John Williams

Star Wars: The Ultimate Soundtrack Collection

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With the mammoth cultural fanfare surrounding the release of The Force Awakens, the timing for a massive reissue was a good idea. Star Wars: The Ultimate Soundtrack Collection is a monster: 11 discs spanning the originals, the prequels, a "best-of" theme collection for instant gratification, and interviews with composer John Williams and Han Solo himself, Harrison Ford. The set is understandably lopsided: the less memorable music from the prequels claims just three discs, though diehards and fans looking to delve deeper into Williams' work will be rewarded. The Phantom Menace includes the most iconic song from the prequels, the apocalyptic "Duel of the Fates," yet also contains some playful whimsy, choral singing, and global instrumentation for the newly introduced worlds of Naboo and Tatooine. Important Easter eggs pop up too, like on "Anakin's Theme," which ends with some "Imperial March" foreshadowing. The cultural cache of memorable tunes dips off from there. Attack of the Clones introduces Anakin and Padme's "Across the Stars" love theme, where Williams creates more sweeping romance and foreboding danger than Lucas could wring from his actors' cringeworthy performances. A couple more exciting moments surprise faithful listeners: electric guitar zings forth on "Chase Through Coruscant" and emotions are roused on "Love Pledge and the Arena," but overall, like the movie, this is the weakest of the series. Revenge of the Sith is redeemed not only by the lamentful violin dirge of "Anakin's Dream," but by the scary excitement of "Palpatine's Teachings," which not only introduces the leitmotifs for "Emperor's Theme," "Imperial March," and "Force Theme," but also hints at The Force Awakens' mysterious "Snoke" with the bellow of ominous chanting. The prequel trilogy ends with the apt "A New Hope," where thematic nostalgia floods in and segues nicely into the original trilogy soundtracks. Each episode -- A New Hope, Empire, and Jedi -- receives two discs, and rightfully so: these are some of the most iconic and important themes in modern movie and cultural history. "Binary Sunset" ("Force Theme"), "Cantina Band," "Imperial March," and every beloved character's theme song: fans will know these songs in their bones. The musical portion of the collection ends with Jedi and -- just like the 1997 Special Edition versions of the films -- a bit of controversy: fans of the 1983 release will be dismayed to see the original tune from Jabba's sleaze lair -- "Lapti Nek" ("Work It Out") -- still gets no love, replaced by the much-reviled "Jedi Rocks" by the Max Rebo Band. On the other hand, it's not all disaster: the original trilogy-ending Ewok celebration song "Yub Nub" (a homophonic Ewokese pun on "Hooray!" and "Freedom") was likewise replaced by the 1997 version, though the replacement ("Victory Celebration") is a glorious highlight of the entire collection: bittersweet and triumphant, it is a perfect way to say goodbye to these characters, their epic saga, and ten discs of classic movie music. [The CD collection also includes a DVD, poster, and stickers.]

Track Listing - Disc 1

Title/Composer Performer Time
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
1 2:55
2 4:14
3 3:08
4 5:07
5 2:36
6 4:07
7 4:04
8 3:53
9 4:23
10 4:39
11 4:57
12 3:23
13 4:51
14 5:14
15 3:47
16 3:08
17 9:39

Track Listing - Disc 2

Title/Composer Performer Time
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
1 3:47
2 5:32
3 11:07
4 3:55
5 1:45
6 3:56
7 3:48
8 4:14
9 3:23
10 6:56
11 5:54
12 8:29
13 10:44

Track Listing - Disc 3

Title/Composer Performer Time
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
1 7:32
2 4:45
3 3:42
4 4:03
5 4:07
6 5:25
7 3:27
8 3:16
9 3:57
10 4:05
11 4:14
12 2:42
13 2:49
14 3:37
15 13:07

Track Listing - Disc 4

Title/Composer Performer Time
DVD Bonus
blue highlight denotes track pick