john williams

#577: Wedding Tunes Tales

GETTING MORE TALE #577: Wedding Tunes Tales

Mrs LeBrain and I have been married nine years.  It is an incredible feeling, to have found the one made for you.  I thank God every day.  We still frequently talk about the wedding day itself, the most amazing day of my life.  The bachelor night before was legendary, but the wedding was perfect.

Well, except a few minor details.

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, there is one thing that really bugs me today, and that is our wedding CD.  Specifically, one track on that wedding CD.

I personally selected and approved most of the music for the day.  I was very proud to work Frank Zappa into the reception music (“Peaches En Regalia”).  I also had to make sure I had a Kiss song, so I chose “And Then She Kissed Me” from Love Gun.  We focused on Johnny Cash and the Beatles for the ceremony, killing two birds with one stone on “In My Life” for the signing of the registry.  As soon as we started sending out the “thank you” cards to all the guests, I compiled and burned dozens of copies of what you might call The Official Soundtrack Album to Our Wedding.  I squeezed in everything I could, but Jennifer insisted we include one specific song for her maid of honour, Lara.  [Note:  Lara is not evil, but she will be portraying the antagonist in an upcoming store called “Seven”.  Stay tuned.]  I guess when they used to work together in a video store, they would play “My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit a lot.  Some customer gave Lara a CD with that song on it and only that song…on repeat.  I guess this inside joke meant that “My Own Worst Enemy” was Lara’s entrance music at the reception.  And I guess that justified it being on the soundtrack CD.  That is, by far, my biggest wedding regret.  It never should have been on the soundtrack CD.  It’s the only song I absolutely have to skip every time.  It’s shit.  Sorry Lara, but your tribute song sucks!

Jen has her own decision that she would go back and change if she could.  We had the proverbial “bridesmaid from hell”.  Bridesmaidzilla, or ‘Zilla for short, was drama from start to finish.  Without getting into too much detail, ‘Zilla was at the bottom of the bridesmaid totem pole but tried to manipulate certain things to be about her.  The highlight of these efforts was what we call the “caesar salad saga”.

It’s quite simple, really!  Jennifer has a seafood allergy, and any decent caesar salad dressing has anchovy paste in it.  We never take any chances, so we requested a regular garden salad for the dinner reception.  No big deal, right?  It’s a salad, but most importantly, it’s Jennifer’s wedding.  You wouldn’t believe how this salad became a bone of contention between them!  ‘Zilla looked up recipes for vegan versions online.  The salad was repeatedly brought up, but Jen had never really had caesar salad before due to her allergy.  Why would she suddenly want one for her wedding?  Bottom line, Jen chose the salad she wanted.  And for the record, since that time, she has tried vegan caesar salad and likes it.  But why would she gamble on something like that for her wedding night?  No, pick the salad you want.  Bottom line, end of discussion.

Drama continued right up to the morning of the wedding day.  As maid of honour, Lara was in charge of the bridesmaids and all communication was to go through her to relieve the pressure from Jen.  Lara would take care of any minor details so Jen would not have to be bothered.  Well, apparently a bra was needed on the wedding day, and so I received a 7:00 am phone call about it.  ‘Zilla didn’t want to call Lara because they were not getting along, at all, so they thought it would a good idea to call the groom on his wedding day, about a goddamn bra.  They actually called me to ask where you can get a bra on a holiday weekend.  Are you kidding me?

They must have called Lara and gotten it sorted because they got the bra situation taken care of without the groom having to intervene.  The wedding went off perfectly and the reception was even better.   I did my best to curate some cool music, and as a special treat, my sister Kathryn performed at the reception.  It was a jazz quartet — bass, bass clarinet, drums, guitar.  The crowning moment of their performance was a jazzy rendition of the “Cantina Theme” from Star Wars.  My sister had to order the sheet music which wasn’t cheap.  Her band’s performance that night was her wedding gift to us, and that reminds me that I do have one more regret.  That is, I wish I had filmed it.

After dinner, after the cake was served, and I was taking a rest between songs (I was a dancing fiend) I sat at ‘Zilla’s table for a bit to chat.  Jen’s friend Gordie, who is hilarious by the way, and married to one of the good bridesmaids, was also sitting with a few others at the table.  Knowing full well the drama that had gone down, Gordie mischievously commented, “That was a great wedding, Mike.  Everything was perfect and I am so happy for you and Jen.  The cake was great…the only thing I would change is the salad, if it was caesar it would have been perfect.”  Then the husband of ‘Zilla said, “We even gave them the recipe to make it…”

The last bit of ‘Zilla drama happened later in the evening as they were leaving.  The DJ played one of the special songs I picked, which was “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond.  My mom, sister, aunt and new wife started dancing to it and I shouted “It’s the Ladano girls dance!”  My sister, who was right drunk at that stage, yelled out, “LADANO GIRLS, YAAAY!”  They joined with me in a circle and we danced away to Neil, singing along, having a blast, laughing.  ‘Zilla was, apparently, standing nearby waiting to say goodbye.  I felt a tap on my shoulder and she very bitchily said “BYE!” while making a talkie-talkie motion with her hand.  Yeah, bye!

Jen and I will soon be celebrating our anniversary again, and we’ll probably play that wedding soundtrack CD and relive the good memories.  And I’ve convinced her to skip Lit from now on.  Small victories are still victories.

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Star Wars radio tonight! The original trilogy on Visions In Sound

I will be going LIVE at 12:30 AM (ET) Saturday morning with Robert Daniels on VISIONS IN SOUND. Tune in on your dial to 98.5 or internet to CKWR!  You folks in the UK can tune in as you enjoy some morning java!

