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Hello friends! I have now reached my eight installment in my lengthy survey into the Golden Age scores of composer John Williams, that has been an unexpected success, on which I have nobody else to thank but the populus of Dooyoo members. A humble arigato to all. 1982 was another year of triumph for Williams as his new score for Steven Spielberg earned him another Academy Award for E.T. The Extra Terrestial, being his fourth such award (the earlier three being from Fiddler on the Roof, Jaws and Star Wars). The other scores for 1982 are much less notable, consisting of Monsignor, a film about an American priest in the Vatican doing some illegal arms deals during 1944, and Yes, Giorgio, that deals with an opera singer who loses his voice and falls in love with his doctor. The former never even received an official album release and the latter is totally forgotten today, so I dont think there is anything to really get excited about by either effort and may just as well be forgotten by all except the most ardent of collectors. But as 1983 dawned, it again provided a platform for Williams to write some truly large scale music for the satisfaction of those left hungering for it after E.T.
Star Wars was an immense success when it came out in 1977. The first sequel The Empire Strikes Back was likewise a huge success, though never quite reaching the success of Star Wars. With the trilogy coming to a conclusion with Return of the Jedi (bearing the obiquitous Episode VI marking), expectations were understandably high. In The Empire Strikes Back we learned about the grand jedi master Yoda, that Han Solo and Princess Leia were really getting romantically warmed up with each other, and that Darth Vader was actually the father of Luke Skywalker. With things looking somewhat dark at the end of Empire, Return of the Jedi was promising to be a crowning culmination in the saga, with the appearance of the Emperor of the Galactic Empire, the rebuilding of the Death Star and Luke's final initiation as to becoming a jedi, culminating in his confrontation with Vader and the destruction of the Death Star (well what else were you expecting?). All things considered, Return of the Jedi was just what was expected when it came to the final culmination between good and evil and action abounded throughout the story. Actually the only thing that really irks many were those silly ewoks. It's hard to imagine that those little teddybears even got themselves two feature films plus a cartoon series past Jedi!
Throughout the last two entries, John Williams had been expanding his palette of themes, so with seven main themes and numerous sub-themes by the time he started work on Return of the Jedi, there was certainly much to work with. Now Williams had composed an amazing score for Star Wars and had followed that up with a far superior score for The Empire Strikes Back. This caused a big problem for Williams. Would he attempt to write an even greater score than Empire, or would he keep up with the standard set by that previous film. In all reality to top Empire would be a nearly impossible task, for had Williams been able to step Jedi even higher than Empire, we could very well have had the best score ever written for any film yet. What Williams managed to do was to keep up the high standard of his writing, while contributing a few themes more and creating a couple of very magical moments indeed, especially towards the end of the film.
With the film ending up getting between the editorial scissors, the score also ended up a little jumbled up in places, with some cues being dropped into completely different places while others were completely cut out since the scene where they were no longer existed (although this was also evident in Empire to a lesser degree). More than anything, this effected the final battle sequences most, with the jumping around from one front to the other causing the music to feel like a cut and paste job instead of continuing in the more seamless nature of the previous films. The result is that the music feels a little truncated and curiously disjointed, not to mention the ewok music sounds too childish for many ears and the new theme for Luke and Leia doesn't flow as well as Han and Leia's love theme. On a more positive note however Jedi does feature the greatest array of themes in the original trilogy as well as having a fuller sound quality when compared with either of the previous Star Wars films. As in the previous scores, the music was again performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. The recordings took place between January and February 1983 at the EMI/Abbey Road Studios in London (by this time leaving behind Denhams now defunct Anvil Studios). The music was again recorded by Eric Tomlinson, orchestrated by Herbert Spencer and edited by Ken Wannberg. The end result was a whopping 146 minutes of music recorded in total, the most material recorded than in either of the other movies.
