May 2002 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (The 20th Anniversary edition)  
  MCA 112 819-2   [75:37]


When so many record companies trumpet restored, expanded versions of earlier releases, this special edition of John Williams's E.T. score (is it really 20 years since it first appeared?) arrives with little ballyhoo and no packaging announcement that there are some thirty five minutes extra music than on the original LP release. That LP had a totally different set of cue titles (only eight as opposed to 21 on this CD incarnation).

If you want to trace the convoluted history of the numerous album incarnations of this music I recommend you investigate:

Again we are reminded of how well John Williams responds to the genre of science fiction fantasy. E.T. is something of a warm family sequel to Close Encounters… with the wee alien forgotten and left behind by the space craft, befriended by the children and encouraged to 'phone home'. John Williams explains his attitude to the music in the interview that comprises the bulk of the booklet notes: "In the case of Close Encounters, the beginning of the film is much more terrifying because we don't know who these aliens are. But there is a great kind of uplifting feeling of almost religiosity, I think, at the end when we suddenly recognise we have brothers and sisters. E.T. is also a bit scary in the beginning, but the minute we meet the little creature, the film becomes much more of a love story. That makes for a very different kind of musical challenge in E.T. as compared to Close Encounters…"

Yes, true, Williams creates a broad melodic score with a theme, when in full flower, at the climax, when E.T. does go home, that touches the heart and sends the spirit soaring after him. But it's the quieter moments that I relish just as much. Williams often spotlights a solo instrument (e.g. the trumpet in Born on the Fourth of July or the cello in Seven Years in Tibet) here, significantly, he highlights the harp. The result is magic. Through a number of mid-album cues his sleight of hand, his subtlety in gentle, inconspicuous changes of instrumental colour, harmonies, and dynamics weave a spell that conveys equally delicate shifts in character and mood. Little wonder, that Williams has maintained his position, streets ahead of the nearest competition.

For those who do not know this score, don't hesitate for a single moment. For those who have the stunning sounding original LP, keep it, but get this album too for completion.

Ian Lace


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