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on 13 December 2012
Howard Shore has again composed a piece of epic music fitting for an epic film. It's still deeply rooted in Middle Earth and contains many of the much loved themes from Lord of the Rings but with a uniqueness needed for this film. The new Hobbit theme is much like the Lord of the Rings main theme and crops up in suitable moments which tie in really well with the film. My personal favourites include the deep, mellow tones of Richard Armitage in Misty Mountains; The White Council which evokes the mysterious land of Rivendell and Lorien that we loved in Lord of the Rings, and interestingly includes passages from Gandalf's Lament, and an almost Gondorian theme; An Ancient Enemy manages to introduce the choirs and high strings associated with Mordor; Riddles in the Dark again introduces familiar themes from Lord of the Rings, most memorably those from Shelob The Great and some more familiar LOTR themes.

Overall, a very good effort which suits this film perfectly. Yes, it has been heavily influenced by LOTR but it's good that there's the sense of continuity in the music that lacks from so many blockbuster series (Harry Potter's move away from the iconic music of John Williams is a prime example). It's sure to please hardcore fans of Tolkien and of Peter Jackson's masterpieces, and let's hope that this standard of music is continued through the next two films, but I would like to see Shore develop further the new Hobbit themes, rather than rely heavily on LOTR music that doesn't always fit the situation in the film (Thorin's apology to Bilbo anyone? It's taken directly from The Fellowship Reunited from ROTK).
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on 19 December 2012
This soundtrack is awesome. Having said that, there is music from the film that is missing from this soundtrack which, in being the 'special edition', is ludicrous in my opinion. The obvious example of this is that film is littered is the main theme, misty mountains cold, in an orchestral domain which is awesome to the extent that you will come out of the cinema humming that tune all the way home. However, there are only slight renditions of this incredible piece of music on 2 tracks. What is up with that??

We can only hope that a 'full recordings' album will released.
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on 10 December 2012
After Howard Shore's epic and award winning scores for the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, being a huge film score fan, this for me was one of the most anticipated releases in years. I can say at the outset, that Shore has, in my opinion matched the quality of his music to LOTR. Building on themes already known (I'm thinking mainly of the Shire theme here), and introducing some new themes for Radagast The Brown and a new epic theme that I expect represents the company travelling with Bilbo - I haven't seen the film yet so I don't know how to describe it in context, but it is the new theme as heard in the trailer. Regardless, Shore wastes no time in returning you to Middle Earth, and it is a sensational from the opening to the final note of the album.

I won't go into every track in detail because that would be a pretty laborious read to go through over 30 tracks. There's some great choral writing in "A Good Omen" (Track 11, CD 2). There's some pretty epic action writing in "A Thunder Battle" (Track 6, CD2). The trailer/ Misty Mountains theme is used fairly sparingly, it's main appearances are in "Misty Mountains" (Track 6, CD1) - the vocals as heard in the trailer (minus the rousing orchestral accompaniment. This does later appear in "Over Hill", however, and is probably the best statement of the theme on the album. It is also reprised in "The World is Ahead" (Track 9, CD1), and is heard briefly in bonus track "The Edge of the Wild" (Track 17, CD2). The shire theme makes several welcome reprises, my favourites were in "Old Friends" (Track 2, CD1), "Dreaming of Bag End" (Track 13, CD2) and "A Very Respectable Hobbit (Bonus Track)" (Track 14,CD2). There are also occasional reprises of other themes from LOTR although they are used sparingly.

