I managed to buy and listen to the soundtrack before I saw the movie. If anything, I thought this might give me an idea of the flavor of the film. Alas, my prediction proved to be correct. Aside from "Duel of the Fates," which is the kick-butt music heard during the lightsaber duel, the soundtrack was very subdued. Slow. I really expected a lot of high-speed action music, with violins flying up and down the scale or rapid drumbeats. Alas, I heard a lot of slow, sonorous drum beating and long, drawn-out, sentimental violin pieces.
There was also a plot moment that is given away in the soundtrack if (like me) you happen to buy the CD before seeing the movie: the death of Qui-Gon. I sort of expected it, anyway, because we all know that Obi-wan Kenobi was Anakin's trainer, not Qui-Gon. Sorry if I blew a story moment for some people. That's just something I noticed.
When I saw the movie (read my review for my "take" on that), I was only slightly surprised that the film was a drag. This soundtrack was too tame and too soft for a Star Wars soundtrack, and Phantom Menace is too slow to be a Star Wars film. I'm listening to the CD as I write this, to make sure I'm giving the soundtrack a fair shake. Track 12 is pretty nimble, but also slows down rather quickly. There were no pieces here that were particularly memorable, except for "Duel of the Fates," nothing to stick in the skull like "Darth Vader's Theme" or the music heard during the chase through the asteroids in Empire Strikes Back.
The only other bit of color in the soundtrack was "Augie's Great Municipal Band," which mixes calypso police whistles with a digeree-doo (sp?) and children's voices singing glossolalia in the background. Intriguing, and typical of Williams' great efforts at conjuring up interesting "alien" music using unusual instruments.
And when you get right down to it, I still missed hearing the Star Wars key signature, which only appears only once, during track 11, around 2:33.