Rob says:  “May is Star Wars month on Visions In Sound and we will be celebrating the 40th Anniversary with a slew of special shows. Joining me this week will be special guests Jason Drury, Michael Ladano & Erik Woods to help with the celebration. Featured music will be from the original Star Wars trilogy (John Williams). Join Us THIS Saturday 12:30-2:30am (ET)”

Blu-ray REVIEW: Star Wars – The Complete Saga (2011 9 disc set)

I will be going LIVE at 12:30 AM (ET) Saturday morning with Robert Daniels on VISIONS IN SOUND. Tune in on your dial to 98.5 or internet to CKWR!  You folks in the UK can tune in as you enjoy some morning coffee or tea!

Rob says:  “May is Star Wars month on Visions In Sound and we will be celebrating the 40th Anniversary with a slew of special shows. Joining me this week will be special guests Jason Drury, Michael Ladano & Erik Woods to help with the celebration. Featured music will be from the Star Wars prequel trilogy (John Williams). Join Us THIS Saturday 12:30-2:30am (ET)”

 

STAR WARS: The Complete Saga (2011 Lucasfilm 9 Blu-ray set)

Includes:  Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and three bonus discs.

Star Wars on blu-ray…it took a lot less time than it did for Star Wars to arrive on DVD!  In special features and deleted scenes alone, it was well worth the wait. You can’t do a box set like this without the bonus of unseen footage. The good news is, The Complete Saga is loaded with unseen special features and deleted scenes. In fact, the Tosche Station scene (deleted from A New Hope) is worth the purchase alone for the true fan. It’s that great.

Will this be the last time we buy the first two Star Wars trilogies? Heck, no! When 3D comes out, everybody will be having the same discussion all over again!  And when the sequel trilogy is complete, we’ll be doing it again.  Will Greedo still shoot first? Well, in my mind I have long accepted that Han shot first. Only in some weird Lucasverse is there a way that Greedo could shoot and miss at that range. That close, I’m sorry, Han is toasted smuggler stew.  Disney says there is no way to re-release the original trilogy without its Special Edition enhancements, as the original film materials are too far gone.

However about 10 years ago or so, Lucas did an official DVD reissue of the ORIGINAL original trilogy, which I went out and bought on day one. It was satisfying, it looked better than my old VHS copy, but it wasn’t cleaned up nice like the special editions were. Which, in my opinion, is fine. It looks good and it’s as close to your childhood memories as you’ll ever get. After all, we didn’t have 1080p TV tubes.

Accepting that a Blu-ray version of the “ORIGINAL” original trilogy will never happen, I am very satisfied with my Blu-ray of the Complete Saga.

The sound is awesome, very deep, and annoying to the neighbors.

The video is perfect; I realize there are probably some colour changes here and there but I’m not about to do an A/B test and find them. I don’t care, it’s sharp and bright and clear and even Phantom Menace looks good!

Content wise, you know what? Hell, I’m actually enjoying Phantom Menace. I’m lost in that moment in 1999 or whatever it was, when we sat there watching it the first time, trying to figure out who the new baddies were and checking out all the cool designs, which all stand up today. Except Jar Jar. Take him out and the movie’s not half bad at all, flawed as it may be.

Bonus featues: I wanted to watch the deleted scenes and there is good news and bad news. The bad news is, I hate how the deleted scenes are organized. You have to click the movie you want, click the planet you want, and then pick deleted scenes from the features. You can’t just go to a menu called “Deleted Scenes”. Anyways, these were mostly great although some action scenes were just animatics. And, I don’t think these deleted scenes overlap at all with the scenes provided on previous DVD editions. For example there was no Greedo scene in the Episode I deleted scenes, but there certainly was on the original DVD release for Episode I. That goes for the special features in general…I don’t think there are many that overlap at all with the ones you already have.  That could be good or bad; for most fans that’s good.  You’re buying new stuff, not the same stuff you have already.

Highlights: As mentioned the Tosche Station scene, which has all the soul of old Star Wars along with finally tying up the Biggs storyline. Also welcome was the attack on the droid control ship from Episode II — previously only available to subscribers to Lucasfilm’s ill-fated Hyperspace service.

There’s also an hour and a half (!) of spoofs from all over the place, including The Simpsons, Family Guy, Robot Chicken, Saturday Night Live (including that hilarious Kevin-Spacey-as-Christopher-Walken-as-Han-Solo one), Colbert, That 70’s Show, and many more. Most of these, I have never seen.

This is exactly what anybody who had reasonable expectations wanted.

5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Rogue One – A Star Wars Story soundtrack (2016)

I will be going LIVE at 12:30 AM (ET) Saturday morning with Robert Daniels on VISIONS IN SOUND. Tune in on your dial to 98.5 or internet to CKWR!  You folks in the UK can tune in as you enjoy some morning coffee.

Rob says:  “Star Wars For A New Generation – May is Star Wars month on Visions In Sound and we will be celebrating the 40th Anniversary with a slew of special shows. Joining me this week will be special guests Jason Drury, Michael Ladano & Erik Woods to help with the celebration. Featured music will be from Star Wars – The Force Awakens (John Williams), Star Wars – Rebels (Kevin Kiner) and Rogue One – A Star Wars Story (Michael Giacchino). Join Us THIS Saturday 12:30-2:30am (ET)”

ROGUE ONE: A Star Wars Story original motion picture soundtrack (2015 Lucasfilm/Disney)

A Star Wars soundtrack without John Williams?  Blasphemy!  Right?  Right guys and girls?  No John = No Star Wars, right?

Wrong!

It’s not like Rogue One is even the first!  20 years before, Joel McNeely composed Shadows of the Empire, the soundtrack to a massive multi-media Star Wars story.  It accompanied a novel, a comic, a video game and action figure line.  The only thing missing was a movie.  Since Disney’s $4 billion acquisition of Star Wars, Shadows of the Empire is now considered “legends”, or non-canon, so if you’re not aware of it, that’s OK.  The point is, a non-Williams Star Wars soundtrack is nothing new to long time fans.  And Rogue One is the perfect vehicle for such a soundtrack.  Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the first non-episodic, non-Skywalker-saga Star Wars film ever.  There are two very obvious ways that it differentiates from the main line of films.  One is that there was no opening crawl (nor should there have been).  The second is that Williams didn’t do the music.  Michael Giacchino did, a man who has plenty of credits on his resume including a large number of J.J. Abrams productions.

