Close Encounters soundtrack- new edition

CloseEncounters-HDThere is something captivating about that poster for CE3K, of the road at night leading to a mysterious glow on the horizon. I remember it on the paperback cover, the original vinyl album, the collectors edition magazine etc. It always seemed so arresting, so…. I don’t know… it just evokes the same feelings in me now, all these years later, holding this new La La Records edition of the John Williams soundtrack. I think this cover is actually a rework from either new elements or original elements remastered but in any case, it is effective as it ever was.

It feels rather fitting, also, to be writing about this new edition of the CE3K soundtrack album immediately after writing my post about Baby Driver. Music is an integral part of both films, just in a different way- in the case of Baby Driver, its source music, but in Close Encounters its the score that is woven so tightly into the fabric of the film. Indeed, one of the pleasures of this edition of the score is the track Advance Scout Greeting, which is functions as sound design in the film but is actually score music, when the scientists first attempt communication through music with ufos prior to the arrival of the mothership. Its utterly sublime and a wonderful reminder of one of my favourite moments of the film- this track alone worth the price of buying this soundtrack yet again.

In all honesty, Close Encounters is not my favourite John Williams score (Empire Strikes Back, if you’re wondering); it always seemed, even back in 1978, music to admire rather than love or adore. It’s a complex, sometimes atonal score, very much of the 1970s when film music could indeed function as a fundamental part of a films success, full of themes and motifs, without being designed as easy-listening or full of tunes to whistle afterwards. While it lacks tunes like Darth Vader’s theme or the Superman march, it does have one of the most identifiable musical motifs of any film, period; the five-note musical signal transmitted by the aliens and the centerpiece of the human/alien communication.

Beyond its sometimes revelatory remastering (for once,  here’s music that really does sound superior than it has ever before) one of the best aspects of this particular release is that it is based on the discovery that John Williams had originally planned to release the Close Encounters soundtrack as a double-lp in similar fashion to the previous double-lp edition of the hugely successful Star Wars soundtrack (and as he would the Superman soundtrack album). For some reason this intention was nixed in favour of releasing a standard single-album of highlights, but this release has allowed the first compact disc to roughly correspond with what Williams had originally intended. .So, rather than be a complete and chronological release as is usual these days for these expanded releases, instead, the first disc functions as a satisfying musical listening experience. Considering the sore is so atonal in places and the original highlights album full of edits and compromises, it works brilliantly well here.

The second disc in this set functions in much the same way, but chiefly with unreleased music, album versions, alternates and the like. It works as a compelling and satisfying alternative to what the first disc offers, almost a director’s cut of the original soundtrack. Its a novel approach but works so well it’s a shame no-one has tried something like this before. As it is, it makes all previous editions of the soundtrack irrelevant and this edition definitive. You may have heard this music before, but whether you have the original vinyl or the 1998 expansion on CD, you haven’t heard it like this. Essential for fans of the composer’s work or this score in particular. My apologies to your wallet, as if you’re here in the UK these things aren’t getting any cheaper – I’d direct you to the music box website as the best deal to avoid customs charges etc. Delivery is quick as its just popped across the channel and the discs well packaged.

3 thoughts on “Close Encounters soundtrack- new edition

  1. Matthew McKinnon

    Yep, I did have to take a deep breath before ordering this (along with the new edition of the ET score). I played Russian roulette with HMRC customs and ordered direct from the label in the US, and luckily it got through without a charge, so it was marginally cheaper.

    The remastering really is superb on these new editions (and on their recent Jaws one as well) – to actually hear bass on the low end, after being accustomed to the slightly shrill and trebly original mastering is incredible.

    I’m afraid my OCD took over, though, and I had to make a playlist of the tracks in chronological order. I’m just that sort of person, I’m afraid.

    And I now have the five tones dial tone from the second CD as my phone’s ringtone. Sad.

    1. Never made my peace with ET, the film nor the score, so I’ve refrained from buying that one.Close Encounters though, always keeps drawing me back like it’s some kind of enigmatic puzzle that I just can’t figure out. I’ve read it’s also William’s personal favourite score.

      I have the expanded editions of so many Williams scores (I think only the Jurassic Park box and ET haven’t swayed me), its weird to think how lucky we are now as the cd format (apparently) winds down to insignificance. I’d still love to see/hear a remastered 1979 Dracula though I hear the masters are lost, unfortunately. Then again, they said the same about Poledouris’ Conan and we got a three-disc set eventually, so never say never..

  2. Pingback: John William’s Dracula – the ghost of 82

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