03 April 2009

"Star Wars" Original Soundtrack by John Williams

Star Wars
Original Soundtrack Composed and Conducted by John Williams
Performed by the London Symphony Orchestra
Release Year: 1977

It has been the best-selling score soundtrack album of all time, and ranked by the American Film Institute the best movie score ever.  This double-LP set contains nearly 74 of the 90 minutes written and recorded for George Lucas's original juggernaut.  Maestro Williams has always been conscious of what it is like for a listener to hear a film score out of context, and so this soundtrack release is arranged not in the chronological sequence in which the cues appear in the film, but rather in an order arranged by him to create an enjoyable listening experience.  To assist this album-oriented approach, several shorter cues have been amalgamated as a singular track.  Often, these cues are not only from wildly separate portions of the film, but arranged so that a cue from later in the film might segue into one from nearly an hour earlier!

Because of the score's foundation of a few principle themes (Luke's theme, Princess Leia's, Ben Kenobi's and Darth Vader's), this album release the effect of a modern day symphony.  Even without seeing Sir Alec Guinness, we can hear and feel the presence of someone or something that is thoughtful; wise.  We need not hear James Earl Jones to know the presence of Darth Vader, or at least, the story's villain.  Carrie Fisher is not required to know there is someone tender, possibly beautiful.  The undulation of these themes, bouyed by supporting themes for the Jawas and the 'droids Artoo-Detoo and See Threepio, tell a musical story that need no special effects.

Outside of the original film, I first heard this soundtrack in the 1993 boxed set, Star Wars Anthology.  In that release, the first disc contains this double-LP set (with full versions of two cues that were abridged for this original release), and the missing 16 minutes of music were added on the fourth disc of that boxed set.  This time, though, I have played the original 1977 vinyl release and have come to appreciate the music more than I did on CD.  Perhaps it's the benefit of Williams's album-conscious arrangement, perhaps it's the intangible benefit of the vinyl format (which, all pretentiousness aside, does feel to be a more organic format than CD or digital).  Whatever the reason, I strongly suggest that film score fans, Star Wars fans and anyone who has the vaguest interest in this release find the original double-LP.  It may not be easy to find one in great condition after thirty-two years, but it will be well worth the while.

Note: In addition to the two LP's, this release is supposed to include a double-sided liner notes insert with track-by-track commentary by Williams, as well as the full LSO roster.  It is also supposed to include a fold-out poster.