Giacchino wisely didn’t overuse established Star Wars music.  You won’t hear the fanfare.  The sudden crash opening music of “He’s Here For Us” was actually a pretty cool moment of shock, and it’s right there at the start.  The music feels like the storyline.  When Director Kennic suddenly pays a surprise visit to his “friend” Galen Erso, you couldn’t ask for more abrupt and appropriate music.  The threat has arrived.  Better hide.

Though Giacchino borrows music only sparingly from John Williams, he seems to embody that classic style.  While unfamiliar, these new pieces sound like part of that universe.  There are memorable parts; not so many as the classic films, but they are there.  “He’s Here For Us” introduces one such theme, and there are more, such as the main theme contained within “A Long Ride Ahead” (and again in “The Master Switch”).  You’ll notice the Rogue One theme music in “A Long Ride Ahead” is very similar to the Star Wars main theme, in particular the first two notes.  It’s the same interval, transposed down to a different key.   That’s why the Rogue One and Star Wars themes sound similar, but different.

Other tracks like “When Has Become Now” have bits and pieces that recall prior Star Wars music without copying.  Another fantastic theme is “Jedha Arrival” which really captures the vibe.  You will get to hear the legendary “Imperial March” in “Krennic’s Aspirations”, in which he meets the Dark Lord Darth Vader in his castle on Mustafar.

For action scenes, “Jedha City Ambush” hits a double:  It’s different from past Williams work, but really gets the adrenaline running.  “Star-Dust” is more contemplative, and very unique.  The drama of “Confrontation on Eadu” has that awe-inspiring mix of ingredients that good Star Wars music always has.  Then, for sheer terror, the ironically titled “Hope” gives you all you need in pure musical form.  The solo violin on “Jyn Erso & Hope Suite” will make you weep.

The crux of the soundtrack is this:  It’s nearly impossible to listen to it without consciously or unconsciously comparing it.  That’s natural.  No matter who composed it, fans would notice it’s not John Williams.  Just like fans can tell the Kiss band of today is not the Kiss band of 1978.  What else could Disney do?  John Williams is 85 years old, and they plan on making these movies for years and years to come.  It’s reasonable to think John Williams will be able to complete the third trilogy of Star Wars, as we hope.  It’s not realistic to think he’ll be around as long as Disney plan on making Star Wars movies, as sad as that is.

We’ll leave this review with just some fun speculation.  It is widely known that, at some point in the late 1970s, George Lucas mentioned there would be 12 films.  Not 3, 6 or 9.  12 films.  He later backtracked and said, “Yeah, no, I meant 6.”  And of course he also used to deny he’d even make the prequel trilogy at all.  Then we found out he was already writing Episode I.  And recently, we learned he was actually planning to do the sequel trilogy after all, meaning you can’t trust anything Lucas backtracks on.  Fans always assumed 12 films meant 4 trilogies.  A fourth trilogy (probably focusing on Rey, Finn, Poe or Kylo’s children) does not seem impossible any more.   As long as these movies make money, it’s feasible that Disney could continue the actual saga beyond just these anthology films.  If we imagine that one day we’ll get Episodes X, XI and XII then who could compose the music?  Certainly not John Williams, since this could not happen until the mid-2020s at the soonest.  If it ever comes to pass, the fourth trilogy would have to be composed by somebody new, be it Giacchino or someone else.   Giacchino established himself as a real contender on Rogue One.  Well done.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Raiders of the Lost Ark – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2008 CD reissue)

scan_20170116RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Originally 1981, 2008 CD reissue)

When it comes to sci-fi nerds, movie geeks, and Speilberg buffs, there is one name that we all salute:  composer John Williams.

In 1981, Williams was given the task of composing yet another soundtrack for his buddy Steven:  Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Like Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back before it, it needed identifiable themes to accompany our characters:  the heroic school teacher (!) Indiana Jones, his one true love Marion, and a whole slew of evil Nazis.  This time Williams needed to come up with appropriate music not for epic space battles, but to inspire awe in the wrath of God and the Ark of the Covenant.

To go with the 2008 theatrical release of (the atrocious) Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Lucasfilm remixed and reissued the original Raiders soundtrack with 30 minutes of bonus tracks.  (Unfortunately, both the LP and box set have music not on this CD, but we don’t get this stuff for free, so a review of this CD is all you get.)  Virtually every note will be familiar to fans both casual and die-hard.

Indy begins his adventure “In the Jungle” and immediately you can picture the spiders and creepy-crawlies that Indy had to step through.  “The Idol Temple” has even more creepy-crawlies, and Williams expertly finds the musical effects to go with the eight-legged chills.  Just like the movie, be ready to jump startled at certain cues.  Serious action begins on “Escape from the Temple”, the kind of track that is a benchmark for such scenes.  The “Flight From Peru” is the very first appearance of the famous Indiana Jones theme, as he escapes death…barely!

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In America, Indy is paid a visit at the school by two “Washington Men” who want him to find something.  This is the eerie, understated debut of the Ark’s theme, though Indy’s own theme plays around with it, indicating the two will eventually collide.  “A Thought for Marion” introduces her theme, and then back to the Ark’s music once again.  The ominous overtones indicate that Indy’s mission to find the Ark will not be easy.  He is then off to Nepal with music that hints at the dangers ahead.  In Nepal he finds both Marion and the medallion, which has its own dark music.  The military drums foreshadow the involvement of the Nazi forces also searching for the Ark.

The score takes a slight middle eastern turn with “Flight to Cairo”, also augmented with Indy and Marion’s themes.  The two must find the Ark before the Nazis do with the help of Indy’s old Egyptian friend Sallah.  Marion finds herself in trouble almost immediately.  “The Basket Game” is one of the most memorable cues from the movie, though it ended badly for Marion and Indy.  Williams uses articulate melodies in a cartoon-like style to hint at the motion happening on screen.  With Marion gone, Indy must continue his quest with Sallah.  Together they visit a wise man, and discover that someone is trying to poison them with “Bad Dates”.

