STAR WARS: Return of the Jedi – Special Edition original motion picture soundtrack (1997 RCA limited edition with holographic discs, original soundtrack released 1983)
The final soundtrack of the original trilogy received the most disappointing Special Edition soundtrack. The reissues for A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back essentially offered complete collections of all the music from those two films. The soundtrack for Return of the Jedi suffers the most from the Special Edition changes. New music replaces old well-loved tunes, which is rarely a good idea.
Instead of the classic music of “Lapti Nek” (Jabba’s palace scene) we now get “Jedi Rocks”. I need not tell you how unwelcome that song was, replacing “Lapti Nek”. All because Lucas didn’t like that the singing alien puppet’s lips didn’t move enough, so he decided to “fix” that by putting in a much more elaborate musical number to go with the new CG lips. Thanks, George. Thankfully “Lapti Nek” was included on the 4 CD Star Wars Anthology box set.
The other missing music is “Ewok Celebration”, which fans worldwide know as “Yub Nub”. This Ewok song was one of those miserable little teddy bears’ few redeeming qualities. “Ewok Celebration” is replaced by the bland new “Victory Celebration” which ends the film. Thankfully the original music is also on the Anthology box set. (I would like to get that.)
Return of the Jedi gets off to a slower start than the other soundtracks. Instead of a battle or vicious Wampa attack, Jedi opened with a couple droids wandering through the desert before finding gainful employment with Jabba the Hutt. I know, right? How could that not make for exciting music? It’s not until Luke Skywalker confronts Jabba (track 6) that things start to move. Until then, the music remains largely atmospheric and creepy. There are a few unforgettable musical cues, such as that which accompanies Han Solo’s thawing.
Because Jedi was the third movie in a trilogy, it revisits a lot of familiar themes. The music for “The Imperial March” is heard several times for example (such as within “The Emperor Arrives”), but there isn’t much in terms of new memorable themes. I suppose that is to be expected. The nature of the film, including the deaths of beloved characters and other upsetting revelations, lent themselves to a darker soundtrack. A lot of atmospheric pieces helped underscore the mood of these scenes. This is offset by child-like Ewok segments of brightness.
A nice touch is the inclusion of alternate versions. The exciting “Sail Barge Assault” is included in an alternate take. There is also a sweeping concert suite of “The Forest Battle” on disc two. “Lapti Nek” and “Yub Nub” would have been nice, but in 1997 George was really trying to bury the original versions of the films forever. I’ll just have to find an old record, or that Anthology box.
The original music, excised for the Special Edition, is what this CD misses most.