Monday, February 19, 2007


I've had this album, Patrick Gleeson's Star Wars laying around for years without really recognizing what it was all about. I picked it up mainly because it looked like a hilariously kitsch Star Wars cash-in and featured this impossible to pass up subtitle: "Selections From The Film Performed On The World's Most Advanced Synthesizer." This, of course, must be heard. It is, pretty much as I suspected, an awesome relic, setting John Williams' score to a disco beat and throwing in every flourish that the world's most advanced synthesizer circa 1977 has to offer. (For the record, that's, per Gleeson's liner notes, "an E-mu (pronounced ee-mew) systems synthesizer. It is polyphonic--that is it plays 16 notes simultaneously when instructed to do so--and it is computer driven. The computer, which stores up to 8000 notes in from one to nine memory banks, is based on the Z-80 central processing unite, a popular chip among 'homebrew' computer folks.")

What I didn't realize was the Gleeson was the electronic music guru who put a heavy stamp on Herbie Hancock's early-'70s albums like the awesome Sextant. He's still active, too. There's a short article about him on and he's got a MySpace page.

So now I feel a bit bad about being disrespectful to this album for all these years since the man behind it is a legitimate talent whose work I've enjoyed immensely elsewhere. But that doesn't really make the album itself any better. Gleeson provides some detailed liner notes about wanthing to take "another approach" to Williams' score "one that did involve synthesizers and which was more surreeal than the scoring of the original." He also talks about embedding "semi-hidden references back to the film." For instance: "On the main theme track, which is Luke's theme, if you listen carefully to the bassline you'll hear that it is divided into two sections, one of them a hip funk line which is very 1977, and the other one a kind of remembrance of the way basslines were in the late '50s. This is because to me Luke is both a contemporary hero, and also a kind of throwback to the science fiction hero of the fifties--he hardly even kisses the girl."

Well, the reasons for that would come out later. Meanwhile, all I hear is disco John Williams.

Listen: Patrick Gleeson, "Star Wars Theme (Luke's Theme)"

Listen: Patrick Gleeson, "Cantina Music"

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