A side note on the two slightly different album presentations. The normal edition The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey , and the special (extended) edition The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey are have two CDs releases, the special version has some extended cues and bonus tracks (some of which were particularly good at the end of CD2). Whether or not you go for the normal or extended edition will be very much determined by your desire for paying a bit extra for more music. Having owned the Complete Recordings from the Lord of the Rings, which is probably the best set of soundtrack releases for any film, this extended version was the obvious option. That said, it should be noted that even the extended version is not the "complete" score, which I expect will probably be released at some point in the future. These scores are also available via MP3 download, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Original Motion Picture Soundtrack [+digital booklet] and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Original Motion Picture Soundtrack [+digital booklet] for the normal and special editions respectively, which are better value for money (I do prefer to have the CD though). A recommendation if you prefer to get the ordinary edition is to pick up the tracks 14-17 on the special release only - these are great tracks that probably deserved to be on the ordinary release. These releases are also fantastic value for money, although whether you think the additional tracks and extended versions are worth the extra fiver (at the time of this review) is personal preference.

The sound quality is as good as the original Lord of the Rings recordings, that has exceptional clarity and a wet mix that gives it that extra sense of depth. The London Philharmonic Orchestra sounds fantastic, as do the choral sections. The stunning performances and mixing really cannot be understated.

As the previous reviewer remarked, the packaging for the Special Edition is a little flimsy - I have never really been a fan of cardboard CD packaging. That aside, the special edition does come with a lengthy CD booklet with lyrics to the songs present, some nice album art, and a lengthy commentary on the score by Doug Adams, who wrote this beast of a book about the Shore's music to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy > The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films: A Comprehensive Account of Howard Shore's Scores (Book & Rarities CD): 1. I cannot comment on what is in the normal edition, but judging by what is said on the packaging for the special edition (that says contains "expanded liner notes"), I would imagine the notes by Adams might be excluded. Whether this would be of any interest to the casual listener is open to debate!

The negative points - I wasn't entirely convinced by Neil Finn's "Song of the Lonely Mountain (Extended Edition)" - I just didn't think it had the right Middle Earth tone, but that's just my opinion. There are also a few things that I would have done differently, for example, track 6 (CD1) contains the Misty Mountains song that was heard over the trailer, and Over Hill on CD2 has the orchestral counterpart. Having that all as one track would have been good, but this is me being pretty petty if truth be told. Negative points are thin on the ground.

Overall, Howard Shore has once again captured the essence of Middle Earth in a way that fans of the Lord of the Rings music will treasure. The new material is great, and sits alongside existing themes perfectly. It will be a years wait for The Desolation of Smaug, and already I am excited about what Shore will do for the next two installments. Make no mistake, of what will be one of the last soundtracks of 2012, it is also the finest. If you can afford the special edition, I have no hesitations in recommending it, but regardless of what album you go for, if you are a fan of Shore's music for Middle Earth, you cannot be without this music in your collection. Sensational.

***Update - now the film has been released I have read some odd things from numerous places online regarding the music in the film and on CD. Apparently, some of the best music on the soundtrack release is not present within the film, and some great music in the film is not present on the CDs (even the special edition). The latter point is not so unusual for soundtrack releases, and in the case of the LOTR, this was remedied by an expensive but fantastic "complete recordings" of the three scores. It would not surprise me if a complete recordings version of The Hobbit films surface in the future. It is unusual however for additional music to feature on the soundtrack release that does not feature in the film, although it is entirely possible that it will be used in the remaining two films. For those who are buying this soundtrack independently of seeing the film this will be of little consequence. However for those who are looking at this product having seen the film, be aware that some of the good music from the film itself does not appear to be on the CDs, but there will be additional music on the CDs not present in the film. Regardless, the music as heard on the CDs is stunning, and would recommend it regardless of how it is presented within the film itself.
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on 10 January 2013
I own all of the Lord of the Rings soundtracks, and have listened to, and enjoyed them, often. I am pleased to say that Howard Shore's latest addition to his middle-earth cycle is much better than expected. While retaining motifs and gentle nods to the original scores, this latest offering provides plenty of new material, motifs and melodies and, when listened to in one sitting, is by turns relaxing, dramatic, suspenseful and, at times, exuberant. I was worried that it would pale in comparison to it's predecessors, but as i write this i am listening through both discs again.

