WILLIAMS The Phantom Menace Ultimate Edition Soundtrack. Various/Williams (Sony) – INKPOT
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
Ultimate Edition Movie Soundtrack
London Symphony Orchestra
New London Children’s Choir
conducted by John WilliamsSONY S2K 89460
2 discs [68:07 + 55:51] full-price
More information from Sony website here.
by Benjamin Chee
Back in 1999, when I reviewed the initial release of The Phantom Menace soundtrack (Sony SK 61816 ), I predicted that a special release of the complete music would appear – correctly, as it turned out. What I did not expect, though, was the Ultimate Edition (as it has been titled) coming so soon. Perhaps this is part of a carefully-planned campaign of merchandise releases to generate and maintain public interest in the Star Wars franchise until Episode II appears.
Packaged in dark silver-foil fold-out cardboard and containing two discs, this album also includes a picture booklet which has been (inconveniently) attached to the cardboard packaging. What I’ve done is to photocopy the track listings onto a separate sheet and use this as a reference when listening to the music. The individual track timings are also not provided, which is very annoying indeed.
Not that there’s a lot to go by in the sleeve booklet: a full listing of tracks, a two-page intro to the music, followed by copious amounts of pictures from the movie, captioned to match its corresponding musical cue. The blow-by-blow commentary by Michael Matessino, which was provided in the Episode 4-6 Special Edition soundtracks, is sorely missed here.
This release contains every single note of music from the movie, and then some, with thirty-five tracks on disc 1 and thirty-three tracks on disc 2, with a “bonus” track on Disc 1 and a “Dialogue Version” of Duel of the Fates at the end of Disc 2 – basically, the music with dialogue and sound effects mixed in, as seen on the music video of Duel.
But the main attraction of this album is the inclusion of other music that was excluded (and missed) on the initial soundtrack release: the arrival of the Jedi knights aboard the Federation flagship and the subsequent lightsaber melee (Boarding the Federation Battleship); the fanfare after Anakin wins the podrace (Hail to the Winner, Anakin Skywalker); the sweeping Force theme as Anakin promises to return to free his mother from slavery (Anakin is Free); and the extended victory parade chorus at the end of the movie – here listed as The Parade. (I wonder what happened to Augie’s Great Municipal Band…)
The werewithal to listen to the music (without the “distraction” of the movie and sound effects) also produced a number of revelations: the Force theme quoted in its entirety after Anakin blows up the Federation battleship from the inside (“This is podracing”), which most people – myself included – would have missed as they would be busy watching the big explosion, or Qui-Gon’s martial motif, heard in several of his lightsaber duels, the most prominent being his initial lightsaber duel with Darth Maul on Tatooine.
The music was recorded and mixed by Shawn Murphy and edited by Ken Wannberg – kudos to them for an excellent job. The way the final tracks have been edited for the film and released here means that there are some points where the music stretches for a length of time: the track listings have been cleverly divided into eleven “chapters” on each disc, with each chapter containing between one and eight contiguous tracks and representing a major sequence of scenes in the movie (e.g. the Jedi knights visiting the underwater city of Otoh Gunga).
This arrangement allows listeners to cue directly to a specific segment of each “chapter” if they want, which is useful when the music jumps between one point and another – such as the final battle which takes place in four separate locations (Queen Amidala in the palace, the Jedi knights in the hangar, the Gungans in the open fields and Anakin in space), each with its own motifs and themes.
This makes the album an obvious godsend to diehard Star Wars/John Williams fans and soundtrack afficionados, but less so for the casual listener. The Phantom Menace music, neatly arranged into concert suites and other nicely-timed servings on the original album, are not to be found here. This version contains the soundtrack as it appears in the movie, cuts and jumps and all, and the less-than-dedicated listener may find the discontinous juxtaposition of musical themes rather heavy going, even unpalatable.
Conclusion: sample before you buy, unless you’re one of the few who have been waiting for this for the last year or so. The average listener will be more than satisfied with the original single-CD release; the Ultimate Edition is strictly for the hard-core minority.
BENJAMIN CHEE needs a few more parts to finish his light sabre.
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