REVIEW: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (Special Edition original motion picture soundtrack)

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.)

Yub Nub!

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.

3/5 stars

21 comments

  1. Bah. As we know, Lucas is responsible for the worst crimes ever committed against Star Wars. The two gold medal crimes being the prequilogy and the erasing of Yub Nub.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You’ve expressed something I felt but never put into words myself – the music from the third film wasn’t nearly as present, as commanding. And as you rightly pointed out, that was on purpose. But that sensational lift of the first two films was fewer and farther between in Jedi.

    Lebrain nails it again.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks man, appreciated!

      I don’t think I’m going to bother reviewing the prequel soundtracks. But we’ll see. At least for the first time in a decade, I’ll be able to buy a brand new Star Wars soundtrack by John Williams in December!

      Ahh hell, I just remembered, my goal is to review everything I own. Looks like I gotta do the prequel CDs.

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  3. Sorry but I think the special edition music is so much better than Yub Nub. I always liked that piece in the SE a lot for some reason

    Liked by 1 person

    1. But they’re probably available elsewhere on CD. Stupid of me not to think so. Poop, my evil moment is ruined

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      1. Yeah, they got rid of a short, cheesy disco tune that wsan’t too obtrusive and replaced it with a huge stupid musical number that was just annoying. The Lucasfilm way…
        God, just got cold chills about another version of Star Wars with a “special” extended version of the Cantina Band with new “improved” effects… Nasty.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Here’s my theory. Now that Disney is in charge and not George, you will see fewer changes and maybe even another reissue of the original trilogy, the way it was.

          In a perfect world I’d want to see a release including every cut of every film. Like they did with Blade Runner. I have 5 cuts of that film in ine set and I’ve watched them all. Disney should do that.

          I have 3 different versions of each of the original movies. They’re welcome to dub my copies!

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Totally agree that Disney will capitalise on the fact that they know that there are millions of Star Wars fans who will only accept the fact that Han shot first and would love the opportunity to see that scene played out properly on a 4K bluray release.

    I would be very surprised if a full-on box set came out for each original trilogy film with multiple versions, although there have been so many little changes made between releases that have been so tiny that you’d have 39 versions of each film with the tiniest of variations in between them. It would be interesting to see each one though.

    I’ve still got my original VHS tape of Empire that I won in a competition when it first came out. I should digitise it quick before it turns to dust! I’ve also got the VHS from before they released them in the late 90s formats too, so I’ve got a record of sorts of the (ahem) “classic” versions.

    …And let’s not statr on Blade Runner. My keyboard will wear out!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dude, Han shot first no matter what the film says :) Did you notice that Han shot first in Solo? Ron Howard did for a reason man…because Han shoots first and fans know it. Disney has no reason that I know of (contractually) to keep the special editions as the only versions out there.

      However what I have read in the past was that when they did the restoration for the special editions, the original films were in bad bad shape. That doesn’t mean that now, 21 years later, technology could clean it up for blu-ray. I mean, look at all the stuff cleaned up for blu-ray. You’re telling me Star Wars is the only film that can’t be cleaned up? I don’t buy it.

      Yes keep those VHS tapes. One of the DVD sets I have is just a digitization of a VHS release. But it’s a neat one, to me: the 1997 special editions, before they did stuff like add Hayden Christensen to them. It’s sort of an interim version!

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      1. Let’s face it, Disney could spend a couple of mil remaking all the stuff that has possibly been lost on the old and damaged prints and release those as “original theatrical versions” in the same way the Uncle George spent millions altering them in the first place andsttill recoup the investment a thousand-fold. It’s ridiculous when you think about it.

        The only say that these films are beyond repair so that they can announce that they magically invented some new technique to rescue film to give the inevitable re-release some more cache and the film company the facade that they care for flim as opposed to making money. Disney paid so much for their chunk of Lucasfilm that they’ll find lots of ways of selling us our (misplaced) childhood over and over again, but in a way that’s seemingly “doing what the fans demand” like making Han shoot first and taking away stupid background footage of Jawas falling off Banthas.

        Yep, I love the fact that Solo cemented the fact that Han shot first. That scene is central to the whole character and to not include something like it to movie that sets out such a beloved and strong character’s origins would not be very amiss and not showing respect to that character… i you see what I mean from that burbled mess of a sentence!

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  5. Thank you so very, very much for your insightful review of the Star Wars Trilogy soundtrack. Having been a fan of the Music since i first visited the Theatre to Watch “Star Wars” as a ten year old boy back in 1977, I have revisited the score over and over again, like also I do with the Beethhoven nine symphonies suite.

    In my Collection I have the original LP’s, the Anthology box (actually bought on a business trip to L.A. back in 1994, and also this limited Special Edition. To be honest, I have never liked the Special Edition like the others, and you Nail the reason in your great article – many tracks have changed and others have been omited, such as “Lapti Nek” and “Yub Nub”, the latter is one of my favourites, which goes back to my first Sony Walkman…

    Again, many, many thanks for your review, which made all puzzle bites come in Place.

    KIndest Regards,
    Th

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