If you are fond of the original scores to Peter Jackson's films, or indeed to well-crafted, polished and memorable orchestral music, then treat yourself to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey soundtrack.
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on 8 October 2013
In composing the score for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Howard Shore faced perhaps an even more daunting task than he did in composing the score for the Lord of the Rings films. Now, unlike in 2001, before the world had heard his music for Middle Earth, he faced a wave of nearly impossible expectations.

Shore's work on the Lord of the Rings is arguably one of the greatest achievements in film music in the last two decades. He created an entire world through music just as much as Peter Jackson created an entire world on film. So to return to that world after composing such a towering work must have been an intimidating task indeed.

The action of The Hobbit takes place 60 years before the events of The Lord of the Rings, and Shore's score certainly reflects a younger feel. Here is where many of the themes we will hear in the Rings scores are born, and Shore slyly develops them with a fresh eye. Their statements are important, instantly recognizable to fans of the franchise, but he weaves them into the score as if we are hearing them for the first time.

The album begins with "My Dear Frodo," which plunges us directly back into the world of the Shire, opening with a new theme for Bilbo Baggins, this story's central protagonist, before segueing into the familiar "Concerning Hobbits" material first heard in The Fellowship of the Ring. This sets the stage for the score to come; warm and familiar, like the embrace of an old friend. Shore then hits us with some new action material for the dragon Smaug's siege on Erebor, told in flashback and setting up this trilogy's central conflict. The Shire material is again revisited in "Old Friends," which also introduces a smoky, meandering theme for Gandalf the Grey. It's an almost playful motif that reflects Gandalf's more mischievous side, as he interrupts Bilbo's idyllic Shire life, whisking him away on an adventure.

The score's main identity is introduced in "Misty Mountains," first played as a haunting Dwarvish song retelling the tale of their lost kingdom. While Shore himself did not compose the theme (which was actually composed by the group, Plan 9, for the dwarves to sing), it dominates the score, and Shore makes it his own. It replaces the iconic Fellowship theme as the heroic identity for The Hobbit, representing the epic quest of our heroes. It's an appropriately booming theme that, while perhaps a tad overused in the film, stands strongly beside Shore's own themes from the series.

Shore mixes the new material for Bilbo with the music for the Shire in the most blatant way in "The Adventure Begins," which carries Bilbo away from his home, representing a fundamental change in his character. Familiar themes begin creeping into the score in "An Ancient Enemy," as Shore hints Sauron's theme from Lord of the Rings, as well as the rhythmic Nazghul music at the first appearance of the Witch King of Angmar. A gorgeous new choral theme for the wizard Radagast is introduced in "Radagast the Brown, some of the best new material in the score, and a playfully threatening piece accompanies the trolls that try to eat Bilbo and company in "Roast Mutton."

The second disc gets off to a familiar start with the introduction of the Rivendell theme in "The Hidden Valley," which hasn't really been given many variations throughout the series. One of my favorite moments in the score, however, comes in "The White Council," a veritable feast of subtle thematic reprisals from the Rings films. This is what I love the most about the intelligence of Shore's thematic composition. He manages to incorporate the themes for Galadriel, Sauron, along with a statement of the Isengard theme to accompany the first appearance of Saruman. While not yet a villain, the appearance of his menacing theme foreshadows the evil to come, while Sauron's material skirts around the edges of the cue, hinting at a dark, unnamed presence making its way back to Middle Earth.

Shore once again flexes his thematic muscles in another one of the score's powerhouse cues, "Riddles in the Dark." Here Shore introduces two major identities for Gollum, and most importantly, the One Ring. The History of the Ring theme, which accompanied the opening title of the Lord of the Rings films, makes its debut here as Bilbo discovers the Ring after it is dropped by Gollum. Things shift into high gear in "Brass Buttons," one of the album's action highlights, which features the thundering material for the goblins (which recalls "The Bridge of Khazad Dum" from The Fellowship of the Ring), and the debut of Gollum's Pity theme as Bilbo spares his life, which often accompanied him during The Lord of the Rings. This is where the album diverges greatly from the film. The material found in "Out of the Frying Pan" and "A Good Omen" was mostly replaced by previously recorded material from Lord of the Rings (including an incongruous statement of the Nazghul chant at a very pivotal moment that has nothing to do with the Nazghul). "A Good Omen" introduces the theme for Smaug the dragon, which does not actually appear in the film (the moment is left silent instead), leaving one wondering if the theme will continue into the later scores or if it will be dumped entirely.

