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4.7 out of 5 stars98
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on 9 September 2001
Having read and loved the book I really had doubts that a 13 hour audio full dramatised version could do it justice but any doubts I had were quashed when I heard the first few minutes and that haunting main theme kicked in. Assuming if you're reading this you've already read the book I won't need to go into specifics but Gollum was just so...perfect. Loathsome and quite pitiful at the same time. Ian Holm as Frodo was magnificent, the leading role of a talented cast, special praise going to those actors portraying Bilbo, Gandalf, Aragorn, Pippin, Merry, Sam, Legolas, Gimli and Boromir. The music was equal parts moving, exciting and awe-inspring, and how nice of the CD makers to include a 14th disc with nearly an hour of the score, my fave parts being the main score and the fan-bloody-tastic March of the Ents. Every single part of this version of the book to end all books is honed to perfection, but the standouts go to the Prancing Pony section of disc 2 and the entire Mines of Moria sequence of Disc 4, which is a triumph of sound in a scene where visuals are all. I could babble on forever about this, but, it may seem costly, but it's worth it. Empty your wallets, go home, put this on and be entranced.
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*PLEASE NOTE - THIS REVIEW IS SPECIFIC TO THE BBC DRAMATISATION OF THIS BOOK, FIRST BROADCAST IN 1981, released here on cd.*

I've been a devoted fan of the book of Lord Of The Rings for many years. Whilst reading the book remains the best way to enjoy this story, this BBC radio dramatisation is a very close second.

This wins out over other versions for several reasons. Firstly, it follows the book quite closely. Whilst, by necessity of the time limitations, there have been some cuts, these are all understandable and are of relatively unimportant happenings. There is nothing in the series that is not in the book (unlike the films...). Secondly, as it is audio only, it really lets you use your imagination in visualising characters and places, which is lost a little when things are presented on a screen. This is helped by a wonderful production, with great sound effects. Thirdly, the calibre of the cast. Michael Hordern as Gandalf, Robert Stevens as Aragorn, Ian Holme as Frodo, Bill Nighy as Sam, the list of stars goes on and on. They all turn in superb performances, especially Hordern and Holme. These days, when I read the book it is the voices from the radio that I hear in my head when reading dialogue. Fourthly, there is Stephen Oliver's magnificent score. Fifthly... The list just goes on and on.

The series was originally broadcast in 26 half hour episodes. These have been re-edited into 13 one hour episodes, each presented on a separate disk. There is a fourteenth disk containing the music form the series. There is also a nice booklet, and a map of Middle Earth, all presented in a nice, sturdy, booklet style case. The sound quality is excellent, and allows the wonderful sound design (especially in the battle of Helm's Deep) and the actors every nuance to really shine through.

I love it. If you like the book then buy this, you won't be disappointed. I've you've never read the book I suggest you read it after listening to this, as it adds a lot more depth.

