My review of the original issue
gave "The Phantom Menace" five stars and the observation that the music
is what matters.
While that album's brutal truncation of John Williams' latest intergalactic opus means
a missed opportunity to give the fans what they want, it stands on its own as a filmusic
suite and is easy to assess. Questionably advertised as "The Ultimate Edition",
the new expanded release is such a muddle that even as it makes more great music available
it does so in the worst manner I could ever imagine. This is not to brand the soundtrack as
irredeemable, but to note the handling is very unsatisfactory.
Aside from complaints about messing around with Eric Tomlinson's premiere sound mixing,
the RCA Victor "Special Edition" discs of Episodes IV-VI established a precedent
to the majority of "Star Wars" fans and filmusic aficionados alike. The release
of Episode I brought immediate demand to hear all available elements presented in the order
in which the composer intended them for the motion picture. Demand heightened as moviegoers
realized the re-editing of the film after Williams recorded his score left his musical
intentions unresolved, differing so greatly from how he actually approached the feature that
he expressed public displeasure about the score's treatment, at one point understandably
admitting, "...[it] artistically embarrasses me," in an issue of STARFIX. Despite
a write-in campaign for a 'Complete Composer's Cut' soundtrack and numerous homemade bootlegs,
these campaign wishes and CD-R dreams remain unfulfilled.
Sony used the butchered film arrangement of Williams' score (including the oh-so-obvious
'looping' throughout, particularly in the action cues... Good Grief!). The disc claims
Mr. Williams as the producer, yet this is the perseverating version he firmly renounced
in interviews. Yes, there is a noticeable amount of music here that is missing from the
initial disc, the bootlegs and the film itself, but the reverse also holds true. There
is more music, it is the music that matters, yet this isn't treated as music in any
respectable manner. Praise for Williams' score cannot shield the shoddy production
this time. The production destroys its own foundation and the composer's craft suffers
reprehensibly. Guillotine cuts and edits are painfully transparent. Ludicrous decisions
abound just waiting to be inveighed. Precious minutes that could have been used to include
more commercially unreleased music. Go to the dialogue & SFX edition of 'Duel of the Fates';
it is not a bonus when it comes at the expense of something justified in taking its place.
The set offers several source cues, including the previously unheard 'Desert Winds',
and nearly an hour of underscore not heard on the 1999 disc. It shows off truly spectacular,
five-star music. I still wonder if fans might feel better if they simply wait to hear the
soundtrack as Williams intended for it for the film, with maybe a few alternates and
bonus tracks. The sticker on the cover, the production notes inside, as well as press
releases boldly claim the disc contains "all" of the music written for the
film, even as people hold recordings and hear quotes from the composer himself that
prove the "complete" declaration a complete, galaxy-sized lie. (Note:
Perhaps spotting the blunder, later press releases added "as heard in the film",
but in that case shouldn't 'The Parade' be the film version?) The packaging is bloated,
another misguided posterboard book destined to fall apart in a few years. This edition
contains photos, track listings with incorrect disc times, production & publicity notes,
shiny picture discs, but no liner notes to explain precisely why this bowdlerization
came into existence.
A campaign in response to this production recently began at The Full Score.
The third time's the charm?