The Empire Strikes Back (soundtrack)

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Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Cover of the original vinyl edition
Film score by John Williams
Released 1980, 1997, 2004
Recorded December 27–29, 1979 and
January 7–10, 17 & 18, 1980
Genre Classical
Length 74:34
Label Sony Classical
Producer John Williams, Nick Redman (2004)
John Williams chronology
1941 The Empire Strikes Back Raiders of the Lost Ark
Star Wars soundtrack chronology
Star Wars
(1977)
The Empire Strikes Back Return of the Jedi
(1983)

The score from The Empire Strikes Back, composed by John Williams, was recorded in eighteen sessions at Anvil Studios [1] over three days in December 1979 and a further six days in January 1980 with Williams conducting the London Symphony Orchestra. Between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, Williams had also worked with the London Symphony Orchestra for the scores to the films The Fury, Superman and Dracula. The score won another Academy Award nomination for Williams. Again, the score was orchestrated by Herbert W. Spencer, recorded by engineer Eric Tomlinson and edited by Kenneth Wannberg with supervision by Lionel Newman. John Williams himself took over duties as record producer from Star Wars creator George Lucas.

The soundtrack was first released in the U.S. as a 75-minute double LP five days before the film's premiere but the first Compact Disc release ran only half the length of the 2 LP set. Re-recordings of the score even included music that was not on the original CD soundtrack.

Overview[edit]

In 1980, the disco label RSO Records released the film's original soundtrack in a double-album, with two long-playing (LP) records. Combined, the two records featured seventy-five minutes of film music. This double LP package also included a booklet presentation with pictures of the main characters and action sequences from the film. Featured at the booklet's end was an interview with John Williams about the music and the new themes, such as "The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)" and "Yoda's Theme". It also included a brief explanation of each track. The front cover artwork featured Darth Vader's mask against the backdrop of outer space; and the back cover featured the famous "Gone with the Wind" version of the poster art. As a side note, this package marked the final time a double LP soundtrack set was ever issued (Episode VI, the final film to have an LP soundtrack released, had only a single disc, also released by RSO Records). A double-cassette edition was also released.

In the U.K., a single vinyl album and cassette were released in 1980 by RSO Records. This comprised only ten tracks, which were also re-arranged differently. For instance, the first track on the U.K. release is "The Imperial March" instead of the "Star Wars Main Theme". This track listing would be used for the album's first international CD release in 1985. Also unlike the U.S. version, this release did not have a booklet but the information (and some photographs) were replicated on the inner sleeve.

In 1985, the first Compact Disc (CD) release of the soundtrack was issued by Polydor Records, which had by that time absorbed RSO Records and its entire music catalog. As with the album's original U.K. vinyl and cassette release, this CD release reduced the music content from the seventy-five minutes featured in the 1980 U.S. double-album down to forty-two minutes.

In 1993, 20th Century Fox Film Scores released a special four-CD box set: Star Wars Trilogy: The Original Soundtrack Anthology. This anthology included the soundtracks to all three of the original Star Wars films in separate discs. The disc dedicated to The Empire Strikes Back restored almost all of the original seventy-five minutes from the 1980 LP version and included new music cues never released before for a total of nineteen tracks. On the fourth bonus disc, five additional tracks from Empire were included in a compilation of additional cues from the other two films. This CD release also marked the first time that the famous "20th Century Fox Fanfare" composed by Alfred Newman in 1954 was added to the track listing, preceding the "Star Wars Main Theme".

In 1997, RCA Victor released a definitive two-disc set coinciding with the Special Edition releases of the original trilogy's films. This original limited-edition set featured a thirty-two page black booklet that was encased inside a protective outer slipcase. The covers of the booklet and the slipcase had the Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition poster art. This booklet was very detailed, providing extensive notes on each music cue and pictures of the main characters and action sequences from the film. The two discs were placed in sleeves that were on the booklet's inside front and inside back covers. Each disc had a glittery laser-etched holographic logo of the Empire. The musical content featured the complete film score for the first time. It had all of the previously released tracks (restoring the Mynock Cave music which was left off the 1993 release), included extended versions of five of those tracks with previously unreleased material, and six brand new tracks of never before released music for a total of one hundred twenty-four minutes. All the tracks were digitally remastered for superior clarity of sound. They were also re-arranged and re-titled from the previous releases to follow the film's story in chronological order. RCA Victor re-packaged the Special Edition set later in 1997, offering it in slimline jewel case packaging as an unlimited edition, but without the original "black booklet" version's stunning presentation and packaging.

