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Film Music Review (Volumes 1-7)






STAR WARS - 30th Anniversary Collector's Edition (2007)

Music composed and conducted by John Williams

Performed by The London Symphony Orchestra.






Discs 1 and 2: STAR WARS, EPISODE IV - A NEW HOPE (1977)














Disc 7: STAR WARS - The Corellian Edition
Disc 8: CD-ROM with LP packaging, poster and inserts



Produced by George Lucas and John Williams. Product Management: Leslie Collman Smith. Editorial Production: Laura Kszan. Art Direction and Design: Roxanne Slimak and Sean Evans.

Sony/BMG Masterworks Box Set

Rating: ***


We live in an age when any media phenomenon gets reissued not once, not twice, but at least in the case of STAR WARS, many times. The first question that probaly comes to mind about this 30th Anniversary Collector's Edition would be: Is this set worth spending the money to buy?

Well, that depends on your eagerness to own another STAR WARS re-issue.

As someone who has numerous copies of the STAR WARS albums (including the original LPs of Episodes IV, V and VI), I can understand the reluctance by some fans to purchase this 30th Anniversary Collector's Edition. Yet the popularity of this sci-fi film series seems to remain strong.

For the 75th birthday of John Williams, a Listener's Poll was run and all six of the STAR WARS soundtracks were chosen, with THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and A NEW HOPE coming in at No. 1 and No. 2.

In order to get some perspective, let's look back to when this series began in 1977...

It's easy to forget both the enormous interest by film goers and the critics approval of the first STAR WARS soundtrack album when it was first released.

One reviewer wrote this in Stereo Review magazine (September 1977):

"The soundtrack - both records of it - is, in short, enormous fun, improved no doubt by the resequencing and editing Williams did especially for the album, and both the sound and the quality of the orchestral playing (the LSO is not your average Hollywood pick-up outfit) are really quite breathtaking."

Another reviewer wrote the following in High Fidelity magazine (November 1977):

"This is all music on a grand scale and easily the versatile Williams' most elaborate effort to date. A generous seventy-four minutes of the fully ninety-minute score, performed by the London Symphony (particularly worthy of praise is the brass section, which gets quite an exhausting workout), is presented on two superbly recorded discs...My one objection about this music is its lack of a genuine Romantic sensibility to substantiate the borrowed Wagnerian form....STAR WARS may well be one of the great rareties in recent years: an instant film-music classic."

There is no need to discuss the first three double CDs in this 30th Anniversary set because they are the original recordings from 1977 (20th Century Records), 1980 (RSO Records), and 1983 (RSO Records), with digital mastering and editing done in 1996. They are reissued as is -- surprisingly the sound is quite shrill on some of these CDs (especially Episodes IV and V) -- not up to today's digital standards. The original LP covers are reproduced for each album which is a nice touch.

All the track titles for Episode IV, V, and VI are listed on an accompanying flyer, but only has a description of the evolution of STAR WARS - A NEW HOPE. The reverse side has a STAR WARS mini-poster. If you hang it up on your wall, you can't read the track titles on the other side. This is a foolish design! If a poster is desired, it should be a separate sheet apart from the track titles. There are also full color 4" X 4" stickers from the Extended Editions for the three films in the box set. All this extra stuff is intended for the STAR WARS film fans. And what has all this to do with the music?

The other items of this 30th Anniversary set are on Discs 7 and 8.

Disc 7 is titled "The Corellian Edition," named after ther Corellian System, a fictional group of worlds from the STAR WARS galaxy, for diehard fans to mull over. This CD includes 13 tracks (55:05) with samples from all six of the STAR WARS soundtracks: THE PHANTOM MENACE (3 tracks); ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2 tracks); REVENGE OF THE SITH (2 tracks); A NEW HOPE (2 tracks); THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (2 tracks); and RETURN OF THE JEDI (2 tracks). The track titles are only listed on the foldout cover and are somewhat hard to read. It would have been better to list them on the separate flyer along with Episodes IV, VI and VI. Sound quality is excellent, much better than the first three CDs in this set. This Corellian Edition CD is also available separately and comes in a standard jewel case, and should be enough to satisfy most casual STAR WARS fans.

Disc 8 has a CD-ROM with illustrations of the original LP designs, including covers and inside photos.This should be of interest only for those who want to to gaze at graphics in their spare time.

As it stands, the 8 CD set should appeal mainly to completists or to new fans of the series who haven't yet purchased the original soundtracks.

It is an understatement to say that these John Williams STAR WARS soundtracks are all worthwhile but the 30th Anniversary Collector's Edition fails to give them the special treatment they deserve. They could have included bonus tracks not yet released or recording outtakes, if they still exist. Instead, we get a re-issue of re-issued CDs from 1996.

The collection has colorful art design, though I'm not a fan of the mini-jacket cardboard covers. They were obviously designed to mimic the original album covers, but CDs are not as easy to remove as the LPs.

Many years ago, I heard John Williams remark the he originally thought the first STAR WARS was a "Saturday kiddie matineee" type film. Of course he never expected it to have the enormous popularity it has now achieved.

This is a nicely packaged box set but offers little that is new. I would rather see re-issues of other past soundtracks (no, I won't name them here) get this kind of special treatment.

With so many reisuues of the STAR WARS soundtracks, I wish these cash cow CDs would stop, or else fly a galaxy...far, far away.


--Roger L. Hall, 30 November 2007


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