Where this new score falters the most is in the invention of the new themes. The first is for Luke and Leia (a brother/sister thing), concluding the trio of romantic themes began by Princess Leia's theme and continued by Han and Leia's love theme. Although not as free flowing as either of the two, it does have a nice romantic melody with a little Russian tinge to it, though it doesnt quite live up to either of its predecessors. The ewoks in their turn have been blessed with a more humorous and rather silly march, something that many don't digest with much pleasure (rather humorously it is derived to a great extent from Supermans March of the Villains which in its turn is quite similar to Prokofievs Three Oranges march). Its not that this theme is outrightly bad, but in the context of Star Wars it just sounds overly comical for even Star Wars, though I think we have Lucas to blame for the creation of these little cutesy bears in the first place. There is even a little Chinese hint inserted into the music whether appropriate or not.
Then there is the tuba-based theme for Jabba the Hutt, the tuba in particular becoming a standard staple for Williams when it came in depicting girth or morons. To be honest, this theme is a little unpleasant and boring, making one feel the desire to skip over most of the Jabba scenes (which by the way I often end up doing). The theme is simply so deadly dull that most of the scenes near the beginning of the film are unbelievably tedious and insufferable. However the one new theme where Williams really cooks is in the theme for the Emperor. This is the first time a chorus is used in Star Wars (apart from that lone female voice in Empire when the Millenium Falcon entered Cloud City). The low male choir hums a truly satanic wordless melody over sustained low string backing that is one of the most evil pieces of music Williams has ever created. Whatever of the evil quality the Imperial March's flamboyance left you wanting, the Emperor's theme has that it in spades. It is by far one of the most perfect themes in the entire Star Wars saga in its depiction of ultimate evil.
As mentioned, Return of the Jedi, when compared with the other entires, unfortunately is not as strong. The main reason for this is the slowess and silliness of certain parts. The Jabba scenes from "Tatooine Rendezvous", "The Droids Are Captured", "Bounty for a Wookie", "Han Solo Returns" and "Sarlacc Sentence" are actually frightfully boring to listen to. Jabba's theme is simply not enjoyable enough to be enjoyed for many minutes on end. Also the ewok music is simply degrading for Star Wars music and can drive one bonkers during many of the latter cues. The editing of the film as well causes the music to be a little jumpy at times and, apart from the two Cantina Band numbers in A New Hope, Jedi also features much more source music. The Jabba scenes have a number of little background pieces like "Jabba's Baroque Recital" and the hideous "Lapti Nek." Incidentally Lucas has managed to make the Lapti Nek scene even worse in his Special Edition by replacing the original song with "Jedi Rocks", a hideous pop/rock song, composed by Jerry Hay, that simply has no place in a Star Wars movie and stands completely apart from the musical identity of the Star Wars universe (what the HELL was Lucas thinking?). Also the ewoks are given a few tribal songs "Ewok Feast/Part of the Tribe" and the original finale before the end credits, replaced by Williams with the "Victory Celebration" for the Special Edition. This is another piece that, while being better than the original, sounds a little too new (being more inclined towards world music) to mesh well with the older score, the "End Title" break being particularly clunky.
After venting so much about what is wrong with this score, let's now see what's good, and there is still a lot of it. The opening scene after the main fanfare as Vader approached the Death Star blows the Imperial March straight out with such power that it has never sounded as good. The ten minute suite of "The Emperor Arrives/The Death of Yoda/Obi-Wan's Revelation" is a piece of pure magic, opening powerfully with the Imperial March and introducing the Emperor's theme for the first time, it is followed by the death scene of Yoda. This is one of the greatest examples of Williams pulling out some out-of-this-world music of touching tenderness that via the most simplest of gestures offers so much emotion it is hard to fathom. The "Sail Barge Assault" is a very accomplished action piece (there is also an alternate version of this on the Special Edition album) as are the dogfight sequences in the last third of the film that, despite the quick scene changes, still manages to be exciting and totally involving.
