Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (Soundtrack from the Video Game)
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The score for the video game Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire represents the first authorized music from George Lucas' interstellar franchise written by a composer other than John Williams. Joel McNeely, who succeeded Williams for the television series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, was the logical choice here as well. Employing signature themes and motifs from Williams' original Star Wars score — arguably the most beloved and influential movie music of the late 20th century — McNeely vividly captures the power and majesty one expects from the series, thanks in large part to the epic performance of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. To McNeely's credit, he also deviates sharply from Williams' template, contributing dissonant, intensely rhythmic passages (most notably "Xizor's Theme") without precedent in the Star Wars canon. Purists may blanch, but more adventurous listeners will appreciate the divergences from formula.
A Star Wars Triumph
To many, Shadows of the Empire was merely a test for the Lucasfilm marketing empire in preparation for the release of the Star Wars Special Editions in 1997 and later, the (godawful) prequels. While the book, the game, the comics and the action figures may have been pure exploitation, Joel McNeely's score reached a level of complexity the rest of the franchise did not. As a score, McNeely's score takes the listener on an amazing journey of the galaxy, successfully plotting new action and emotion, while recalling John Williams' themes where necessary. It features the famous tunes to orient the listener to the greater Star Wars saga, but McNeely is not afraid to take the score in a completely different direction from the well-worn path of Williams. In many ways, this score surpasses the Williams' scores of the prequel trilogy and offers a new vantage point to a well-known saga. Highlights are the frenetic rhythms of "Xizor's Theme" and the grandeur and fanfare of "Imperial City".
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