Support Filmtracks! Click here first:
iTunes (U.S.)
eBay (U.S.)
This Week's Most Popular Reviews:
   1. Romeo & Juliet
   2. Hobbit: Unexpected Journey
   3. The Phantom of the Opera
   4. Lady in the Water
   5. Harry Potter: Sorcerer's Stone
   6. Moulin Rouge
   7. Gladiator
   8. Titanic
   9. LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring
   10. Thor: The Dark World
Newest Major Reviews: Best-Selling Albums:
   1. Chappie
   2. Fifty Shades of Grey
   3. Night/Museum: Secret/Tomb
   4. The Imitation Game
   5. Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies
   1. Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
   2. City of Ember
   3. Jack the Giant Slayer
   4. Indiana Jones Collection
   5. King Kong Lives
Section Header
Close Encounters: The Essential John Williams Collection
Conducted by:
Paul Bateman
Nic Raine

Performed by:
The City of Prague Philharmonic

Chorus Performed by:
The Crouch End Festival Chorus

Produced by:
James Fitzpatrick

Silva Screen Records

Release Date:
June 22nd, 1999

Also See:
Saving Private Ryan
The Towering Inferno
Schindler's List

Audio Clips:

Regular U.S. release.


Close Encounters: The Essential John Williams Collection
•  Printer Friendly Version
Used Price: $4.75

Sales Rank: 536942

Buy from

or read more reviews and hear more audio clips at

  Compare Prices:
(new and used)

  Find it Used:
Check for used copies of this album in the:

Soundtrack Section at eBay

(including eBay Stores and listings)

Buy it... if you seek a competent and well-performed 2-CD collection of crisply re-recorded themes spanning John Williams' outstanding career.

Avoid it... if you own several other Silva Screen compilations that contain a significant portion of the contents also included on this set.

Close Encounters: The Essential John Williams Film Music Collection: (Compilation) The Silva Screen label debuted the first of their 2-CD "essential" sets in 1998, encompassing the careers of James Horner and Jerry Goldsmith, and continued the series with a John Williams entry in the summer of 1999. All three follow the same mold, combining older performances by the City of Prague Philharmonic (that have appeared on previous albums) with a few bright new additions. For the Horner album, the new block of material represented Titanic; for the Goldsmith album, it was Under Fire. And now, with so much of Williams' material already re-recorded, the new material is 18 previously unreleased minutes from the early Western The Rare Breed. The album was released to coincide with the mania surrounding Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, but ironically there isn't any material from the new Star Wars score included on this release. The performances on "The Essential John Williams Film Music Collection" range greatly from stunningly superb to occasionally shabby. The best performances are, as per usual, those that include the City of Prague Philharmonic and the Crouch End Festival Chorus together. Although beginning with a rather flat and uninspiring version of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the fresh recording of Saving Private Ryan is a delight, capturing much of the solace of the original score. The two Hook tracks are adequate, though the concert suite arrangement of themes from that score has never been satisfactory. Williams essentially broke the epic and grand prologue from the score into three pieces and inserted lengthier portions of each theme in between; in so doing, the majesty of that prologue music is completely lost. The brass section has a few noticeable flubs at the start of that suite's performance here.

The orchestral rendition of the Academy nominated song from Hook is the better half of the score's two representatives, if only because its arrangement is more rare to hear. The theme from The Cowboys is performed very well, though some of the energy was lost due to slower pacing in its mid-section. The heavy strings in the Born on the Fourth of July are very effective and will not disappoint. Fans will likely be surprised by Family Plot, with its choral sections, and Rare Breed, with the expansive opening to its suite of tracks. The JFK music runs a tad long for this compilation; ten minutes of that solemn music is abruptly broken up by the sudden and boisterous Empire of the Sun, featuring the necessary, magnificent chorus. At the start of the second CD, fans who bought Silva's previously-released, disaster-themed compilation will immediately recognize the City of Prague Philharmonic's standing performance of The Towering Inferno. Despite the recording's previous availability, it is a noteworthy adaptation worth inclusion. It's somewhat of a relief that Silva elected not to include the two other Williams selections from the disaster album on this one (Poseidon Adventure and Earthquake). The choral masterpiece from Amistad is a highlight of this set; the voices mixed well with the underlying orchestral rhythm and the surround sound brilliantly accentuates the light percussion in the background. The love theme from Superman is a classic, and it's far more enjoyable here than the performance of the title theme, which is, like Temple of Doom, a bit flat due to slower pacing. Neither is as well interpreted as the re-recordings presented by Varèse Sarabande at roughly the same time. A heart-felt and swinging performance of The River expertly captures the spirit of the score and serves as another highlight of the set.

