John Williams box set from SONY
Essential John Williams, but an odd - and inanely random - choice of selections. Sigh...Where to begin?
The most obvious place to start is with the title of this box set: "John Williams: The Great Movie Soundtracks". First, discs 1 and 2 are a miss-mash, cobbled-together collection of excerpts from numerous albums of suites that Mr. Williams recorded with various orchestras in the 90s, most with the Boston Pops. Therefore, these are not "soundtracks" at all. Second, disc 4 is not even movie music. It contains "other orchestral works by John Williams" (as labeled on the sleeve).
Misleading, misguided title aside, here's what you get. This 4-disc set is essentially a reissue of the 3-disc, 2012 SONY set, entitled: "The Music of America John Williams", with a 4th disc of Star Wars excerpts thrown in. (For clarification, the 3 non-Star Wars discs are not identical to that 3-disc set, although very close: some selections have been shuffled around a bit with just a couple of extra tracks included, bringing the playing time of disc 1 up a bit.)
As to the Star Wars disc (disc 3 in this box), it contains just 55 minutes of excerpts from all 6 films. These are indeed taken from the original soundtracks. What is frustrating about this disc is that nowhere does SONY tell us these are original soundtracks (thus differing significantly from the other 3 discs) nor from which film the selections are taken. Instead we are only provided simple, rather meaningless titles, such as "Flag Parade" or "General Grievous", etc. Most unhelpful. And why only 55 minutes from 6 full-length soundtracks? Surely they could have filled up the disc and given us more music. Finally, none of the most familiar/beloved selections is included. We hear mostly unfamiliar excerpts that one would not normally single out to listen to. In a way, I'm actually glad about that - it was enjoyable to hear some of the less over-played music from these films. But, others (such as those casual listeners for whom this box is primarily intended) may justifiably disagree wholeheartedly.
The remastering of the meager selection of items from the original 3 films is very successful here. Although I did not compare these tracks directly to the 2007 DSD remastered 8-disc set of the complete soundtracks, this 24-bit remastering sounded fuller, more open and dynamic, (yet still refined and sounding not at all its age), than I remember the DSD set sounding. But, alas, it's been several months since I listened to that and aural memory can be deceptive.
Final verdict: this is a nice box set of orchestral music by John Williams. If only SONY had put some thought into it and titled it correctly, labeled it more helpfully/thoroughly, and included more music, it would be better than it is. For the true collector and/or movie-music connoisseur, this box won't do it in any way. But for the non-collector who simply enjoys John Williams, this would be a lovely gift. It is attractively presented, the remastered sound is uniformly excellent, and it will provide over 4 hours of entertaining music. Although, some will be disappointed their favorite Star Wars tracks are not included.
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