October 23, 2005
A thought by James Berardinelli

John Williams has scored all six of the Star Wars movies, and each of the soundtracks had its strengths and weaknesses. In my opinion, not only is The Empire Strikes Back the most mature and complete of Williams' Star Wars efforts, but it's among the best work he has done in his illustrious career.

The soundtrack contains one great track after another. The best of the bunch is, of course, "The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)," in which the Man in Black finally gets his own music. Over the years, that theme has become almost as iconic as the "Main Title," which is reprised without flaw from Star Wars for The Empire Strikes Back. (On a personal note, "The Imperial March" was the music selected by my wife and me for our entrance into the reception following our wedding. Let me add that this was the only bit of Star Wars in the reception, and we were dressed in traditional garb, not costumes. Somehow, it seemed a better choice than "Another One Bites the Dust.")

What's good on the remastered 2-CD set? "The Battle of Hoth," a percussive piece with the Imperial Walkers approaching the rebel base on Hoth; "The Asteroid Field," a soaring score highlighting Han's derring-do; "Han Solo and the Princess," a lush romantic piece derived from the first film's "Princess Leia's Theme;" "Yoda's Theme," the soundtrack's most playful piece; and "The Clash of the Lightsabers," in which the truth is revealed. Of all six Star Wars end titles, I prefer this one. Not only because it includes "The Imperial March," but because Williams' segue to the triumphant "Star Wars Theme" is filled with melancholy. It really works.

By the time The Empire Strikes Back reached theaters, I was at the end of my Star Wars phase. For the first movie, my purchase of the album was a foregone conclusion, since I was gobbling up any and all merchandise. I bought the soundtrack of The Empire Strikes Back because I liked the music. I would miss picking up a copy of Return of the Jedi because it didn't strike a responsive chord. As with Star Wars, too many scratches resulted in my original 2-record set of The Empire Strikes Back being consigned to the trash, so I'm glad the 1997 CD contains everything (and more) that was featured in the original.

And this concludes the John Williams portion of our program. Please stay tuned for something from Jerry Goldsmith...