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The Star Wars 4CD Anthology


Yesterday was November 23rd. And it fell on a Tuesday.


This rang a bell because it was on a Tuesday, November 23, 1993—28 years prior—Arista Records released the 4CD Star Wars Anthology box set, for which I wrote the track-by-track liner notes.


To say this was the highlight of my life would be an understatement. It was like being invited up onto Mount Olympus to work with the Gods themselves. Star Wars was my everything, and the unreleased music was the holiest of holies. (I was only 19.)


Unfortunately I don’t have very fond memories of the project. It was at the beginning of doing soundtrack “restorations,” as we later called them, and I was frustrated by the compromised sources (it was made with whatever could be found at the time) and the sequencing. It really needed to be six CDs—as were later released for the Special Editions—so being only four, a lot of great stuff was left off. This drove me crazy.


We tried to get Arista to release a “fifth CD,” after the fact, of additional unreleased cues—this was even sequenced and, I think, mastered—but they declined.


Or wait, maybe that was meant to be a bonus for a Fox video release? Something like that. Whatever it was, it didn’t happen. But I had a cassette of the master.


I think our biggest blunder was in restoring the opening track of The Empire Strikes Back with the unused music for the Rebel base, we had forgot to put the “This Is Not a Cave” music (formerly heard via a segue in that track) back in anywhere else. So it was left off. That was embarrassing.


This project was produced by Nick Redman, and we were very close at the time...but it was a difficult relationship. Nick hired Ford Thaxton to do the sequencing—because Ford already had the materials—and Nick told me, point blank, that if I tried to stick my nose into Ford’s work, he would fire me. I was like, gulp.


And, in hindsight, I resent that kind of bullying. Nick could be very generous, but also very controlling. And now he’s gone, so...it’s sad, and I don’t particularly want to talk about it.


I put everything I had into the liner notes...but after the fact, I was disillusioned that it was exactly the kind of programmatic commentary that I later found tiresome. (It was all, “And then Luke enters, and the trumpets come in.”)


I remember using “refuse” instead of “refuge” somewhere in the text (or possibly vice versa), and catching it at the last moment. That would have been embarrassing.


I do remember, before I started writing, Nick saying, “Whatever you do, do not write, ‘I was six years old when I first saw Star Wars, and I had all the toys, and wore the underwear...’ because nobody gives a shit.” I said, “No, of course not”—while privately becoming embarrassed, because that was exactly what I had planned to do.


I remember being very impressed by the art direction. Those guys at Arista did a great job.


And on November 23rd I spent an inordinate time in the computer lab (I was a sophomore at Amherst College) to check the old rec.music.movies group on Usenet, to pore over the reviews and reaction. (Forget about this being before cell phones, or wi-fi, it was before the Internet was commonly in use; there were no websites as we understand them today. We had “Vax” and “Unix” accounts at school, for rudimentary email, but most dorms weren’t even wired for computers.)


I think most people loved the box set, but there were also criticisms—most, I think, reasonable, which I shared.


Wait, now I remember! Most of all, people said they couldn’t find the damn thing anywhere! This is well before Amazon normalized mail order.


The distribution stunk, for some reason, and instead of reading reviews, it was mostly bitching about its lack of availability.


So it was a letdown. I had built up this great thing, being involved with the release of Star Wars music—my heart, soul and passion—and once it happened...it was anticlimactic.


It was an important lesson in what happens when you invest all your energy into geek stuff at the expense of human relationships.


Ironically, when they later released the 2CD Special Edition soundtrack releases, some of the sources actually...got worse? I don’t want to get too deep into it, because I know all the people who worked on both projects. But in many ways, the tracks on the Anthology have better-sounding mixes in some places. I think this is particularly noticeable for Empire.


It is absolutely true that these scores need to be properly revisited, restored and released—I would presume by Mike Matessino, with John Williams’ blessing. The prequels and sequels too.


Why that isn’t happening, or whether it is happening and I don’t know about it—I have no idea.


So don’t ask me!

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7 comentários


daniel Pennewaert
daniel Pennewaert
09 de dez. de 2021

I was 19 years old when this was released and I remember receiving it just before my birthday (on December 18th). It was a wonderfull release with all the aditional material specially on Return of the Jedi (my most wanted previously unrelased track from the franchise ever - the "Final Duel" between Luke and Vader - which I listened probably hundreds of times as well as Empire's "Loosing a Hand") that I had wanted for years.

At that time we had not been spoilled with complete releases of film scores so having any additional material was wonderful (and the sound quality was good enought for me, at the time). It was together with Intrada's expanded Poltergeist II - The Other…

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Darren MacDonald
Darren MacDonald
10 de dez. de 2021
Respondendo a

Final Duel alone was worth the price of this set for me!

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Darren MacDonald
Darren MacDonald
02 de dez. de 2021

I first heard of this release in a CNN promo where they were talking about CD box sets as xmas gift ideas for xmas 1993, and I was thinking, very cool, a box set of music from the Star Wars Trilogy! Very much I wanted to see what it contained (the Empire CD available at that time, it must be noted, only had 10 of the 17 tracks from the double LP set, and the sequencing was crazy, something like End Title was track 5, and Main Title was track 6, I think Imperial March and Yoda's Theme were tracks 1 and 2, but as weird as it was, it was still essential to hold on to for the above…

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I'm sorry to hear that you have such mixed memories of this release. I bought it in Germany from a mail order service (back then with printed catalogs, of course), and it was revelatory to me, because - for once - I realized that expanded re-releases were actually possible. But more importantly, because this was such a luxury item! All the artwork, your notes, all this information was unheard of before. The original Star Wars LPs I owned had track titles, that was it. So, this release was sort of a revolution. And, much later, when the Special Editions came, my go-to release would still be this box set, because I think I never found the time to listen to…

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Lukas Kendall
Lukas Kendall
27 de nov. de 2021
Respondendo a

That is very nice to hear, thank you!

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Coco ThreeOneFour
Coco ThreeOneFour
27 de nov. de 2021

But as Lukas said, this was before all the expansions and restorations, with so much stuff that you had to capture with your tape recorder in front of the speaker if you wanted to hear the music ! (the list was endless at the time)

So this set was a HUGE deal at the time. This is still certainly my go to disk for "Jedi" which has the best sound and length imho. I was so glad to have the full ESB too as my vinyl and tapes were in bad shape (having played them so much), but I was always partial toward the sequencing of the 2LP (it was the biggest chronological jumble Williams ever did, but ESB was…

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Robert Knaus
Robert Knaus
24 de nov. de 2021

This set was the first time I heard Lukas' name or that Film Score Monthly magazine even existed.

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