This eight-disc set (seven CDs and a CD-ROM) didn't seem that appealing at first sight -- after all, there have been dozens of reissues and repackagings, in various forms, of John Williams
' music. from Star Wars and the two immediate sequels, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. But with each successive effort, they've made the music sound better, and it was pretty impressive to start with, 30 years back. The results here are somewhat mixed -- the producers have given the scores for the three movies another state-of-the-art digital treatment, which ends up putting parts of the orchestra at various points virtually in the listener's lap. This was essential, as in the space of three decades, home audio systems that are more advanced and sophisticated than the theater sound systems where the first Star Wars movie ran have become routine. But before going further in sorting out the contents here, one matter should be cleared up -- the soundtrack to the 1977 movie once known as Star Wars (and now officially designated Star Wars IV: A New Hope) has been assembled based on the 1997 CD reissue, in the use and arrangement of cues, and will differ significantly from the original 1977 double-LP (which it otherwise resembles visually); the latter featured a lot of editing by Williams
, who sought to assemble his music cues into more significant sounding movements for the album; in keeping with the 1997 edition, the producers have re-established the cues in plot-chronological order, as well as offering some relevant outtakes referring back to Williams
' original 1977 album conception. The 400-plus minutes of listening here are mostly extremely rewarding, not just for their exceptional fidelity but what that clarity reveals of the details in Williams
' writing for the screen -- the Holst
influences were obvious from the start, and it's amazing to realize now how thoroughly and successfully the composer reached out to Stravinsky
's playbook for some of the best quiet moments in the score. The seventh disc in the set is referred to as "The Corillian Edition" and assembles cues from all six Star Wars movies, thus acknowledging Williams
' later contributions. There's also a CD-ROM (set up to work on both PCs and Macs) that re-creates the artwork, including the various pages of the inserts, from the original three soundtrack LPs. All of that work on the programming, mastering, and production end is great, and if the label had followed through at every other level, this set would get an even higher rating than it does. But the producers also repackaged the CDs in miniature LP-style sleeves, re-creating the original artwork and design of the double-LP soundtrack albums, which is a neat idea; and here's where the flaws in the set become clear -- whereas Sony's Japanese-issued mini-LPs include tiny inner-sleeves to keep the CDs safe in their miniature LP jackets, the company's U.S. division has done us no such courtesy, so the mini-LPs must be kept in the box to prevent the CDs from falling out and rolling away. Additionally, for all of the effort spent enhancing the sound, the makers have given us annotation that's not only sketchy and a bit disjointed, but also very cheap looking -- in place of a booklet, there's just a flimsy folded sheet with lots of artwork and graphics and not a lot of text, and not all of it that well written. For the asking price, one would hope that a little bit more could have been done with the packaging, and it prevents the set from getting a real rave.