“The Map Room” is the setting for the next piece, building tension back with the Ark theme.  This incredible cue ends with Indy discovering the location of the Well of the Souls.   What I always assumed were sound effects in the scene is actually music (chimes).  Soon he finds Marion alive and well.  Her theme and that of the Ark return for another go-round as the heroes finally find the treasure.  The music when the Ark is found is similar to that in the Star Wars scene where the first Death Star explodes.   More creepy-crawlies (“Snakes…why’d it have to be snakes?”) infest “The Well of the Souls”, surely the creepiest scene in the movie.

Another great Indy action cue is “Indy Rides the Statue”, a piece of music that recurs when our hero is in great danger.  Escaping the Well of the Souls, Indy must battle a massive German henchman in “The Fist Fight”.  The tension is turned up again, and fans will recall this piece from one of the most punishing action scenes in the film.  “The Desert Chase” is the longest piece on the album, to suit a roller-coaster scene of thrills and chills.  The music delivers the same thrills, as you can picture Indy on that horse chasing down those Nazis.  It’s among Williams’ finest music.

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A tender moment (“Marion’s Theme”) is short lived as the Nazis return.  The action-packed music takes Indy to a secret Nazi island in the Mediterranean (“The German Sub” and “Ride to the Nazi Hideout”).  The horrifying finale reveals “The Miracle of the Ark”, and again some of Williams’ best music.  The end credits music “Raiders March” is some of most memorable music in film history.  It revisits the most exciting music from the score.  It is similar in style and equal in quality to what John Williams did with the Star Wars saga end credits.  This single track should be in any serious music lover’s collection.

For a more knowledgeable take on the Raiders soundtrack, we spoke to Rob Daniels from the Visions In Sound radio programme.  He had this to add:

When I first heard John Williams’ score to Raiders I immediately fell in love with the theme. In fact it has been my ring tone on my phone for several years over at least three phones. That being said the score to Raiders is much more than its theme. By the way, the theme is actually two separate pieces that Williams had written to be the title theme for the film.  Speilberg loved them both and asked them to be combined.

John Williams is the master of memorable themes and Raiders is no exception. There are several wonderful themes such as the aforementioned “Raiders March” but also to be commended is “Marion’s Theme” and the “Ark Theme”. Though I have to admit that my favourite comes in the cue “Desert Chase” as Indy is going after the Ark as it is on its way to Cairo. As the cues play you can see the Nazi soldiers being thrown from the truck and Indy’s fight in the cab with one of them as he eventually gets dragged behind the truck to his final victory and escape. It’s an amazing piece of audio gymnastics in an 8:18 cue.

Williams is known for his broad themes (See Star Wars & Superman) but he also plays the smaller moments just as well. (See “The Medallion” & “To Cairo” cue). In the hands of another composer this could have been just another score but Williams elevated the film to a fun and epic adventure that can be playful, sad and triumphant, sometimes all in the same cue.

The remixing renders an awesome sounding CD with the depth and clarity you expect.  A nice looking booklet has the images to go with it.  Remember listening to a soundtrack while leafing through the photos in the LP?  Relive that with the reissued Raiders of the Lost Ark.

5/5 stars

 

Blu-ray REVIEW: Star Wars: The Force Awakens [Full-on spoilerific]

NEW RELEASE – SPOILERS

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015, 2016 Lucasfilm Blu-ray DVD set)

When we last saw our heroes in 1983, Evil had been defeated.  Seemingly, Luke Skywalker fulfilled the prophecy of the chosen one who would bring balance to the Force, via his father Anakin Skywalker.  Appealing to the good still within Darth Vader, the evil henchman of the Empire turned back to the light and betrayed his Sith lord, Emperor Palpatine.  The Rule of Two was broken and the Sith were destroyed, along with their ultimate weapon, the second dreaded Death Star.  In death, Vader redeemed himself.  Luke smiled when he saw the ghost of his father standing next to those of his old masters Yoda and Ben Kenobi.  He turned to rejoin his friends in the celebration of victory.  Roll credits.

For decades, we were told “that’s it”.  That’s the end of the story, said the man who wrote it, George Lucas.  Sure there was talk of a sequel trilogy before, even two sequel trilogies!  This seemed highly unlikely in 1983 as George was adamant that he was letting Star Wars go to work on other projects.  The legacy of a sequel, of “what happened to Luke, Han Solo and Princess Leia later” was left first to novelist Timothy Zahn and then to a whole new generation of writers who filled the galaxy with stories of what came next.  Of course, we all knew that should George actually change his mind and allow sequels to be made, all of that old stuff from the books would go out the window.  No way was anybody going to try and adhere to continuity that somebody else wrote in a novel.

In 1994 there was hope.  Lucas re-emerged and began working on the mysterious and long-awaited Star Wars prequels, Episodes I, II and III.  Questions now could finally be answered.  Who were the Jedi?  Who is Luke Skywalker’s mother, only briefly mentioned before and never seen or named?  Most importantly, how did Anakin Skywalker transform into Darth Vader, and why did the Repulic fall to be replaced by an Empire?   One of the problems with this situation was that some questions are often best left to the imagination.

It was undeniably wonderful to finally return to the Star Wars galaxy, but it is also impossible to overlook how ill-received by fans the prequel movies were.  The stiff acting, the wooden dialogue, the unlikely scenarios and muddled plots of these movies made them difficult to fully enjoy.  Although entire cottage industries had grown out of anticipating the possibility of a sequel trilogy, many fans were happy all the same if they never got made.  Lucas pooh-poohed the idea, now claiming Star Wars was always two trilogies, six movies, and the story of Anakin.  There were no stories beyond that, he continued.  It would be fun, he said, to see what Luke and Han were up to later, but ultimately they would just be extraneous to the actual story of Darth Vader.  The end.