The most fantastic cues however are centered toward the end of the film. The cue "The Dark Side Beckons" (incorporated inside "The Battle of Endor II" suite) we hear perhaps the most sublime musical moment in all of Star Wars yet. As Luke attacks Vader during their final confrontation, a most sublime choral interlude appears for Lukes final plunging towards Vader that is very similar to a sub-theme heard in E.T. and is the emotional climax of the light sabre battle. The simple fact that the scene is scored with the most touching lyrical feeling instead of outright action makes it very haunting and beautiful, providing a perfect moment for the most crucial of scenes. Then there is the sad death of Darth Vader, a moment when the Imperial March presents itself in eerily quiet strings and harp, an utterance that couldn't be mistaken for anything else. It is another great example of the versatility of the theme in being more than just a flamboyant military march. And finally there is the cue "Light of the Force" where Luke sets Vader's funeral pyre on fire. Here the Force theme makes its last appearance that resonates in very much the same way as it did in A New Hope's "Binary Sunset" cue, though here it is extended to considerably loftier heights. It always sends chills down my spine whenever I hear it. These few cues alone present some of the best music Star Wars has to offer and are wonderful to listen to over and over again.
With the CD format seeming more and more the up-and-coming thing by the mid-1980s, the LP released on May 20, 1983 paled in comparison to the earlier film's albums. Instead of double LPs, only one vinyl LP was released that contained only the bare essentials from the score. The CD, released at the same time as the A New Hope one in 1986, was the same as the LP with roughly 40 minutes of music. Released around the same time was also the re-recording made by Charles Gerhardt with the National Philharmonic Orchestra that provided some new music not found from the official soundtrack like the concert version of Jabba's theme. But Jedi still remained as the worst presentation of Star Wars music ever seen, with a great amount of excellent music missing (most notably Lukes choral attack on Vader that proved to be a favourite of many people who saw the movie). The 1993 Anthology set gave out a lot of unreleased music, something that was welcomed with much happiness. Whereas the music from the other films featured on this set were a little mixed, the new music from Jedi was more valuable. Since so little music was originally released there was also more unreleased material featured in this set, although there still remained much important music missing.
In 1997, corresponding with the restored Special Edition versions of the original trilogy, RCA Victor released Return of the Jedi as a 2-CD set, that featured just about all of the existing score. Some nine minutes are still missing, but those nine minutes are mostly inconsequential, comprising mostly of unimportant source cues. Sound quality is vibrant, though a little muffled at times. The liner notes are again exemplary with colour photos and detailed summaries of each track, providing the best presentation yet seen of the score. In 2004, Sony Classical then bought the rights for the original trilogy's soundtracks and released the whole 2-CD set all over again with using their Digital Streaming Technology to improve the sound, but this is mostly very marginal, needing a very highly tuned ear to notice (or so I'm told). Not to mention the liner notes don't have the same details as the 1997 version has. As I have said in the other Star Wars reviews, the version you most readily want is the 1997 black-covered RCA Special Edition with the superior liner notes, though unfortunately the release is now out of print and is only available second hand. The 2004 Sony Classical version is only for those who can't find the RCA version and the earlier albums can easily be forgotten. All in all, despite the flaws apparent in this trilogys final installment, it is still better than most other scores and has enough allegiance to older themes to smooth out much of the criticisms. These considerations make it another winner and a definite must have.
The 2004 Sony Classical version is currently selling for £12.99 on Amazon.co.uk.
