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on 10 December 2013
Arch Stanton's review on here is excellent. He manages to say everything I would like to say and so much more eloquently; so I'm going to keep my review very brief.

This is a brilliant score. only complaint is that it's too action oriented. I would have liked a few more gentle moments - if only so I could have time to breathe. Personally, I preferred Unexpected Journey to this one; but nonetheless this is a brilliant score and the extended version is brilliant.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 10 December 2013
I have some misgivings about this album. On the one hand it is full of excellent music and well worth buying if you liked the previous installments in this series. On the other, it tends to be rather repetitive and relies strongly on relatively few cues (far fewer than LOTR) which it repeats again and again. For the first half of this album I was extremely disappointed. It is entirely derivative and features nothing that we haven't heard before. The Flies and Spiders track was particularly disappointing because the scene is one of my favorites. I started to despair. But then as the album progressed I found the music gradually getting better. Starting, I think, with The Woodland Realm new themes start to appear and old ones are used in a new fashion. It makes me wonder if he had already planned some of these cues before they split the two films into three because everything up til then would have fit in very well at the end of the last album. At any rate, from this point on the quality slowly rises until it reaches a pitch that is as good as anything in the LOTR albums. If it had been this way from the beginning I would have had nothing but high praise for this album.

The Woodland Realm manages to seem elvish and ethereal while avoiding sounding like Rivendell or Lothlorien. I think it's my least favorite of the three, but then I really love those other themes. It certainly holds its own. The Forest River is also good, as is Barrels out of Bonds (though slightly more derivative), but the really great stuff hits once we reach Laketown. Protector of the Common Folk is a delightful little track that sounds very whimsically medieval (but in a good way). I believe it represents the Master of Laketown's theme and it is developed even more strongly in Thrice Welcome. Girion, Lord of Dale is a sad piece with some very moving humming towards the end.

After this we head off to the Lonely Mountain and the score really shines. The key element here is the presence of Smaug. His theme (heard briefly in My Dear Frodo in the previous album) rises to new heights here. And very impressive it is. My Armor Is Iron and The Hunters in particular feature its blaring trumpets at full blast. Strangely enough the track Smaug doesn't focus on it too much, but instead seems to push Smaug's seductiveness and dangerous charm. It's a very effective track, especially since it does what Smaug does and gets you so lost in the wonder of it that you forget about the danger until the cue roars at full blast. There's another theme in the mix here which I will think of as the greed for gold theme, and it provides a wonderful impression of great wealth and temptation. Inside Information features a lot of it, very effectively intercut with Smaug's theme. The album spends a lot of time in Smaug's lair and I have to wonder what they're going to do in there that takes up all this time. Whatever it is it'll have a great musical accompaniment.

And then there are the last two tracks. These are a bit odd. The ending song, I See Fire, is a bit tame. The song itself is decent enough, it's just that it feels like it should be accompanying a slow motion montage of the entire company laughing and hugging. That's not really what I want from my Hobbit films. I'm curious to see how it works in the film. The last track is entitled Beyond the Forest. Anyone hoping for a repeat of the wonderful extra tracks of the first Hobbit are in for a disappointment. The track itself is alright, but nothing memorable.

And so we come to my feelings of the album as a whole. This album isn't what I was expecting from a Hobbit soundtrack. Missing is any bombastic adventure theme to link the tracks together. Instead it is tied together by a string of tracks that play off of suspicion and greed. Not that some tracks don't have great action cues, but they're missing the one unifying theme that we saw in Misty Mountains Cold. I don't believe we even hear that theme once. This piece is dominated by dark and brooding music instead. In a way it's fitting that Smaug should suck the innocent exuberance out of such a quest, but at the same time I think we could have done with a few more grand moments that aren't dark and moody. The album holds up well thematically, but if this movie has already succumbed to gloominess I can only imagine what the next one will be like. The plot for this film still has a good deal of adventure to it, but the next one will be dominated by themes of corruption and betrayal.