 

"Everyone said, 'Well, are you going to do sequels to the first three?' But that was an afterthought; I don't have scripts on those stories. The only notion on that was, wouldn't it be fun to get all the actors to come back when they're 60 or 70 years old and make three more about them as old people."

“Everyone said, ‘Well, are you going to do sequels to the first three?’ But that was an afterthought; I don’t have scripts on those stories. The only notion on that was, wouldn’t it be fun to get all the actors to come back when they’re 60 or 70 years old and make three more about them as old people.”

 

Or not.

Quietly and in secret, Lucas once again had a change of heart and began work on the Star Wars sequel trilogy.  Realizing that he would not be able to undertake such a massive project at his age, he made the brave choice of handing Lucasfilm over to Kathleen Kennedy, and selling Star Wars to Disney.  Lucas’ story and characters were thrown out, but used as inspiration for what would eventually become Episode VII.  Artists dug way back into the Ralph McQuarrie archives for inspiration, and so decades-old designs for Star Wars were finally able to leap onto the big screen.

Much of this information is the included documentary, Secrets of the Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey.  Though that feature does document the emotion and gravitas of what a sequel really means, it fails to really express the true feeling of it all.  For decades, we were told this movie was never coming, but Episode VII was what we all really wanted, not Episode I.  After the credits rolled on Return of the Jedi, did we all not grab our action figures of Luke, Han, Leia and Chewie and try to play out what happened next?  The toy company Kenner tried to come up with new villains (I’m sure “Mongo Beefhead Tribesman” would have been a big hit), and Marvel Comics introduced a new villain called Lumiya, the Dark Lady of the Sith.   Mace Windu, Darth Maul and Qui-Gon Jinn did not exist.  The truth is, even in 1983, we didn’t really care about prequels.  We wanted to know what happened next much more than what came before.  So the dual challenge with Star Wars Episode VII was to not only make a movie that continues the story of the Skywalker family appropriately, but also to live up to everything we imagined and played out as kid.  No pressure, right?

Director JJ Abrams felt the pressure, but what he and his creative team emerged with in The Force Awakens is everything that fans needed it to be.  Not that there were no complaints.  The heaviest criticism laid against The Force Awakens is that it imitates the first Star Wars (A New Hope) slavishly.  Some derisively refer to The Force Awakens as a “reboot”.  The parallels are there, but let us also not forget that Lucas himself tried to make his trilogies “rhyme” with similar circumstances.  Did they go too far trying to copy the original?

A cute heroic droid carries a secret message on a desert world that must get back to the heroes.  A new young character, a loner who is unwittingly Force sensitive, meets this droid and decides to help it.  The desert world is escaped in the Millenium Falcon.  They are pursued by the bad guys, led by a Force-using guy in a black mask and cloak with a crimson red laser sword.  The bad guys have an ultimate weapon, a planet destroyer, and they use it.  Our heroes must stop them from using it again.  This large spherical weapon must be blown up, and a battle of X-Wings vs Tie Fighters will decide the fate of the galaxy.  An old hero from a prior trilogy makes the ultimate sacrifice.  Finally, our young new hero character concentrates to use the Force, and defeats the evil.  Roll credits.

That paragraph describes both A New Hope and The Force Awakens perfectly.   But a lot has changed, too.

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Although we know the events that occurred 30 years prior off by heart, we know very little about what actually took place between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.  Here is what we do know.

After the Battle of Endor and the defeat of the Emperor, Han Solo and Princess Leia had a son named Ben.  The Blu-ray special features reveal that Ben Solo was powerful in the Force, but with equal portions of light and dark within him.  Director JJ Abrams tells us that the man known as Snoke, a dark side user, had his eyes on Ben Solo from the very start.  So, much like his grandfather Anakin Skywalker, young Ben was being watched by a dark side master from the very beginning, and slowly seduced to the dark side.  We also know that Luke was training a new generation of Jedi, but that Ben destroyed it all.  Luke went into hiding, feeling responsible for his failure.  We do not know anything concrete about this Snoke, or where he comes from.  All that we know is that he seems very, very afraid of Luke.  Ben Solo wants to find the map that leads to Luke’s hiding place.  Snoke on the other hand wants that map destroyed if it cannot be recovered.  He would rather that Luke never return to the affairs of the galaxy, where Ben is desperate to find that map, and therefore his uncle Luke.

Our new hero, the girl known only as Rey, has a Force vision in the movie that tells us a little bit more about what happened.  We see brief clips of a massacre in the rain.  Betraying Luke’s students by surprise in the night, it appears Ben, now known as Kylo Ren, has slaughtered Luke’s younglings with the help of his henchmen, the Knights of Ren, about whom we know nothing at all.  We glimpse Luke placing his robotic right hand on his trusted droid R2-D2, perhaps shutting him down.  And most interestingly, we see Kylo Ren killing someone through the back with his lightsaber, from the perspective of someone down below.  Someone small like a child perhaps.

In that vision, which seems to be from the perspective of Rey as a little girl, Kylo Ren appears to be killing one of his fellow Knights of Ren.  Is that indeed what is happening?  Why did Kylo kill that man from behind?  Did Kylo spare Rey from him?  And who is Rey?

There seems little question that Rey is indeed a Skywalker.  It also seems clear that Kylo Ren knows, or at least feels, that there is more to Rey than anyone else knows.  It is Kylo who freaks out every time somebody mentions the scavenger girl from Jakku.  Why?  What is it about the idea of a girl from Jakku that has him so on edge?  Rey is powerful enough to not only resist Kylo’s mind probe, but also reverse it and read Kylo’s mind.  “You’re afraid,” she boldly proclaims, “that you will never be as powerful as Darth Vader!”  She is strong enough to defeat Kylo Ren, at least semi-trained in the lightsaber, in a dual.  Much like three other key characters in Star Wars (Luke, Leia and Anakin Skywalker), she has latent Force talents that are emerging on their own.  And this terrifies Kylo Ren, very much.  “You need a teacher!” he tells Rey, trying to avoid being bested by a girl.  “I can teach you the ways of the Force!”