Original 1983/1986 album
1. Main Title (The Main Story Continues) (5:09)
2. Into the Trap (2:36)
3. Luke and Leia (4:43)
4. Parade of the Ewoks (3:24)
5. Han Solo Returns (At the Court of Jabba the Hutt) (4:07)
6. Lapti Nek (2:38)
7. The Forest Battle (4:01)
8. Rebel Briefing (2:19)
9. The Emperor (2:40)
10. The Return of the Jedi (5:00)
11. Ewok Celebration and Finale (7:57)
1997/2004 2-CD Special Edition
1. 20th Century Fox Fanfare (0:22)
2. Main Title/Approaching the Death Star/Tatooine Rendezvous* (9:21)
3. The Droids Are Captured* (1:17)
4. Bounty for a Wookie* (2:50)
5. Han Solo Returns** (4:01)
6. Luke Confronts Jabba*/Den of the Rancor/Sarlacc Sentence* (8:51)
7. The Pit of Carkoon*/Sail Barge Assault (6:02)
8. The Emperor Arrives/The Death of Yoda/Obi-Wan's Revelation* (10:58)
9. Alliance Assembly* (2:13)
10. Shuttle Tydirium Approached Endor (4:09)
11. Speeder Bike Chase*/Land of the Ewoks* (9:38)
12. The Levitation*/Threepio's Bedtime Story* (2:46)
13. Jabba's Baroque Recital* (3:09)
14. Jedi Rocks* (2:42)
15. Sail Barge Assault (alternate) (5:04)
1. Parade of the Ewoks (3:28)
2. Luke and Leia (4:46)
3. Brother and Sister/Father and Son*/The Fleet Enters Hyperspace**/Heroic Ewok (10:40)
4. Emperor's Throne Room (3:26)
5. The Battle of Endor I** (11:50)
6. The Lightsaber*/The Ewok Battle (4:31)
7. The Battle of Endor II** (10:03)
8. The Battle of Endor III** (6:04)
9. Leia's News/Light of the Force (3:24)
10. Victory Celebration*/End Title (8:34)
11. Ewok Feast*/Part of the Tribe* (4:02)
12. The Forest Battle (concert suite) (4:05)
**Contains previously unreleased music
Music Composed and Conducted by John Williams
Performed by The London Symphony Orchestra
Orchestrated by Herbert W. Spencer
Recording Engineer: Eric Tomlinson
Recording Supervisor: Lionel Newman
Recorded at EMI/Abbey Road Studios, London, England
Supervising Music Editor: Kenneth Wannberg
Produced by John Williams
1997 Album Produced by Nick Redman
"Victory Celebration" Recorded at EMI/Abbey Road Studios
on November 26-27, 1996
Music Composed and Arranged by Jerry Hey
Recorded at Lansdowne Studios, London on October 20, 1996
© berlioz, 2005, 2006
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 20th Century Fox Fanfare
2 Main Title/Approaching The Death Star/Tatooine Rendezvous Medley
3 The Droids Are Captured
4 Bounty for a Wookiee
5 Han Solo Returns
6 Luke Confronts Jabba/Den Of The Rancor/Sarlacc Sentence Medley
7 The Pit of Carkoon/Sail Barge Assault Medley
8 The Emperor Arrives/The Death of Yoda/Obi-Wan's Revelation Medley
9 Alliance Assembly
10 Shuttle Tydirium Approaches Endor
11 Speeder Bike Chase/Land of the Ewoks Medley
12 The Levitation/Threepio's Bedtime Story Medley
13 Jabba's Baroque Recital
14 Jedi Rocks
15 Sail Barge Assault (Alternate Version)
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 Parade of the Ewoks
2 Luke and Leia 4:46
3 Brother and Sister/Father and Son/The Fleet Enters Hyperspace/Heroic Ewok Medley
4 Emperor's Throne Room
5 The Battle Of Endor I Medley (Into the Trap/Forest Ambush/Scout Walker Scramble/Prime Weapon Fires)
6 The Lightsaber/The Ewok Battle
7 The Battle Of Endor II Medley (Leia Is Wounded - The Duel Begins/Overtaking the Bunker/The Dark Side Beckons/The Emperor's Death)
8 The Battle Of Endor III Medley (Superstructure Chase/Darth Vader's Death/The Main Reactor)
9 Leia's News/Light of the Force Medley
10 Victory Celebration/End Title Medley
11 Ewok Feast/Part of the Tribe Medley
12 The Forest Battle (Concert Suite)