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Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
Composed, Orchestrated, Conducted, and Produced by:
Joel McNeely

Original Themes by:
John Williams

Varèse Sarabande

Release Date:
April 23rd, 1996

Also See:
Star Wars
The Empire Strikes Back
Return of the Jedi
The Phantom Menace

Audio Clips:
2. The Battle of Gall (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

3. Imperial City (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

6. Xixor's Theme (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

8. Night Skies (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

Regular U.S. release.


Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
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Buy it... if you, like most fans of the Star Wars series, just can't get enough of the consistently robust music from (and associated to) the franchise.

Avoid it... if hearing a tad too many styles of John Williams come from someone other than the maestro (especially for this saga) just doesn't cut it for you.

Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire: (Joel McNeely) There was a time in the early 1990's when die-hard Star Wars fans had gotten wind of a second trilogy of films in the franchise, and enough time had passed since Return of the Jedi that they were practically frothing at the mouth in anticipation. With The Phantom Menace still several years away, fans were treated at the time to the first novels authorized to take place in the Star Wars universe, and as their popularity continued to grow, Lucas and his creative teams decided on an unprecedented event to take place in 1996. They chose one of the novels to adapt into a video game and commissioned a fully orchestral score to accompany the former. Their choice was Shadows of the Empire, a story that takes place in between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, with the rebels on the run, Han Solo lost, and Luke attempting to come to grips with his newfound family member. As readers and players, we encounter the Imperial City on Coruscant for the first time and come face to face with Xizor, a new villain hoping to dethrone Lord Vader as the Emperor's right hand man. So, while being based very strongly in the Star Wars universe, Shadows of the Empire offers a fresh new look at events that we would not otherwise see directly on screen. The soundtrack release was a much hyped part of the media blitz for the combination of Shadows of the Empire products, though it had a largely unfamiliar name attached to it. Composer Joel McNeely had already made a name for himself as a possible successor someday for John Williams (apart from this project even), with his work for "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" serving notice of his arrival to the mainstream. Some have mentioned that John Williams forwarded McNeely's name to the production team, while others claim that Williams was never offered a chance to score Shadows of the Empire. In either case, McNeely was both capable of providing an appropriate score and was given the rights (obviously) to use Williams' material for reference. A vibrant performance by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and accompanying chorus would give McNeely a shot at matching the saga's established sound.

Learn about

At the very least, Shadows of the Empire is an immensely interesting piece of work. Consensus between John Williams' Star Wars fans seems to be that McNeely's take on the music for the saga ranges from commendable to outstanding. At the very worst, criticism against McNeely comes in the form of a blanket "...but it isn't John Williams" statement, which does an injustice to McNeely's worthy interpretation. The soundtrack really contains only two tracks of material containing Williams' themes, including the opening cue, which is a straight arrangement of the title theme and the carbon freezing chamber cue from The Empire Strikes Back. The only cue to contain significant adaptations of Williams' themes is "Night Skies," which not only intrigues in its usage of the Imperial March and Force Themes, but also shows that McNeely is very capable at skillfully interpreting those themes. The only universal shame with Shadows of the Empire is that McNeely didn't make more subtle incorporations of those established themes into his original material, as we hear in the latter portions of the final cue. That said, McNeely's own action material is often very strong, opting out of Williams' tactic of producing frenzied dissonance mixed with his highly dense structures. Instead, McNeely maintains the same instrumental palette but presents a more straight forward action style that, combined with a decent sized choir, provides some very attractive pieces (highlighted by "The Battle of Gall," a cue worthy of any Star Wars scene). One praised aspect of Shadows of the Empire that comes under some scrutiny is the dominant percussion-laced theme for the reptilian Xizor, which is well incorporated throughout the score by McNeely, but offers harsh dissonance at lengths that the Star Wars universe isn't accustomed to. But aside from this complaint, as well as a wish that McNeely had included more thematic interpretation along with his strong use of Williams' styles (some Indiana Jones mannerisms have carried over in early cues), McNeely's overall work here is much stronger than anyone could have expected. While Shadows of the Empire did not launch McNeely's career as many would have hoped, the score remains a hidden gem for Star Wars fans to discover and enjoy. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Joel McNeely reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.31 (in 16 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.04 (in 7,541 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.67 Stars
Smart Average: 3.51 Stars*
***** 109 
**** 64 
*** 38 
** 27 
* 35 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   Re: found some
  Marcato -- 8/11/08 (4:55 p.m.)
   found some
  Jeremy -- 11/12/07 (7:20 p.m.)
   classical music references?
  Jeremy -- 8/10/06 (6:58 p.m.)
   Re: Yeah, but it isn't Berlioz
  Berlioz -- 8/8/06 (4:24 a.m.)
   Yeah, but it isn't Berlioz
  Rawrg -- 8/7/06 (9:38 a.m.)
Read All | Add New Post | Search | Help  

 Track Listings: Total Time: 51:26

• 1. Main Theme from Star Wars and Leia's Nightmare (3:41)
• 2. The Battle of Gall (7:59)
• 3. Imperial City (8:02)
• 4. Beggar's Canyon Chase (2:56)
• 5. The Southern Underground (1:48)
• 6. Xixor's Theme (4:35)
• 7. The Seduction of Princess Leia (3:38)
• 8. Night Skies (4:17)
• 9. Into the Sewers (2:55)
• 10. The Destruction of Xixor's Palace (10:44)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes detailed information about the project.

  All artwork and sound clips from Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire are Copyright © 1996, Varèse Sarabande. 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 10/2/96 and last updated 2/12/06. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1996-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.