Kylo Ren is an interesting and complex villain.  He has the fiery temper of his grandfather, but even more wild and untamed.  His unfinished lightsaber is amaturish and dangerous.  Unlike Anakin, he does not feel pulled to the dark.  “I feel it again.  The call to the light,” he confesses to Darth Vader’s melted helmet in meditation.  “Show me again, the power of the dark side,” he begs the spirit of his grandfather.  Wait…”again”?  What’s this “again” business?  When Anakin died, did he not revert to good?  It seems highly likely that Kylo Ren’s master, Supreme Leader Snoke, is manipulating him with this Vader business.  We will not know for sure until Episode VIII…or IX.

As for Snoke, we know he’s a Force user because we are told that he senses Kylo’s weakness, his compassion.  We also know this because he says he’s going to complete Kylo Ren’s training.  And that doesn’t sound too good for Kylo!  His mucking around, trying to retrieve the map from Rey instead of destroying it in BB-8, caused the First Order to lose their gazollion-credit superweapon, the Starkiller.  Think Darth Vader was in shit when he let the first Death Star get blown up?  Just imagine the shit that Kylo Ren is in now.  That new scar across his face his the last of his worries.  When Snoke finds out that he not only got the base blown up, but also let the girl get away and the Resistance find Luke Skywalker…well, let’s just say I wouldn’t want to be Kylo Ren right now.  The “completion” of his training will result in an even meaner and more intense Kylo Ren in Episode VIII.

Kylo’s father Han Solo went down a hero in The Force Awakens.  Now, true Star Wars fans could have seen this coming right from the day they announced the movie was going to be made.  Han Solo was supposed to die in Jedi.  At first, George Lucas wanted balance.  The victory of the heroes should be balanced by a tragic loss, because that’s life.  He eventually backed out of this.  It seemed obvious that the idea would be resurrected for The Force Awakens.  But for Han to go down the way he did?  Perfect.  Flawless.  Some complain that Han should have had the last word;  he did though — his hand on his son’s face says 1000 words.

Chewbacca’s rage in that moment reflected the shock of everyone in the movie theater.  Rey and Finn’s shock and sorrow was what we all felt, even though it was telegraphed from a mile away.  If those gangsters chasing Solo earlier in the film didn’t hint that his luck was running dry, then the moment Solo walked out onto that catwalk surely indicated it was time for his end.   If there is one rule in Star Wars, it’s be careful of catwalks.  Have these people not yet invented the safety rail?  On Earth, that catwalk would have violated so many regulations that General Hux would have been busted down to Colonel.

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The Blu-ray has deleted scenes, and some of them reveal a little bit more detail.  In one, Rey is told that Finn is going to be just fine, something left ambiguous in the final film.  In another, Kylo Ren and a squad of Snowtroopers board the Millenium Falcon after its crash landing on the Starkiller planet.  Knowing Ren would have grown up on that ship, you can only imagine his feelings as he stands in the cockpit.  Other cut scenes, like a battle with Finn and Rey using Snowspeeders, would have made the movie drag.  So here they are for your enjoyment, and separate from the film on a bonus disc.

The bonus disc also includes interesting bits about the different BB-8 droids that were built for the film, and the various creatures and monsters.  Composer John Williams is the star of one featurette.  The CG effects are gone over, and so is the end lightsaber battle with Kylo and Rey in the woods.  Few lightsaber battles in past movies were filmed in a night time setting.  In order to get the reflective glows on film, the actors used actual glowing lightsaber props for the scene.  The result is more realistic lighting in a scene featuring many trees and lots of snow.  Finally, there’s a bit about the famous “table read”.  When the cast were assembled and the script was read in one room for the first time, the photo of this epic “table read” went viral.  You may wonder, what did Mark Hamill do during this table read?  Did Luke have zero dialogue or not?  Good question:  Mark read the narration.  It’s only a shame the full two hour table read wasn’t included.

That brings us to Mark Hamill and Luke Skywalker, the ideal place to leave this epic review.  There he was at the end, after 30 years of wondering “What happens to Luke, the only Jedi left in the galaxy?”   Hamill’s face speaks volumes of what happened to Luke.  Epic pain…sad wisdom…incredible knowledge.  Luke has seen these things and much more, and it is in his eyes.  His light beige cloak is a sharp contrast to the black clothes we last saw him in.  In Star Wars, this communicates a purity awash in the good side of the Force.  Whatever he has done in the years since he left, it is implied that Luke has become as powerful as the Emperor predicted.  Probably more powerful even than Darth Vader ever was.  Supreme Leader Snoke fears Luke Skywalker more than anything the pitiful Resistance can muster.  Who do you think gave Snoke those horrific scars on his head?  Perhaps the reason Snoke fears the last Jedi so much is that he has tasted the blade of that Jedi.

The Force Awakens may take all its plot cues from the original 1977 Star Wars, and that is a fair critique.  As we have shown here, there is also much more to it.  There are layers of mystery that are waiting to be peeled.  When George made the first Star Wars in 1977, he didn’t know he would ever make another one.  There were not as many questions to answer.  What Kathleen Kennedy, JJ Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt came up with here was a story once thought impossible to write.  They succeeded in coming up with a sequel idea that continues the story of the Skywalkers, introduces new heroes and villains, and doesn’t seem tacked on or mismatched with the original movies.  It feels completely organic and natural.  Indeed, The Force Awakens feels far more like Star Wars than any of the three prequels did.  That’s something many thought impossible, like making the Kessel run in 12 parsecs.

Everybody’s going to buy this Blu-ray, so the only question left is which version to buy?  I chose Walmart’s which came in a BB-8 case with a little “trading disc” inside.  Only humbug: all those trailers we sat around and watched are not among the bonus features.  But there are many versions out there and here’s a breakdown of them:

  • Walmart – BB-8 case and trader disc.
  • Best Buy – Steelbook case.
  • Target – 20 minutes of additional bonus features including interviews with John Boyega and Daisy Ridley.
  • Disney – free lithographs.

