Despite obvious flaws, Polydor's CD of Jedi's 1983 album is still worth listening to.

Jun 6, 2005

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The Bottom Line Out of print and woefully incomplete in comparison to later versions, this Jedi soundtrack is still worth listening if one can find it.

Ever since I first owned the 2-LP soundtrack album of John Williams' music for Star Wars (1977) I've tried to acquire all the original score albums featuring the London Symphony Orchestra in the dominant format available. When 33 1/3 rpm LP records were in vogue -- they had the clearest sound back then -- I bought those. Ditto for eight-track tapes and regular cassettes, especially once the vinyl records and their players were phased out in favor of the compact disc and its laser-based high tech player. And although my audio library also included classical, pop/rock, and even a few country albums, the three soundtrack albums from the Star Wars Trilogy were the crown jewels of my musical collection.

When I received my first compact disc player in 1990, I started building my CD library very gradually, and naturally I looked for the Star Wars soundtracks first. It wasn't as easy as it sounds; the nearby music stores never had all three albums in stock, and they were often very expensive. The Star Wars album -- which was a faithful remastering of the 1977 2-LP set, sold for $29.99 -- a sum I had to pay twice when someone broke into my house and stole my CD player and my eight albums -- and soon afterward went "out of print."

I did, eventually, purchase a less-than-adequate CD version of The Empire Strikes Back soundtrack in 1991, followed several months later by the less-annoying Return of the Jedi album.

Of the three original soundtrack albums released between 1977 and 1983, Return of the Jedi was by far the skimpiest. Whereas the Star Wars and Empire scores were presented in two-record albums, the advent of the compact disc and the decline of the heretofore dominant vinyl 33 1/3 LP record forced Polygram Records to release the music for Episode VI as a one-record album. To many John Williams fans, this was a disappointment; the films might have flaws as far as scripts, acting, and even story logic go, but the scores are held in high regard, so a one-record album, while still better than nothing, was only the tip of the musical iceberg, so to speak.

Another flaw that the 1983 edition of the Jedi album is endemic to all the non-Special Edition soundtrack releases -- the cut-and-paste approach to the track listings. While the music itself is wonderful and the London Symphony Orchestra's performances are peerless, none of the tracks sandwiched between Main Title (Track 1) and Ewok Celebration and End Title (Track 11) follow the narrative path of the movie's storyline. For instance, Into the Trap (Track 2) is a cue heard when the Rebel fleet reaches Endor and, in addition to the unfinished Death Star, runs into a carefully laid ambush by hundreds of Imperial fighters in the film's third act, while The Return of the Jedi (Track 10) appears when Luke Skywalker and his friends rescue Han Solo from the clutches of Jabba the Hutt.

Nevertheless, in comparison to the disastrously put-together Super Saver Edition of The Empire Strike Back score, this very first CD version has at least several Pros in its favor. First, at least it is a faithful CD adaptation of the vinyl album with no tracks removed for space or budgetary concerns. Second, despite the chronological incorrectness of the tracks, Williams' musical themes are still worth listening to; whether it's the warm and gentle theme for Luke and Leia (Track 3) or the dark and eerie Dark Side hymn for The Emperor (Track 9), each cue is not only a fine example of Star Wars-music, but also a wonderful and accessible symphonic composition that can be enjoyed as a neo-classical piece. Lastly -- if one can find it on Ebay or in a garage sale somewhere -- it's the first of two pre-Special Edition CD releases where the original 1983 cues Lapti Nek (Track 6) and Ewok Celebtation and End Titles (Track 11) can be found; these two tracks were replaced by Jedi Rocks and Victory Celebration and End Titles in 1997 for the new enhanced versions of Return of the Jedi. (The other available CD with the 1983 material is Disc 3 of The Star Wars Trilogy Soundtrack Anthology; this disc contains an expanded edition of the Jedi score.)

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983 Original Soundtrack)

Music Composed and Conducted by John Williams

Performed by the London Symphony Orchestra
Track List

1. Main Title
2. Into the Trap
3. Luke and Leia
4. Parade of the Ewoks
5. Han Solo Returns (At the Court of Jabba the Hutt)
6. Lapti Nek (by Jabba's Palace Band)
7. The Forest Battle
8. Rebel Briefing
9. The Emperor
10. The Return of the Jedi
11. Ewok Celebration and End Title

Reviewer's Note: For a more detailed look at the music from Return of the Jedi, please see
Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi 2004 Re-Release

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