This article written by: firstname.lastname@example.org (Lukas Kendall)
I know many people are interested in the music of John Williams largely because of his Star Wars scores, which is great. As I posted earlier, I publish a newsletter all about film music, called FILM SCORE MONTHLY, and there's something about Williams in just about every issue. Please e-mail me for more info on my newsletter.
And now, here is a list of all the Star Wars related music CDs, not including the abysmal compilation CDs which have a theme or two from Star Wars and sound awful, and not including the many identical foreign pressings.
STAR WARS: Original soundtrack, 2 CDs, Polydor 800 096-2. This is it, 80 minutes of music straight from the film soundtrack, the same as the original double LP and tape.
Star Wars/Close Encounters: Conducted by Zubin Mehta. London "Cinema Gala" 417 846-2. A rerecording of a 30 minute Star Wars suite (concert versions – different from those heard in the film) plus a 13 minute suite of music to Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Star Wars/Close Encounters: Conducted by Charles Gerhardt. RCA Classic Film Scores series, 2698-2-RG. Similar to the above, but better, with more music. Again, these are concert arrangements of the scores, so with have different endings, for example, than the arrangements in the films.
EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: Original soundtrack, Polydor 825 298-2: As we've all learned the hard way, this is only half the music on the original double LP. The boneheads at Polydor issued a "1 LP" version of the initial 2 LP release some time in the '80s, and when it came time to issue a CD, they chose to issue the 1 LP version, with half the music as only the double LP. Fortunately, the 2 LP version, with some 80 minutes of score, can be found on the cassette release. Unless, you're a completist, don't bother buying this CD–the sound is bad, and the sequencing is absurd, with the main title found on track six.
Re-recording, conducted by Charles Gerhardt, Varese Sarabande VCD 47204, recently reissued as VSD 5353. This is definitely the CD to buy from Empire, a re-recording of 45 minutes of music–as with the SW/CE3K CDs, these are concert arrangements and differ slightly from the arrangements in the film. Some music is included here which cannot be found on the Polydor CD, or even the original double LP/cassette, such as a concert arrangment of Han & Leia's theme and some music for Hoth which wasn't used in the film. If you're looking to pick up music from Empire, buy this CD and the Polydor tape to get the most music from the film.
RETURN OF THE JEDI: Original soundtrack, Polydor 811 767-2: For reasons as yet unknown, only a single LP soundtrack was ever issued of Jedi, unlike the previous films. This CD is a good buy–the sound isn't that good, but it is the original soundtrack after all.
Re-recording, conducted by Charles Gerhardt, RCA RCD 14748, recently reissued with new label number. A better sounding recording of music from the film, with some music not on the original soundtrack, such as the music for the fight in the Rancor pit, and some extra Ewok fight music. No Emperor music here, though, unlike on the original soundtrack from Polydor.
TRILOGY CDs: The Star Wars Trilogy, conducted by Varujan Kojian, Varese Sarabande VCD 47201. For my money, better than the Williams conducted Trilogy CD, the main reason being that included here are two tracks from Jedi, unavailable on the Jedi CDs. These are Fight with Tie Fighters and Darth Vader's Death. Otherwise, a solidly conducted CD of music from the three films (three SW cuts, three ESB cuts, 7 ROTJ cuts).
John Williams Conducts John Williams: The Star Wars Trilogy: This is the more recent Trilogy CD out on Sony SK 45947. Nice packaging, but no new material that can't be found elsewhere, and I think Williams takes his own compositions a bit slow.
All of these CDs should be in print–if you can't find them at your local record store, you can mail order them from Footlight Records (212-533-1572) and/or Intrada (415-776-1333), two reliable soundtrack dealers.