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John Williams' Greatest Hits 1969 - 1999 (Soundtrack)

Tracksounds Rating = 9/10

John Williams' Greatest Hits 1969 - 1999 (Soundtrack)

Composed by John Williams
Performed by London Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops Orchestra, The Skywalker Symphony Orchestra, American Boychoir, Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Tim Morrison, Christopher Parkening
Released by Sony Classical - November 1999

Track Title Time Rating No Doubt, the Best
by Christopher Coleman

Just mentioning the name John Williams brings a myriad of themes to mind:  Superman, Star Wars, Jaws, Indiana Jones, Schindler’s List, etc.  Well, Sony Classical has done a nice job of incorporating all of these themes and more into a double CD set.  Sony Classical has released one of the best compilations in the last few years with John Williams Greatest Hits 1969 - 1999.  This tribute to maestro John Williams has just about every score fan's favorite John Williams' themes, with only a few curious inclusions, great track flow, and all in a decent package.  This is a near-perfect compliation.

There are a couple of great features to this particular compilation.  First, all of the selections are conducted by the composer, John Williams.  This is interesting in that some of the performances vary from the original soundtrack recordings.  For instance, track 2 of Disc 2, Theme from Jurassic Park is performed at somewhat of a hurried tempo when compared to the original.   Flight to Neverland from Hook (track 4, disc 2) features an intriguing arrangement of some of the best themes Another noteworthy example is the arrangement for the Flying Theme from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (track 2, Disc 1).  While it differs from the original and doesn’t contain quite the same emotional punch, it is still a delight to listen to.  Many times such deviations provide so many distractions that it is difficult to enjoy the performance.

Yet another wonderful characteristic of this particular compilation is the track order.  Here, Sony really does a wonderful job in leading the listener from one track to the next.  This is especially evident on disc 2.  Beginning with the somber Hymn to the Fallen from Saving Private Ryan and aptly concluding with Williams’ summer of 1999 smash, the epic Duel of the Fates from Star Wars:  The Phantom Menace, a perfect stroll down the John Williams lane of film music masterpieces is constructed. 

A dilemma is always faced when putting together a John Williams compilation.  How much and which pieces from Star Wars do we include?  In spite of the  huge amount of memorable Star Wars themes to choose from Sony hit the mark with their selections of The Main Title, Luke and Leia, The Imperial March, and Duel of the Fates.  These selections provide a good sampling of the depth and variety found just within this one slice of the John Williams musical pie.

Cues form Star Wars or the  Indiana Jones trilogy are obvious candidates for inclusion in such a compilation, but a surprisingly nice touch is John Williams’ Olympic work.  Two tracks display more of the composer’s ability to write themes that ingrain themselves into our national as well as individual consciousness.  First, track 7 or disc 1, Olympic Theme and Fanfare features John Williams’ memorable theme for the 1984 Olympic Games held in Los Angeles.  The track begins with Leo Arnaud’s unforgettable “Bugler’s Theme” and moves right into John Williams’ piece- a very nice touch.  The second sampling of the Olympic spirit comes on track 10 of disc 2, Summon the Heroes.  This powerful piece was written for the 1996 Games held in Atlanta, Georgia, which marked the 100th Olympic Games held.  This bold, heroic theme can stand toe to toe with many of Williams' best film score themes.

There are a couple of other pieces that are pleasurable surprise additions.  Seven Years in Tibet and Empire of the Sun may be two of John Williams most underrated scores, but they are given some due credit with their inclusion here.  Yet another fantastic track is that of the theme from Far and Away which was originally found on Cinema Serenade.  Itzhak Perlman's performance is astounding!

As stated earlier, this is a near perfect compilation.  What keeps it from being perfect are a couple of curious inclusions.  One, The Sugarland Express has always been a second-tier score when compared to much of Williams other work of that era, yet it has made its way onto another Williams compilation.  It would have been much more pleasurable to have had a selection from Earthquake or The Towering Inferno or even Black Sunday.  Two, the selection from Rosewood, seems a bit strange, while it does offer a glimpse at yet another facet of Williams’ musical talent, it just doesn’t seem to fit with those pieces that surround it.   These selections do hamper the overall a experience, but only microscopically. The brilliance of the rest of tracks make these minor incidents negligible.

John Williams is responsible for giving us some of the most unforgettable movie music in the last thirty years and this compilation certainly does his work justice.  For those curious as to the lure of film music, this is the disc I’d plop into their hands and say, “Just listen to this and you’ll understand.”  For those who are in the midst of the film music mania, this disc provides  a professionally produced compilation that likely matches those many have compiled themselves; however, Sony gives great packaging and liner notes along with it.  Certainly, this belongs in any film score collectors library.  It is, no doubt, the best released on John Williams yet.

From the Liner Notes

"Every fan of STAR WARS -- 
and of great film music -- is in his debt." 
George Lucas

"I want to salute John Williams -- the quintessential film composer.  John has transformed and uplifted every movie that we've made together."  
Steven Spielberg 
(from the album The Spielberg/Williams Collaboration)

"It has been a very special experience to carve out these three films together (Born on the Fourth of July, JFK, Nixon).  In each one, John williams brought to them the soul of a poet.  Working with him was like flying through the light."  I shall never forget it.  
Oliver Stone

Disc One

1 Star Wars - Main Title 5:44 ****
2 E.T. - Flying Theme 3:42 ****
3 Superman - Main Title 4:25 ****
4 Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom - Parade of the Children 4:53 ****
5 Sugarland Express - Theme 3:35 ***
6 Jaws - Theme 2:31 ****
7 Olympic Fanfare and Theme 4:28 *****
8 Return of the Jedi - Luke and Leia 5:02 ****
9 The Reivers - Main Title 5:13 ****
10 The Empire Strikes Back - The Imperial March 3:04 ****
11 Indana Jones and the Last Crusade - For Motorcycle and Orchestra 2:48 ****
12 Empire of the Sun - Cadillac of the Skies 4:58 ****
13 Raiders of the Lost Ark - The Raider's March 5:11 ****
14 Close Encounters of the Third Kind - Suite 9:46 ***
  Total Disc Time


Disc 2  
1 Saving Private Ryan - Hymn to the Fallen 6:10 ****
2 Jurassic Park - Theme 5:29 ***
3 Schindler's List - Theme 3:32 ****
4 Hook - Flight to Neverland 4:41 ****
5 Seven Years in Tibet - Seven Years in Tibet 7:09 ****
6 JFK - Prologue 4:00 *****
7 Stepmom - The Days Between 6:27 ****
8 1941 - March 4:14 ***
9 Home Alone - Somewhere in My Memory 4:54 ***
10 Summon the Heroes 6:14 *****
11 Rosewood - Look Down, Lord 4:12 ***
12 Far and Away - Theme 5:34 *****
13 Born on the Fouth of July - Theme 6:20 *****
14 Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace - Duel of the Fates 4:14 *****
  Total Disc Time 73:41    
  Total Playing Time 144:02    




Music Selection


CD Length


Track Order




Final Score


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John Williams
John Williams

John Williams' Greatest Hits 1969 - 1999 (Soundtrack)

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John Williams' Greatest Hits 1969 - 1999 (Soundtrack)


All artwork from The Avengers is exclusive property of Sony Classical (c) 1999.  Its appearance is for imformational purposes only.  John Williams Photo provided by Filmtracks.