Overall, The Hobbit is a much lighter affair than The Lord of the Rings, and Shore's score reflects this, even if for the most part he treats it with the same level of musical gravity as the previous films. There is less going on thematically than his previous work for the film, but that's also understandable given that most of the themes from the original trilogy need no reprisal here. Shore is giving birth to the familiar musical world we know, and he succeeds marvelously. Even the end credit song, "Song of the Lonely Mountain," stands strong against the three wonderful end credit songs from the Lord of the Rings films, even if it is lighter in tone. This is the score of the year, as well it should be. Shore continues to shock and awe with the sheer size and complexity of his compositions, and he has gotten this new trilogy of films off to a smashing start.

[...]
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on 6 February 2013
Delivery: Arrived promptly, undamaged

Packaging: I tend to immediately copy music onto my iPod, and then handle CDs very little, so the somewhat flimsy cardboard from which the case is constructed that some have criticised wasn't an issue. Looks quite nice, and the enclosed leaflet is reasonably informative.

Product: As others have observed, this album is much less thematic than the LOTR soundtracks, but that's not unexpected, because the film focuses on the dwarves and so there is less need for a diversity of musical signatures. That said, a few of the themes from the LOTR soundtracks do make appearances; some fleeting (e.g. the Ring theme), others more pronounced, and developed beyond their earlier use (e.g. the Shire theme). The main signature, "Misty Mountains", is the only prominent new theme, and although it only features on a few tracks, is an evocative and memorable a piece of music.

Verdict: If you like Howard Shore's work, this is worth the money.
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on 5 April 2014
So if you want to talk music, then 5 stars. Period. If you want to talk item concept, then 5 stars. Period. The three stars come due to the way it's been put together. The materials are luxurious and have a nice, expensive feel. You get a beautifully illustrated booklet and two CDs. The problem is the manner in which the CDs are enclosed. They are not held in place with one of those plastic inserts with the little grip in the centre, they are both held in card envelopes that are part of the outer cover. Here is where the trouble starts - they are too tight and it's almost impossible to remove the disc without causing damage to the cover or, due to the way you have to pince the disc, to the actual CD itself. The booklet is attached to the spin of the cover via its two staples, but because of all the shenanigans in trying to remove the discs, mine tore away and has been loose since the first play. It's a pity such a wonderful package is being let down by design of the package itself.
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on 20 December 2012
I loved the Lord of the Rings when it came out, especially the soundtrack. Howard Shore is a genius, and his music for the trilogy was so emotive.

The composer has done it again for the Hobbit - the soundtrack is amazing. Parts are familiar from LOTR, such as the Rivendell theme, and the Shire theme. Other parts, such as the main theme (the tune from the 'Misty Mountains' song) are new and equally exciting.

This CD is, at time of writing this, £4.99 more expensive than the Hobbit soundtrack without the 4 bonus tracks. Personally, I think that the bonus tracks are great but I'm not sure they're worth £5 more!
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on 15 January 2013
Music writen by elfes; sung by dwarfes; packaged by the most tightwad troll.
Let's hope the next soundtracks in the trilogy will benefit from better craftmanship from Middle Earth.
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on 10 December 2012
Superb score from Howard Shore - 5 out of 5 for that. Would be five stars all round if the 'special edition' flimsy packaging wasn't so rubbish compared to each of the original Lord of the Rings trilogy soundtracks. At least they gave you faux-leather instead of painted paper for your extra fiver...
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