Just like I could make the case that The Empire Strikes Back is the best film of the saga, I could make a similar argument for the superiority of John Williams’s stunning score for The Empire Strikes Back. And no version of that soundtrack surpasses the original 1980 two-disc vinyl set, which hasn’t been available in its original version for literally decades. Thanks to Sony Classical, the original soundtrack for not only that film is coming back, all six original soundtracks are returning to store shelves in 2016 in CD, digital, and yes, good ol’ vinyl formats.
I still have my vinyl two-disc LP sets for both Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, and they still play with the clarity and punch as they did in the late 1970s and early 1980s on the same 1950s Magnavox record player I first played them on. If you’re not into the vinyl scene, no worries, just pick these up in one of the other formats.
As to The Empire Strikes Back soundtrack, I go back and forth between Side Two and Side Three as being the best of the set. Side Two begins with the epic Darth Vader theme in The Imperial March and ends with the menacing Hoth assault in The Battle in the Snow. With Side Three probably the most exciting of any of John Williams works is The Asteroid Field followed by the sweeping Bespin arrival theme in The City in the Clouds. Throughout all four discs are cues from the Star Wars main theme, the haunting Yoda theme, and the touching Han and Leia theme. As with the prior release of the Star Wars soundtrack in a two-vinyl set, the tracks for the original 1980 release of The Empire Strikes Back are not presented sequentially, and masterfully they are instead included in a very cohesive and musical order crafted for each album. The CD versions of The Empire Strikes Back released and re-released in the 1990s are in sequential order, yet they don’t provide the complete musicality of sound experience as the original vinyls.
Sony Classical announced they’ll reissue the six soundtracks January 8, 2016 (or about the time you’ve seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the tenth time) in three editions: Star Wars: The Ultimate Vinyl Collection, Star Wars: The Ultimate Soundtrack Edition, and Star Wars: The Ultimate Digital Collection. Here are the details:
- Star Wars: The Ultimate Vinyl Collection includes each of the six film soundtracks in deluxe gatefold sleeves replicating the original artwork. Pre-order this version now here at Amazon.com.
- Star Wars: The Ultimate Soundtrack Edition includes the original six soundtracks (10 CDs) in mini-album jackets, plus a bonus CD featuring audio interviews with Harrison Ford and John Williams. Also included is the DVD Star Wars: A Musical Journey, a one-hour feature highlighting select musical themes alongside key sequences from the films. Rounding out the set are a fold-out poster and three collectible stickers. Pre-order this version now here at Amazon.com.
- Star Wars: The Ultimate Digital Collection features a bundle of the six original soundtracks available for the first time as high-definition downloads.
Finally, you can pre-order John Williams’s seventh Star Wars soundtrack: Star Wars: The Force Awakens, now here at Amazon.com. Hopefully we won’t find the same misfire with the latest album as with the early release of the soundtrack for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, which listed the spoiler track title Qui-Gon’s Noble End and later The Funeral of Qui-Gon. It’s the price of looking under the Christmas tree before Christmas.