A five star series, done full justice in this release.
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on 15 September 2001
I must have read J.R.R Tolkien's Lord of the Rings at least 30 times over the same number of years.
I have seen two films come and go, that did not 'reach' me in the same way as the books (it is usually the same with pictures/drawings etc).
The Lord of the Rings is one of those rare books who's impressions given are personal to that reader.
In this way the CD's (taken from the BBC Radio adaptation of the early 1980's), do not intrude on ones personal 'mind pictures' for the story. In a number of respects they enhance previous reading experience. The voices are particularly good, striking, in terms of Gandalf and the late/great Sir Michael Hordern.
Admittedly, some scenes have had to be passed over,especially earlier on in the story i.e the old forest, Tom Bombadil, the barrow downs (due to the sheer size of the work), other than these areas, the story is very much intact.
This is a story (we found) best played on a winters night around the fire (it can make television almost seem a basic and vulgar entertainment). But however heard, it will inspire, thrill, and endear all to the great man's master work.
The 13 CD package is attractively packaged, including a map, and a CD of music from this adaptation.
I believe this sort of experience/entertainment is ideal for children of all ages, particularly really grown up children (adults) !
These CD's will compliment your Tolkien collection and continue the pure magic of this classic tale for years/generations to come.
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on 26 February 2000
I know, this might look like an expensive buy, but believe me, once you get to the last CD of this brilliant dramatisation of Lord of the Rings, you won't even care about the money you've spent ! This is how good this radio version is. I would give it 1000 stars if i could !
After listening to this 14 hours of incredible High Fantasy atmosphere, i only wish all the books from Tolkien were available in this form. I know the Lord of the Rings movies are being filmed at this moment, but after listening to this brilliant radio adaptation, i can't believe the movies will be better than this radio series. This is the perfect buy for anyone who loves Fantasy, no matter what age you are. Excelent for Tolien fans, and perfect to introduce the Tolkien world to anyone who never eard of it.
For a start, the actors are perfect, specialy, the voices of Sam, Gollum and Gandalf, wich are fantastic. And the cast it's huuuuuuge with plenty of voices everywhere.
The sound effects are powerfull, altough a bit to much early eighties electronics some times, but very ,very good nevertheless, specialy in the battle scenes and in the countryside atmospheres.
But to me the most impressive thing in all this adaptation , is the music soundtrack. This radio adaptation of Lord of the Rings, has one of the most beautiful music soundtracks i ever eard, and the way in wich the music is used to create emotion and carry the listener into the Midlle Earth is incredible. Listen to the battle preparation scenes in the dark , and you'll get imediately transported into this amazing world, just by the power of sound. The epic music, combined with the sound of horses, arms, men singing and marching and all sort of sound atmospheres creates a movie in our minds, that i doubt any real movie will provoque the same efect ever !
There's epic music, powerfull music, soothing music, simple tunes, elf songs, and all sorts of TolKien poems set to song in a brilliant "medieval" way. And all this comes also in CD n.14 , just for us to enjoy after we listen to the story in the other 13 Cds.
I also have the other radio adaptation made of 1968 of THE HOBBIT, wich i advise everyone to get it also, because all of what i've said for this Lord of the Rings , BBC Radio adaptation also goes for BBC's The Hobbit.
So to finish, i'll just say, if you're in doubt, and worried about the price, just go for it. You won't regret it. By the end you wish you had plenty more like this one to buy. So sell your car, sell your house, sell your mother-in-law, but get this BBC RADIO THE LORD OF THE RINGS. And also the HOBBIT.
After you'll listen to it, you won't even care about the money you spent in buying the thing.
As for me ,this was one of the best buys of my life. And i'm 30 years old. I've already bought a lot.
This Lord of the Rings, radio dramatization is a masterpiece.
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on 15 December 2002
This radio dramatisation is remarkable and has now been re-edited onto 12cds with a running time of 13 hours 15 minutes
including the final disc which is Stephen Oliver's complete musical score (and now includes a demo of John Le Mesurier singing Bilbo's Last Song).
I can't say that i'm too keen on some of the singing which is contained in this production but the music otherwise is excellent, the story adaptation is great, and the casting is superb.
Peter Woodthorpe in particular is excellent as the snarling, stammering, schizoid Gollum.
Ian Holm who plays Bilbo in Peter Jackson's films is Frodo in this production and John Le Mesurier plays Bilbo.
There are four cds for each volume of the book, although the fourth cd of Return Of The King is the aforementioned musical score cd.
This edition differs from the radio transmission as there isn't the introduction and credits for each episode, it has been re-edited so that each of the three volumes of the book is continuous with newly recorded prologues and epilogues by Ian Holm.
This explains how they managed to squeeze it all onto 12cds; previously this was available as a 14cd set, with each of 13 1-hour episodes on a seperate cd and a final cd of the music.
The sleevenotes also say that it has been rearranged so that it better matches the chronology of the book.
Anyway, if you love the Lord Of The Rings you'll love this too.
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on 24 August 2005
As a young boy I (probably illegally) taped these. The dramatization was fantastic, and the quality of the acting superb.
Whilst a (big) fan of the recent films, this version is just as good, and is ideal for whiling away long plane flights or car journeys.
In brief response to a review below - the hobbits (Frodo, Merry and Pippin) ARE supposed to sound like they have been to Eton - they are certainly officer class. Sam is not - and Bill Nighy does a fantastic portrayal of the loyal gardener/valet.
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on 31 December 2002
An amazing piece of work. The shakespearian acting is superb and the characters are faultless. To truly enjoy this you need to let your imagination paint the pictures as they unfold. The narrator Gerard Murphy sets the scene better than any special effect. The characters do this also - in the chapter of 'The Voice of Saruman', when Saruman uses his voice of enchantment you can feel a chill go up your spine as he speaks, as if his spell is working on you. Ian Holm and Michael Horden are excellent as Frodo and Gandalf. William Nighy as Sam is as likeable as the original book character and quite entertaining to listen to.
The recents films are marvellous in their own right but cannot touch the feeling of authenticity that comes from listening to all the colourful characters that play out the 3 books over 13 hrs. Very little is left out as a result and the dialogue is as heart-warming as when first read on a dark and stormy night.
I have had these CDs for years now and still I go back again and again...
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on 21 November 2008
A glorious, faithful, moving dramatisation of the complete Lord of The Rings trilogy, with inspired casting and superb music. Very faithful to the book: it omits only the Tom Bombadil section, and retains all major scenes albeit in shortened form. I particularly appreciated that the adapters were careful to retain the integrity of each of Tolkien's characters and tell the story in chronological order.