Buy accordingly!

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Force Awakens soundtrack [spoiler free]

NEW RELEASE – SPOILER FREE

Scan_20160103 (8)STAR WARS: The Force Awakens original motion picture soundtrack (2015 Lucasfilm/Disney)

After seeing The Force Awakens on December 18, my radio pal Rob Daniels who had not seen it yet asked me, “How was it, seeing a Star Wars movie without the 20th Century Fox logo and fanfare at the start?”

It was strange.  Not unexpected of course; we all know the reason there is an Episode VII today is because Lucasfilm sold Star Wars to Disney.  The old 20th Century Fox fanfare does not commence the soundtrack, which instead begins with the main Star Wars title theme.  This quiets and slows, as the covert start to the movie begins.

“The Scavenger” introduces the character of Rey.  Add this to yet another intriguing piece of character music from the mind of John Williams.  “The Scavenger” is unlike any of the other Star Wars cues; it’s brand new, just like the character of Rey.  I get goosebumps hearing it again, such is the power and identity of the score.  It also has the tone to connect this new chapter to the other instalments of the saga.  This is only a brief respite.  Much like the movie itself, the action resumes shortly.  The title “I Can Fly Anything” suggests you should fasten your seatbelts for this cue!*  Williams allows you to close your eyes and picture the flurry yourself.  He always has; that’s his magic.  As kids, we would drop the needle on the soundtrack to The Empire Strikes Back while navigating an asteroid field with our Kenner Millenium Falcons.  Or, you would flip the pages of your Marvel Star Wars comic movie adaptations, while listening to those records.  The experience still works today.  Through the drama and occasional quiet moments of reflection, you will notice callbacks to cues from the classic trilogy — “The Falcon”, or “Han and Leia” for example.  These pieces of music are warmly remembered.

When the soundtrack to The Phantom Menace was released in 1999, the track “Duel of the Fates” became a bit of a hit single.  There is no “Duel of the Fates” here, but “Rey’s Theme” serves well as the memorable track this time out.  With more subtlety (and perhaps even femininity?), “Rey’s Theme” is a new kind of Star Wars music.  I have high hopes that the character and story arc will unfold in a way just as emotional and satisfying as her theme music.  Star Wars deserves to have characters that you can invest your emotions in.  With the prequel trilogy, I could never feel much for Anakin Skywalker.  You always knew that no matter what happened in the prequels, he’s just going to end up in the black suit and blowing up Aldaraan.  Rey’s future is unwritten.  Having a strong theme will help her character going forward.

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Vintage Star Wars fun can be had on the tension-packed tracks “The Rathtars!”, and “Kylo Ren Arrives”.  Somber beauty is “The Starkiller”, ironic considering the scene in question.  For deeper listening, check out the tracks “Maz’s Counsel” and “Snoke”.  Perhaps there are musical clues buried in these pieces to help us identify who some of these characters may be?

The soundtrack is a wild ride like the movie from which it came, picking up suspense as it nears the end.  The less said about the last few tracks on the CD the better, except to mention that Williams continues to forge new ground for Star Wars right to the finale.  With passion and precision, every track is the perfect accompaniment.

My only disappointment, although not unexpected since this is only a single CD release, is that some music is naturally omitted.  The one track I wish was available is the neat rasta-space-blues song playing when our heroes arrives at Maz Kanata’s tavern.  It’s the “Cantina Band” or “Lapti Nek” of the movie, but it’s not on the CD.  There are whispers that a 2 CD deluxe edition is forthcoming this year.

5/5 stars

* The Millenium Falcon has seatbelts, but the USS Enterprise does not.  Discuss!

MOVIE REVIEW: Star Wars: The Force Awakens [Spoiler-free]

NEW RELEASE – SPOILER FREE ZONE!

Star_Wars_The_Force_Awakens_Theatrical_PosterSTAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015)

Directed by JJ Abrams

“Faster, more intense!”

15 minutes ago, I was sitting in my theater seats.  That’s how fresh this review is!

As mentioned in this morning’s post, Star Wars Episode VII is the movie I really wanted to see, ever since 1983.  We didn’t care about backstory, we didn’t want to see prequels.  All we cared about was “What happens next?  What happens to Han, Luke and Leia?”  That’s one reason Timothy Zahn’s written sequel, the “Thrawn Trilogy”, was so well received by fans worldwide.  But that’s just a book — what really happens after the second Death Star is destroyed?

Now I know, and I am not disappointed.

Director JJ Abrams has re-captured the magic.  The lived-in universe is back.  The wooden, stiff dialogue and exposition are gone.  The new quartet of leads (Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and especially the impressive Daisy Ridley) are everything we wanted out of a new generation of Star Wars heroes and villains.  They will now join the pantheon of characters that live on in our hearts.  The camaraderie and friendships that were never believable in the prequels have finally come back to life.  Without the misguided hands of George Lucas at the tiller, the Star Wars sequel trilogy has begun anew, with life.

Rey is a scavenger on the desert planet of Jakku.  The parallel here to Tattooine is unmistakable and obviously intentional, but Jakku has its own charm by being strewn with original trilogy space junk.  In fact, the whole movie is littered with original trilogy callbacks, from certain objects on a familiar starship, to the overall look and deco of the universe.  The galaxy has seen a lot of wear and tear, but a new threat called the First Order has risen, and wants to see the end of the New Republic.  The Republic (which we don’t get to see much of), is defended by a secret organization much like the rebels, called the Resistance.  They are led by General Leia Organa, continuing on doing what she knows how to do best.  How does Rey fit in?  When a droid carrying a secret message for the Resistance (sound familiar?) and an ex-stormtrooper fall into her life, it will never be the same again.


Uber-fans will like to know that there are some shots and lines in the trailers that are different in the movie.

