For years now, fans of the music of Star Wars and composer John Williams have longed for a definitive release the Saga’s soundtrack – a CD box set that would incorporate the complete scores of all six films in the series. There were high hopes that this year’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of the original film would at last see those dreams realized. Unfortunately, such is not the case. Sony BMG’s new The Music of Star Wars: 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition box set is not the release fans have been waiting for.
That’s not to say that it’s a bad box set… it’s just all too familiar. Basically, the musical content is identical to the last two CD releases. RCA Victor and BMG debuted the remastered ‘special edition’ soundtracks back in 1997. Each film was given a two-CD set, featuring lovely packaging and excellent liner notes by Michael Matessino. Those same two-disc CD sets were then released again in 2004, this time by Sony BMG. They featured superb audio quality, thanks to Sony’s state-of-the-art DSD (Direct Stream Digital) encoding process. Unfortunately, the packaging was terrible, Matessino’s liner notes were abandoned and the CDs included ROM content, which meant that anyone listening on their computers had to deal with annoying pop-ups and other irritations.
Thankfully, Sony’s new Music of Star Wars box set includes the 2004 DSD remasters, but without the annoying ROM content. Each film is once again a two-disc set, featuring the same track list as the 2004 and 1997 releases. Sony has once again omitted the liner notes from the 1997 release, but they’ve tried to tap into fan nostalgia by making each film’s cardboard CD sleeve a miniature replica of the original LP artwork from the 70s and 80s. On one hand, that’s a clever idea. On the other, it’s frustrating, because it means the track list on the album sleeves doesn’t match what’s actually on the discs. It also reminds you that some tracks aren’t on the CDs at all – like Return of the Jedi’s original Ewok Celebration music, or the original Lapti Nek track heard in Jabba’s palace.
To make matters worse, Sony has included two additional CDs, under the moniker of Star Wars: The Corellian Edition (also available separately), which is a sampling of notable tracks from all six Star Wars films. In other words, it’s an irritating reminder of the comprehensive box set that fans actually wanted in the first place. The set also includes a fold-out poster containing a track listing, a text history of the various soundtrack releases for the original film and new artwork, as well as a trio of stickers featuring the cover art from the 2004 CDs. And you get all of this for the shocking sticker price of $89.98. Ouch.
It should be noted that Lucasfilm had originally planned to release the complete Star Wars Saga on DVD as an elaborate box set this year, and then decided to wait. I’m wondering if there wasn’t a similar plan to release an ultimate CD box set, but those plans were then pulled, and The Music of Star Wars was the hastily-crafted back-up plan. The point is, there’s undoubtedly a better release of these soundtracks coming, and most fans prefer to wait for it. When Sony and Lucasfilm do release their ultimate version, they’d do well to take a page from the playbook of New Line and Warner Music, who have just finished delivering the complete soundtracks for all three Lord of the Rings films as elaborate CD box sets, each with a bonus DVD disc offering a high-resolution version of the music as well.
In the end, however it happened and whatever the decision-making process was, the result is that The Music of Star Wars is really only worth considering for those fans who have never purchased these soundtracks on CD before. That’s a shame, because this is undeniably great music, presented in great quality. But for no less than the third release of this music on CD, that’s just not enough anymore. The fans want, and deserve