Movie Wave Home
Reviews by Title | Reviews by Composer

Composed by


Album running time

Performed by
Conducted by

Orchestrated by

Engineered by
Edited by
Produced by

Released by
Serial number

Artwork copyright (c) 1997 Lucasfilm Ltd; review copyright (c) 2003 James Southall


John Williams strikes back

Three years after taking the world by storm, George Lucas's Star Wars bandwagon rolled on with the release of The Empire Strikes Back in 1980.  Absolutely essential to the first film's success, it was inevitable that John Williams would be invited back as well.  His Wagnerian, leitmotif approach for the first film hadn't really been used since film music's Golden Age, and this time out he expanded it, inserted various new themes and came up with, for my money, the best musical storytelling of the whole saga (so far!)  He uses the leitmotifs more strictly than in the first film, but as yet there are not so many different themes that the score ends up being a bit over-full of different ideas, something that probably dents the effectiveness of his subsequent Star Wars scores.

Needless to say, The Empire Strikes Back will always best be remembered, musically at least, for The Imperial March, heard for the first time.  A brilliant, almost comically-dark piece of that perfectly fits Darth Vader and his faceless cohorts.  Also new this time around is Yoda's Theme, music for everyone's favourite wrinkled, ugly, green creature (and no, I'm not referring to Anne Robinson).  Beautifully sprightly and playful, it's probably turned out to be one of the best-remembered themes of the series (even cropping up in ET!)  Finally, owing one great huge debt of gratitude to Miklos Rozsa and Spellbound, comes the final major new theme, for Han Solo and Princess Leia.  There's no full, concert arrangement of it, but a pretty lengthy treatment is heard in "Han Solo and the Princess".

The Empire Strikes Back is probably notable as featuring the most drawn-out and plain exciting action scenes of any of the Star Wars films, while featuring a dark and compelling story.  Two long sequences each get vintage scoring from Williams - my favourite is the fifteen-minute "The Battle of Hoth".  While it's true that it is in reality four shorter cues edited together for the album, it remains a cohesive and truly thrilling piece of music that takes numerous twists and turns but never fails to enthrall.  Ironically, the most effective musical part of it - a few bars of crashing pianos - were removed for the film, but heard here in this form it is a true masterpiece and could easily be posited as one of the very finest pieces from Williams's glorious career.  Another lengthy, brilliant piece is the Carbon Freeze sequence, running twelve minutes and featuring some pretty moving stuff.

And I haven't even mentioned the brilliant self-contained music for Cloud City, thrilling finale, disturbing dissonance of some of the Dagobah music... this is truly a multifaceted score with something new hanging around every corner.  If I were to have a criticism - and, let's face it, I'm miserable enough to make it inevitable - it's that on album, the Imperial March appears so often over the two-hour running time that you might just tire of it by the end.  But aside from that... can't think how this could be any better.  The liner notes are great, the packaging is lavish, this is a release to treasure.

Buy this CD by clicking here!


Disc one

  1. Twentieth Century Fox fanfare (:23)
  2. Main Title / The Ice Planet Hoth (8:09)
  3. The Wampa's Lair / Vision of Obi-Wan / Snowspeeders Take Flight (8:44)
  4. The Imperial Probe / Aboard the Executor (4:24)
  5. The Battle of Hoth (14:48)
  6. The Asteroid Field (4:15)
  7. Arrival on Dagobah (4:54)
  8. Luke's Nocturnal Visitor (2:35)
  9. Han Solo and the Princess (3:26)
  10. Jedi Master Revealed / Mynock Cave (5:44)
  11. The Training of a Jedi Knight / The Magic Tree (5:16)


Disc two

  1. The Imperial March (3:02)
  2. Yoda's Theme (3:30)
  3. Attacking a Star Destroyer (3:04)
  4. Yoda and the Force (4:02)
  5. Imperial Starfleet Deployed / City in the Clouds (6:04)
  6. Lando's Palace (3:53)
  7. Betrayal at Bespin (3:46)
  8. Deal with the Dark Lord (2:37)
  9. Carbon Freeze / Darth Vader's Trap / Departure of Boba Fett (11:50)
  10. The Clash of the Lightsabers (4:18)
  11. Rescue from Cloud City / Hyperspace (9:10)
  12. The Rebel Fleet / End Title (6:28)