The new characters serve the archetypes that worked in classic Star Wars movies.  You have an orphan on the desert world, a hotshot pilot (or perhaps two), and the cute but witty little droid who helps out at all the right moments, but mostly needs rescuing.  Original?  Not hardly.  The original trilogy, with its familiar set pieces and dialogue, are omnipresent.  Fans have set the bar much lower since the prequels, and a group of re-tread heroes will have the fans satiated.  Then we have the villain, Kylo Ren, the enforcer of the First Order, and face of the Disney marketing campaign.  Much has been made of Ren’s wimpy voice, but in full theater sound it works much better.  Adam Driver, an extremely talented and distinguished looking actor, fit the role like a glove.  His epic temper tantrums rival those of his idol, Lord Vader himself.

But don’t worry.  There aren’t any dreadful “Noooooooooo’s” or lines about sand being course and getting everywhere.  There aren’t wishy-washy speeches about love, although Finn and Rey have a bond that could develop into romance later on.  Writer Lawrence Kasdan, who worked on the classic trilogy and knew where Lucas wanted to take this thing, helped tremendously.  From opening crawl to final scene, this feels right.

In many respects, The Force Awakens is Han Solo’s movie.  When he and Chewbacca hook up with our new heroes (in a totally believable way), he takes over the lead and drives the plot forward.  Harrison Ford seems to have turned his “Han Solo” knob up to 11.  The older, wiser and sadder man has seen it all, now.  As another character once said, “It’s not the age, it’s the mileage”.  Solo and Chewie’s presence make the whole thing really feel like Star Wars.

My biggest concern going into this was that a Star Wars sequel trilogy would not feel like it was part of the whole; it would feel tacked on to the end.  That is not the case.  While George Lucas had nothing to do with the film, it does carry his wish that a new Star Wars trilogy would focus on a new generation of heroes, while remaining a story about the Skywalker family.  JJ Abrams has done that, in an appropriate and lively way.  The new Star Wars is the most exciting in many years, and what it lacks in originality it makes up in spirit.  I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

My only serious beef is about this new superweapon the First Order have.  Superweapons are a part of Star Wars, and always require blowing up.  This one made no sense at all, especially how it was visually depicted.  We need Neil DeGrasse Tyson to do a pop-up video and tell us just how stupid that thing is.  If you thought the “red matter” and destruction of Vulcan sucked in Star Trek, wait until you see this stupid thing.  Just pretend it makes sense and watch the pretty starship dogfights.

Oh, and Luke Skywalker?  Some will be disappointed, but those who love Star Wars will have the same goosebumps that I did.  Mark Hamill is the man.  Luke is back, looking weary but powerful and wise.  There are a lot of loose ends to tie up.  Get ready, galaxy.

4/5 stars

Don’t forget to tune in tonight at midnight (ET) for Rob Daniels’ Visions In Sound, when he and I will be playing the brand-new Star Wars soundtrack composed by John Williams!  Tune in locally on your FM dial to CKWR 98.5, or elsewhere, just click “listen live” via their website!  The show runs from midnight to 2 am (ET).  Coffee?

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EDIT: Stream the whole show here!

#455.5: More Star Wars radio, tonight!

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Tonight at midnight, you can again catch me LIVE on Robert Daniels‘ radio program VISIONS IN SOUND.   Tune in locally on your FM dial to CKWR 98.5, or elsewhere, just click “listen live” via their website!  The show runs from midnight to 2 am (ET).  Coffee?

Tonight’s subject:  STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS!  The brand spanking new soundtrack by John Williams.

This will be our first time hearing it.  Last week, Rob and I covered the music from the classic trilogy also composed by John Williams.  We had an amazing time talking about the music, what it means to us as fans, and what it does for the films.  Tonight will be interesting because I have no idea what the music sounds like!  I am hoping to see The Force Awakens this morning or afternoon.  One thing I mentioned to Rob last week (and I can’t even remember if this was on or off the air) was that this is the movie we have really been waiting for since 1983.

In ’83 when the credits rolled, all we really wanted to know was “what happens next?”  Lucas had long teased us with the idea of three trilogies, but after Jedi it soon seemed unlikely that a sequel trilogy would ever happen.  In 1983, we didn’t care about whatever happened Episodes I, II, or III.  Many of us consider that to be backstory that would be better off left to the imagination.  Kind of like reading the indices in a Tolkien book.  We really wanted to see what happened next with Luke, Leia and Han.  Would Luke become the most powerful Jedi ever?  What new threats would emerge now that Vader and the Emperor were dead?  And most interestingly, would Luke find and train new Jedi Knights, as Yoda instructed him?  “Pass on what you have learned.”

That’s what we wanted to see.  Then Lucas crapped out and said, “No more Star Wars.  We’re done.”

By the time 1994 rolled around, his tune changed.  It was Jurassic Park that did it.  Lucas became enamoured with computers and said, “Now we have the technology to go and do Star Wars the way I always wanted to do it.”   He began work, and as the prequels emerged from 1999-2005, Lucas often said “I only have ideas for six movies.  That’s all there is.  There are no sequels.  The story is about Anakin Skywalker’s fall and redemption.”  Yada, yada, yada….

I’ve always believed that George Lucas, much like his creation Han Solo, was just “making it up as he goes”.  Although George did come up with story ideas for Star Wars Episode VII and beyond, what we will see today is a brand new creation.  Lucas always said that if there were to be any sequels, they would be about Darth Vader’s grandchildren with Luke playing a mentoring role, like Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Today, we finally find out.

But tonight, I hope you’re able to tune in and catch what I assume and hope to be some incredible music.  The Force Awakens will be the seventh Star Wars film composed by John Williams, and I am certain that it will be a treat.  I’ve already reviewed all the classic trilogy soundtracks already, so if you need to catch up before the awakening, here they are:

Check in tonight, and may the Force be with you!  Always.


EDIT: Stream the show now, right here:
Visions in Sound archive

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