This fine production is enhanced by the inspired voice casting, especially in the principal roles. The pronunciation used is quite 'Queen's English', which might come as a bit of a shock if you're expecting it to be as modern-day as the Peter Jackson films, but in fact the voices fit very well with the formality of Tolkien's original dialogue and they sound exactly right. Especially wonderful are Bill Nighy as the irrepressible and doughty Samwise, Peter Woodthorpe as hissing gangrel Gollum, Michael Horden as wise and stern Gandalf, Peter Howell as the traitorous Saruman and Andrew Sear as gentle Faramir. Initally I thought that Robert Stephens' Aragorn was a little too regal-sounding, but as the story progressed I appreciated just how fine his voice was to portray the proud and patient Future King. I also liked Gerard Murphy's quiet and solemn narration. By the end of the production the only voice that sounded out of place to me was that of the rather slack-vowelled announcer who reads each book's closing credits.

With 13 hours of audio I felt that nothing had been skipped in the telling, and that sufficient time had been given to each of the interweaving tales. The dramatisation is enthralling throughout, and in places so moving and atmospheric that the hairs rose on the back of my neck. 'The Paths of The Dead' is a particular favourite - very spooky!

Personally I also loved Stephen Oliver's music (except, perhaps, for the discordant song of the Eagles!). There are beautiful and memorable tracks interspersed throughout the drama and I appreciated having the extra CD of his complete musical score - though I'd have preferred if they'd included Bill Nighy's simple, unaccompanied version of the haunting 'Gil-galad was an Elven King' that was used in the production.

All in all an excellent buy and very good value for money, especially since I've already listened to the whole boxset several times in the 6 weeks since I bought it. (A brilliant accompaniment to redecorating!) These characters and their glorious tale are now very dear to me, thanks to this splendid production. It's even prompted me to re-read Tolkien's novels and rediscover the story again in its original form.
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on 13 July 2001
In essence, the best audio transcription of this famous story and most unlikely to be beaten. Well done BBC Radio for a fantastic job! All the superlatives have essentially been used in previous reviewers comments so I'll be brief : I've listened to the tape version for several years while living in the USA. My family and I recently relocated to France for my job and one of the tapes was damaged during the house move. I immediately bought the CD version and regularly listen to them during a somewhat boring commute on the A43 autoroute from Lyon to Chambéry (a one hour journey). That's one CD per journey, two for the round trip, so I get through the whole story in a little more than a week. Michael Hordern (sadly no longer with us) is my quintessential Gandalf, and for me will always remain so, although I've no doubt that Ian MacKellan will do a fine job as the great wizard in the film version at the end of this year. All of the principal actors, and even the minor ones such as Butterbur (James Grout) and Grima Wormtongue (Paul Brooke) put on excellent performances. Amazing abilites from Peter Woodthorpe, a fine Aragorn (Robert Stephens) and Samwise (William Nighy), and of course Ian Holm as Frodo (it'll be interesting to see his visual interpretation of Bilbo in the film version). All in all, a superb achievement by both cast and production team. My one (albeit very slight) disappointment - the voice of Arwen Evenstar (Sonia Fraser) has always sounded to me like the voice of a much older woman than the actual character (my sincere apologies Mrs. Fraser; I've no idea how you were at the time of the recordings!) My visual image of Arwen is of a much younger, ageless and timeless, elf lady, as most of us probably imagine. Be that as it may, whatever you do, and especially if you've not yet read the book, buy this CD set and be prepared for a wonderful journey of the imagination!
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VINE VOICEon 8 February 2002
From the very opening lines of this epic dramatisation of Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings', you know you're in for something special. The frist thing you notice is the music, and the main theme sets up the whole drama of what is going to unfold. It makes the hairs on your neck stand up, and grabs you so that you do not want it to end.
The cast is perfect. !! Ian Holm as Frodo - he manages to convey the youthful nature of frodo at the beginning, but then as the story progresses, he becomes older in the sense that he's growing as a person.
For me, the real stroke of genius was Sir Michael Hordern as Gandalf. This is a great treat. He speaks every line with great command and authority, as one would expect from his character. He's wise as well as harsh, and I cannot imagine anyone else in this role.
John Le Mesurier as Bilbo: the few scenes the there are with Bilbo are a joy to listen to: he is warm and kind to Frodo, and this is displayed in the excellent acting ability through which le Mesurier speaks.
Of all the CDs I posess, this is my most treasured collection. For those long car journeys, or those trips on the train, or simply to get away from the television and lose yourself in another world, this collection will take you there. It lets your imagination run away with itself into a completely different world. It may seem slightly expensive, but it's well worth it. There's even a bonus CD of all the music!
From the opening bars of the main theme, you'll really believe that you are in Middle Earth. Truly magical.
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