Review: Star Wars Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (Special Edition) soundtrack

Listen to the The Empire Strikes Back soundtrack on Spotify

The film is the best of the original trilogy (and all the Star Wars films), and to match that the soundtrack outclasses even the Star Wars IV – A New Hope album. Again, this is the two cd set that accompanies the Special Edition version of the film – with all tracks now in chronological order.

After the Fox fanfare (specially re-recorded for the film) and the Main Title (Luke’s theme), the Ice Planet Hoth brings in a king of winter theme, light and then wild again, giving an impression of the environment. An excellent track. Snowspeeders matches this, and for eight wide-ranging minutes it speeds up and is more upbeat.

With the Imperial Probe the Imperial theme starts to enter the frame, building from undertones, measured and a bit sinister – until the theme kicks in good and proper.

The Battle of Hoth is truly epic – for fifteen minutes it returns back and forth between Luke’s theme and the Imperial theme. There s some heavy piano sounds for the relentless pounding forward of the AT-ATs. This is high speed, nimble action music all the way. The Escape in the Millennium Falcon section is great chase music which peaks with Imperial echoes showing that a threat still exists.

The Asteroid Field is increasingly Imperial, keeping up the momentum with blasts of music and bass drums pounding out the backbeat. Things take a turn for the erie for the Arrival on Dagobah, then Luke’s theme edges in, with quieter more tentative steps, then a flurry of sound and darker Imperial horns. Luke’s Nocturnal Visitor is a short respite from music that is slowly being consumed by the dark side – this is lighter, reflecting the Force seeping through.

Han Solo and the Princess is beautifully romantic for a moment, and very much to the fore in the film – but it doesn’t last long, with the Empire still encroaching heavily. By now no track is untouched by the Imperial theme. Mynock Cave reflects the Millennium Falcon’s frantic escape from the asteroid, and Magic Tree is foreboding, more mystic, matching the tone of the scene perfectly.

Just as that track is closing, the last notes are blasts from the Imperial theme – making you fully aware that there is no escape as you head on to cd number two.

With the second disc, most individual tracks go out the window as you sit back for an hour of some of the most powerful, frenetic music ever. Almost totally based on Imperial themes, it is relentless, reflecting the darker nature of the film. The only respite comes from Yoda’s Theme and Yoda and the Force – soft and soothing, blasting out the horns for the side of good. But even these are infected right at the end. The elegant beauty of Lando’s Palace lasts less than four minutes when the subject turns to betrayal and more sombre sounds.

This is truly some of the best music ever recorded – and that’s not just restricted to the soundtrack genre.

(Taken from my last website.)

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Some more home-produced – ie wonky – pics of the limited edition hardback booklet with laser etched CDs from 1997 – a prized possession:

Front of sleeve:

Rear of sleeve:

Laser etched disc two:

Hardback booklet:

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