3:23)
  7. Sonic Greeting (2:21)
  8. Misguided Missiles and Kryptonite (3:26)
  9. Chasing Rockets (4:55)
  10. Superfeats (4:52)
  11. Super Dam and Finding Lois (5:11)
  12. Turning Back The World (2:06)
  13. Finale and End Title March (5:42)
  14. Love Theme from Superman (5:05)
  15. Can You Read My Mind – alternate (2:58)
  16. Flying Sequence / Can You Read My Mind (Margot Kidder – vocals) (8:10)
  17. Can You Read My Mind (instrumental) (2:56)
  18. Theme from Superman (concert version) (4:24)

Released by: Rhino
Release date: 2000
Disc one total running time: 75:09
Disc two total running time: 73:30

Star Wars Episode I – The Ultimate Edition

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace - The Ultimate EditionMuch criticism has been levelled at this double-CD release purporting to offer listeners “every note of music from The Phantom Menace, and for the life of me, I still have yet to figure out why. Not quite two years ago, I got into a pretty public debate with Film Score Monthly’s Lukas Kendall about whether or not we deserved a two-CD set containing Episode I‘s full score in May, 1999. Instead, Sony gave us a single-CD edition, containing several concert versions and suites combining music from unrelated scenes. Now, I was always a big fan of the original Star Wars soundtrack double LP, back in the days before you could actually put the entire score (plus extras) on two CDs – I have some of those concert suites memorized. I don’t object to suite CDs, so long as the original score is available somewhere. So, despite the objections of quite a few really finicky fans, we finally have that full score release for The Phantom Menace.

So what’s their problem? It seems that some listeners are critical of the edits made to the music for the movie, and would rather hear the original session masters as recorded, prior to being chopped up for placement with scenes of the film that they weren’t necessarily meant to accompany. I can buy that complaint, actually. It was neat hearing the huge amount of stuff that was left out of the opening scenes of The Empire Strikes Back. But at the same time, if this is all we get, I’ll be satisfied. (Not that I’m holding my breath, mind you – three seems to be the magic number for Star Wars soundtracks, as all of the original trilogy soundtracks evolved slowly from abridged LPs to expanded Anthology box set releases to Special Edition full score releases. I’m sure that late 2001 or early 2002 will see the release of, at the very least, a single CD with “outtakes and unused music, heard here for the first time ever!”)

While some reviewers have commented on the blatant sound of the edits, I was only bothered by a very small number of the edits in the music. They don’t exactly stick out like a sore thumb…for the most part. A few of them did get my teeth grating, but not a large enough number to have me using the CDs for a frisbee.

If I have but a single complaint about the Ultimate Edition, it’s the packaging. The double-CD set and 64-page booklet are crammed into what I would charitably describe as a flimsy cardboard package which will not, mark my words, stand up to average jewel case wear and tear for very long. I would much rather have had the traditional double-size 2-CD jewel case with a removable booklet. Granted, the booklet is too thick to be squeezed into a slimline double jewel case. The booklet itself is also part of my complaint: it was originally promised to be a lavish exploration of the making of the music, which practically screams “extensive interview with John Williams,” something I was really looking forward to. Instead, the book is a lazy effort, with a large, page-filling color still from the movie to accompany – get this – each track title. The booklet was truly my biggest disappointment for this package. But my jewel cases tend to sit still and gather dust anyway, and Williams has been interviewed elsewhere about Phantom Menace. The music itself is a four-star special, not to be missed.

Some of the highlights omitted by the original single-disc release include the complete pod race sequence (“Anakin Defeats Sebulba”), the ominous “Anakin Is Free” (a rousing choral reading of the Force theme as 4 out of 4Anakin turns to leave his mother behind), and “The Racer Roars To Life” / “Anakin’s Midi-Chlorian Count”, a beautiful piece which goes some way toward confirming my theory that the new composition at the end of Return Of The Jedi: Special Edition will be heard in the next two movies as the more mature Anakin’s theme.