Learn about

The suite from Black Sunday improves upon the original recording with a vibrant sound quality that brings the percussion in the scherzo section to life. The finale is offered with all the expansive melodrama necessary. The title theme from Jaws are a bit tiresome after its constant restatement through the years, but its performance here is decently crisp. The same could be said of the titles of Star Wars, which are arranged into a somewhat unique suite with the end titles and are punctuated here by some wishy-washy brass and an extremely exuberant flute. Of the two cues represented from The Empire Strikes Back, the lackluster performance of "The Imperial March" (underpowered badly in the high brass) is no match for the beautiful "Han Solo and the Princess" arrangement. The Close Encounters of the Third Kind track features a prelude that mimics the film's musical exchange between the alien mothership and the ground control before blasting into the concert suite (with that mighty orchestral hit that starts off the score). The Presumed Innocent track is excellent in performance, though the orchestra somehow missed capturing the terror and dread behind the score's poignant piano and timpani solos. The theme from Schindler's List is always welcome on any collection; rarely are subpar performances of it published. The violinist lacks some of the refined elegance necessary to truly allow the yearning theme to take flight, but it is nevertheless a gorgeous rendition. The set returns to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade to wrap it up, and the sound quality suddenly jumps a level higher for this last performance. There is an equally sudden dip in ambient reverberation when the primary theme resumes with two minutes remaining in the track, though... a curiosity. Overall, the set will certainly be a worthy purchase for those of you who are new to the Silva series of composer compilations. If you have purchased two or three albums from Silva prior to this one, you might be disappointed to see much of the same material included once again. While a few of Williams' modern classics are missing (Jurassic Park and Far and Away, most notably), the set ranks above the matching Horner product and slightly below the Goldsmith one. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.06 Stars
Smart Average: 3.05 Stars*
***** 44 
**** 56 
*** 59 
** 48 
* 40 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.

No Comments Yet

Read All | Add New Post | Search | Help  

 Track Listings: Total Time: 150:32

CD 1: (73:04)

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom:
• 1. End Credits (6:31)

Saving Private Ryan:
• 2. Hymn to the Fallen (6:03)

Hook (Suite):
• 3. Main Themes (4:07)
• 4. When You're Alone (3:00)

The Cowboys:
• 5. Overture (9:41)

Born on the Fourth of July:
• 6. End Credits (5:44)

Family Plot:
• 7. End Titles (3:53)

• 8. Arlington (7:25)
• 9. End Titles (2:41)

Empire of the Sun:
• 10. Exsultate Justi (5:00)

The Rare Breed (Suite):
• 11. Universal Emblem/Hilary's Phlight/Double Crossed/Tallow Ho (5:30)
• 12. Scottish Romeo/The Hunt (2:41)
• 13. On His Own (5:59)
• 14. The Cross-Breed/End Credits (4:23)

CD 2: (77:28)

The Towering Inferno:
• 1. Main Theme (5:07)

• 2. Dry Your Tears Africa (3:39)

• 3. Love Theme (6:11)
• 4. Main Theme (4:11)

The River:
• 5. Main Theme/Love Theme (5:03)

Black Sunday:
• 6. Suite: Fugue, Scherzo & Finale (10:31)

• 7. Main Theme (2:16)

Star Wars:
• 8. Main Title (5:24)

The Empire Strikes Back (Suite):
• 9. Han Solo and the Princess (4:09)
• 10. Imperial March (3:12)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind:
• 11. The Conversation Begins/Main Title/Resolution and Finale (8:16)

Presumed Innocent:
• 12. End Titles (4:15)

Schindler's List:
• 13. Theme (4:01)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:
• 14. End Credits (10:48)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert contains extensive notes about each of the tracks, as well as thorough credits.

  All artwork and sound clips from Close Encounters: The Essential John Williams Collection are Copyright © 1999, Silva Screen Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 7/17/99 and last updated 10/21/07. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1999-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.