1983: Return of the Jedi Read-Along

VaderThis is the story, of Return of the Jedi. You can read along with me in your book. You will know it is time to turn the page when you hear Artoo-Detoo beep like this, “Boop, beep-beep, boop. BOO-BEW!”

Let’s begin now:

Throughout the early 80s, Star Wars, with its vast world filled with luscious characters, could be found fighting for galactic power in your cereal bowl, your pencil kit, on the laces your shoes, on your back helping to carry your books, on your waist to help keep your pants up, packaged with bubble gum as little cardboard trading cards, and as a beaming Prudent Groove would like to acknowledge, a 24 page read-along with 33 1/3rpm record containing the story, music and photos from the original motion picture, Return of the Jedi. Me as a 4-year-old, “You mean, I can LISTEN to the story and FOLLOW ALONG with my very own book?!” Mind = blown.

Boop, beep-beep, boop. BOO-BEW!

Read-Along ColoredStar Wars was such a massive part of my generation’s childhood that, for me, it’s difficult to see the printed year 1983 and NOT think Return of the Jedi. And thanks to this little read-along-reminder-guy, I can relive the great tale of (spoiler alert!) the Rebel Alliance defeating the Galactic Empire in grand, book-turning fashion.

Boop, beep-beep, boop. BOO-BEW!

The narrator does a good job of keeping the story going with his smooth, yet demonstrative voice. Sound effects are lifted directly from the film, as is the classic John Williams’ score. The movie stills were great to analyze as a kid (this was back when it was difficult to pause a VHS tape at the exact moment you wanted), but the REAL fun of this little 7” lies in the voice actors hired to portray the story’s main characters: Luke, Han & Leia. It became apparent early on in this read-along that the Luke Skywalker standing up to Jabba the Hut (original voice), was NOT the Luke you knew and loved. This was immediately jarring, but, like a child’s mind works, was quickly forgotten when Artoo-Detoo prompted:

Boop, beep-beep, boop. BOO-BEW!

Read-Along BackI’m ecstatic that I kept this little gem from my wonder years, but then again I keep EVERYTHING (much to the dismay of my GF and my parents). This book and record set is worth seeking out if only to chuckle at the stand-in voice acting cast.

Leia hugged him. “Come join us, my brave Jedi.” She led him back to their circle of friends – heroes together to the end.

THE ACTUAL DIALOGUE, SOUND EFFECTS & MUSIC FROM THE FILM aka The Story of Star Wars

VaderThe Story of Star Wars is one that is told by children of all ages. It’s an epic tale, full of grandeur and swash buckling angry men. It’s older than I am and can be heard from the mouths of babes echoing throughout every galaxy known to man. This 1977 picture disc featuring the Dark Lord of the Sith is a hurried version of that award winning tale. It is narrated by the late Roscoe Lee Browne, who you may recognize from Alfred Hitchcock’s Topaz, Logan’s Run and his role as Saunders, the Tates’ butler from Soap after Benson left to star in his own sitcom.

The Story of Star Wars had been previously released in non-picture disc form and features the modeling of two classic droids, one Astromech and one Protocol (I don’t need to take a picture, you’ve seen it).

Produced by George Lucas (no surprise there), this version comes with a small warning on the back sleeve which states: NOTICE: If played excessively the sound quality of this limited edition collectors’ item may not equal the original album previously released in a jacket bearing different artwork.

Basically, it’s a pretty picture record that skips a lot.

Empire Jazz – Produced and Arranged by Ron Carter

empire-jazz-coverThe Galactic Empire, and all its personnel, get the dive-bar treatment in this junk induced, vodka-and-coke-spilling, dank, eye-burning, smoke-filled classic for the casual 1980 Contemporary Jazz fan in all of us. The very phrase “Contemporary Jazz” still freaks me out.

While listening to this record, I imagine myself sitting at Croce’s restaurant in San Diego, drinking a blue milk cocktail (a DOUBLE, why not?) while trying to make casual conversation with the person next to me, who is too busy scanning the room for someone more interesting to talk with. Very put together, and a bit too structured for my taste, Ron Carter and his (at that time) modern version of Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes use this album more as a vehicle to display their various talents (of which this album has many), rather than a stage in which to proclaim their love for Star Wars themed music. 90% straight-edge Contemporary Jazz and 10% Star Wars, Empire Jazz lacks the campy, not-taking-itself-too-seriously, classic lounge vibe that the Evil Genius Orchestra delivered in 1999’s Cocktails in the Cantina (AllMusic.com Review). It’s Contemporary Jazz all right, but this album misses the mark set by Meco in his 1977 classic, Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk; An album I misguidedly attributed Empire Jazz to mirror.

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empire-jazz-backRSO (Robert Stigwood Organisation) released this album in an attempt to appeal to the adult Star Wars fan, or so I gather. Empire Jazz, also known as RS-1-3085 is “also available in 8 track 8T-1-3085 and cassette CT-1-3085.” Too bad they couldn’t have worked TK-421 into their cataloging system, which would have been fun… a bit more fun than this album, I’m afraid.

The cover is, quite simply put, absolutely hilarious. It depicts Chewbacca doing his Thelonious Monk impersonation on the keys; C-3P0 working his well oiled, droid digits on the upright; R2-D2 using his electronic tentacles on the skins, which I buy, by the way; (I imagine R2 could rival Buddy Rich, if he’d ever lower himself to a challenge… R2, that is). And okay, I understand the idea of incorporating the “Empire” on the cover of an album called Empire Jazz, but on sax is a Stormtrooper… not too outlandish a notion, but I’d imagine it to be difficult playing a reed instrument WHILE WEARING A HELMET! And if that isn’t enough, the Sith Lord himself, Darth freakin’ Vader sits at an otherwise empty table with hands crossed, seemingly enthralled that a Wookiee had the patience to learn to play the piano.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Ronald Levin Carter has got talent. I mean, the man played with Miles Davis for crying out loud. It’s a finely executed album, just not exactly as kitschy as the cover suggests.

Current market value (as I type this) ranges from $2.94 in VG condition to $10.00 in NM condition (For Sale Here).

If you dig the Contemporary Jazz thing, consider this album. If you’re looking for Meco 2.0, you’re going to be disappointed.

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