Order this CD

    Disc one

  1. 20th Century Fox Fanfare (0:23)
  2. Star Wars Main Title (1:24)
  3. Boarding The Federation Battleship (2:31)
  4. Death Warrant For Qui-Gon And Obi-Wan (1:18)
  5. Fighting The Destroyer Droids (1:44)
  6. Queen Amidala Warns The Federation (2:23)
  7. The Droid Invasion (1:00)
  8. Swimming To Otoh Gunga (0:56)
  9. Inside The Bubble City (3:05)
  10. Attack Of The Giant Fish (1:37)
  11. Darth Sidious (1:04)
  12. The Giant Squid And The Attack On Theed (1:18)
  13. Qui-Gon And Obi-Wan Rescue The Queen (2:09)
  14. Fighting The Guards (1:42)
  15. Escape From Naboo (2:04)
  16. Enter Darth Maul (1:07)
  17. The Arrival At Tattooine (2:28)
  18. Street Band Of Mos Espa (1:17)
  19. Padme Meets Anakin (1:12)
  20. Desert Winds (1:28 bonus track)
  21. Jar Jar’s Run-In With Sebulba (1:18)
  22. Anakin’s Home And The Introduction To Threepio (2:42)
  23. Darth Sidious And Darth Maul (1:12)
  24. Talk Of Podracing (2:59)
  25. Watto’s Deal / Shmi And Qui-Gon Talk (2:24)
  26. Anakin, Podracer Mechanic (1:38)
  27. The Racer Roars To Life / Anakin’s Midi-Chlorian Count (1:24)
  28. Darth Maul And The Sith Spacecraft (1:00)
  29. Mos Espa Arena Band (0:53)
  30. Watto’s Roll Of The Die (1:59)
  31. The Flag Parade (1:14)
  32. Sebulba’s Dirty Hand / Qui-Gon’s Pep Talk (1:37)
  33. Anakin Defeats Sebulba (2:17)
  34. Hail To The Winner, Anakin Skywalker (1:13)
  35. The Street Singer (1:13)
    Disc two

  1. Anakin Is Free (5:04)
  2. Qui-Gon And Darth Maul Meet (1:48)
  3. Anakin And Group To Coruscant (4:11)
  4. The Queen And Palpatine (0:41)
  5. High Council Meeting (2:37)
  6. The Senate (1:12)
  7. Anakin’s Test (3:41)
  8. Qui-Gon’s Mission / Obi-Wan’s Warning (3:47)
  9. Nute And Rune Confer With Darth Sidious (0:29)
  10. The Queen And Group Land On Naboo (2:19)
  11. Jar Jar Leads Group To The Gungans (2:25)
  12. War Plans (2:31)
  13. Darth Sidious Receives News Of The Gungan Army (0:25)
  14. The Gungans March (0:57)
  15. The Queen And Her Group Sneak Back To The Palace (0:18)
  16. The Battle Begins (0:24)
  17. The Republic Pilots Take Off Into Space (1:26)
  18. Activate The Droids (0:44)
  19. The Gungans Fight Back (0:24)
  20. The Duel Begins (0:51)
  21. Anakin Takes Off In Spaceship (0:47)
  22. The Duel Continues (0:59)
  23. The Battle Rages On (1:59)
  24. Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan And Darth Maul Continue Battle (1:22)
  25. Qui-Gon, Darth Maul And The Invisible Wall (0:14)
  26. The Gungans Retreat And The Queen Surrenders (2:18)
  27. The Death Of Qui-Gon And The Surrender Of The Gungans (2:28)
  28. The Tide Turns / The Death Of Darth Maul (3:24)
  29. The Queen Confronts Nute And Rune (1:47)
  30. The Funeral Of Qui-Gon (1:18)
  31. The Parade (1:24)
  32. End Credits (8:14)
  33. Duel Of The Fates – Movie Dialogue Version (4:21 bonus track)

Released by: Sony Classical
Release date: 2000
Disc one total running time: 57:13
Disc two total running time: 66:49