In 2004, Sony Classical acquired the rights to the classic trilogy scores since it already had the rights to release the second trilogy soundtracks (The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones). And so, in 2004, Sony Classical re-pressed the 1997 RCA Victor release of the Special Edition Star Wars trilogy, including The Empire Strikes Back. The set was released in a less-than-spectacular package with the new art work mirroring the film's first DVD release. Despite the Sony digital remastering, which minimally improved the sound heard only on high-end stereos, this 2004 release is essentially the 1997 RCA Victor release.

Track listing for the first U.S. release on LP[edit]

  • First release on LP by RSO.

Side one

  1. "Star Wars (Main Theme)" – 5:49
  2. "Yoda's Theme" – 3:24
  3. "The Training of a Jedi Knight" – 3:17
  4. "The Heroics of Luke and Han" – 6:18

Side two

  1. "The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)" – 2:59
  2. "Departure of Boba Fett" – 3:30
  3. "Han Solo and the Princess" – 3:25
  4. "Hyperspace" – 4:02
  5. "The Battle in the Snow" – 3:48

Side three

  1. "The Asteroid Field" – 4:10
  2. "The City in the Clouds" – 6:29
  3. "Rebels at Bay" – 5:23
  4. "Yoda and the Force" – 4:01

Side four

  1. "The Duel" – 4:07
  2. "The Magic Tree" – 3:32
  3. "Lando's Palace" – 3:52
  4. "Finale" – 6:28

Total Time: 74:34

Track listing for the original U.K. release and first international release on CD[edit]

  • First release on CD by Polydor.
  1. "The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)" – 3:00
  2. "Yoda's Theme" – 3:27
  3. "The Asteroid Field" – 4:10
  4. "Han Solo and the Princess" – 3:26
  5. "Finale" – 6:25
  6. "Star Wars (Main Theme)" – 5:48
  7. "The Training of a Jedi Knight" – 3:05
  8. "Yoda and the Force" – 4:02
  9. "The Duel" – 4:03
  10. "The Battle in the Snow" – 3:48

Total Time: 41:23

Star Wars Trilogy: The Original Soundtrack Anthology[edit]

Star Wars Trilogy – The Original Soundtrack Anthology: "The Empire Strikes Back"
Film score by John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra
Released 1993
Recorded 1980
Genre Classical
Label Arista Records on behalf of Twentieth Century Fox Film Scores, a Bertelsmann Music Group Company
Producer Nick Redman

In 1993, 20th Century Fox Film Scores released a four-CD box set containing music from the original Star Wars trilogy. Disc two in the set was devoted to The Empire Strikes Back, with further tracks on disc four.

Note: Parts of tracks six and seventeen on this particular set have their left & right channels reversed).

The first part of track twenty-one, "Ewok Celebration (Film Version)", is from Return of the Jedi.

Track listing for the complete score[edit]

In preparation for the 20th anniversary Special Edition releases of the original trilogy's films, 20th Century Fox spent four months, from April to July 1996, transferring, cleaning and preparing the original soundtracks for special two-disc releases. The original release, by RCA Victor in 1997, consisted of limited-edition books with laser etched CDs inside the front and back covers with each book. In the case of The Empire Strikes Back, the discs are etched with the logo for the Empire. The discs were given an unlimited release in a two-disc jewel case, also by RCA Victor later that year. They were again re-released in 2004 by Sony Music, with new artwork paralleling the original trilogy's first DVD release.

Problems with the Anthology and Special Edition Release[edit]

The Anthology release restored all of the music featured on the double LP of Empire, with the exception of "This is No Cave". However, there are several sound quality issues with the release. The beginning of "Luke's Escape" (a harp introduction) is slightly abbreviated. The stereo channels in "Leia's Instruction" and "Departure of Boba Fett" are reversed. "The Rebels Escape Again" is missing a single bar of music.

For the Special Edition release of Empire, most of the previously released cues were remixed by Bruce Risner. While these remixes offer greater clarity, their quality is severely lacking in several respects.[citation needed] First, the stereo field is very narrow and the left/right separation is minimal. Second, several instrument channels, including the horns and harp have been relocated in such a way that the stereo setup is inaccurate. Third, the sound has a harsh quality, which is particularly evident in the brass. Fourth, the instruments sound closely miked and the ambience of the recording chamber is minimal. Fifth, the cue "Leia's Instruction" is significantly out of tune, and other cues have slight tuning problems. The cues not remixed by Risner still suffer from a harsher sound compared to their Anthology counterparts. "Luke's Escape" ("The Wampa's Lair") contains several artifacts.

The Special Edition release does not feature the film version of "Finale/End Title". The film version of "Luke's Nocturnal Visitor," which features an alternate ending, has never been released.

See also[edit]

References[edit]