None of that takes away from the quality of the album as a whole. It's still better than almost anything else on the market. I'm rather torn between this album and the previous one actually. That one was more consistent qualitywise, but at the same time felt a bit like a retread. Apart from the Misty Mountains theme the most original music came in the bonus tracks at the end. This time the album builds in quality until the very end. For all my misgivings this is easily a five star work.
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on 3 January 2014
Howard Shore does it again in the same way he did from Fellowship to Two Towers it's got the same flow and beauty to match the film and you just feel like you are there when the music flows. All round top music!!!
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on 10 November 2014
The Lord of the Rings trilogy got me through my final year of Uni way back in 2008, simply put the Extended versions are my most played albums of all time and are pure genius.

The Desolation Of Smaug is I think a step up from the first Hobbit score which while not being bad was perhaps due to my love of the LOTR soundtracks a little dissapointing.

For this album though I feel Howard Shore rediscovered his stride and there are some truly standout cues on here, from the great instrument selection for Smaug to the brilliantly eerie High Fells track Howard Shore recaptures that Middle Earth magic here.

I must admit I'd never really listened to Ed Sheeran before but his credits track is brilliant, the lyrics fit perfectly and it seems that he has like Emiliana Torrini for TTT has really understood the story of the film and is setting up the 3rd film with some evocative lyrics.
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on 21 June 2015
This review applies to all three special editions of the The Hobbit soundtracks. I haven't bought "An Unexpected Journey" yet, but I have listened to it on Spotify. It covers the music and the presentation.

The music is, as expected from Howard Shore, brilliant. This is consistently on the same level as the LOTR soundtracks and no lover of full-blooded orchestral music, film or otherwise, should be disappointed. Of course, it won't be to all tastes, but then I don't suppose that any particular piece of music is. It is great that classical symphonic music, to generalise, has survived into the 21st Century and is alive and well through the medium of film - Wagner would have been very happy (he would have been a film composer if alive today :)).

So, why three stars? The grotty, cheap packaging, which is especially disappointing after the LOTR special editions. I am seriously considering contacting the record company responsible. The discs are difficult to extract from their sleeves and there is a risk of scratching them and getting fingerprints on the playing surface, not to mention ripping the cardboard. I know that other people have commented adversely about the packaging - I would like to add mine to theirs! The purchaser needs to know what he or she is getting. This is not sold as a cheap product!

The accompanying booklets on the other hand are well laid out with, inter alia, stills from the films and analysis of the music with musical examples (I am assuming that the one with "An Unexpected Journey" is the same).

So, five stars for the music but, I'm sorry, one star for the packaging, dragging the average down to three.
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on 15 December 2013
Like a couple of other reviewers, I initially was a little taken aback with this latest release, however after seeing the movie and hearing the tracks in their intended context, I am enjoying it more and more. There isn't an easily identifiable new main theme as there was with the Lonely Mountain theme in An Unexpected Journey, and indeed, the absence of that theme in what is the "ongoing story" does seem a little odd, however there are three motifs that are emerging upon successive listenings that define this movie, in my mind. These are the chase music heard in Barrels out of Bond, the choral theme in Kingsfoil and the theme for Laketown.
The vocal contribution by Ed Sheeran is quite good, though maybe not as memorable as Neil Finn's track. I also strikes me as a little odd that the words to the prophecy recited by Bard in the movie itself weren't wrapped up into the vocal tracks more, though maybe this will come in There and Back Again. Having said that, I imagine the vocal track for that will be based upon "The road goes ever on and on".
So overall, like the movie itself, this album brings a new twist on the overall story.
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on 2 April 2014
Preferred the cd from unexpected journey, but as a long time fan of Tolkien and Peter jacksons movies, I had to have this. Lacks the same punch, but still atmospheric music that is easy to listen to and as I'm waiting for the move to come out next week, this cd conjures up memories of what was a good second instalment of the hobbit.
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on 9 February 2015
I bought this album initially for Ed Sheeran's "I see fire"... but ended up playing the album through and through in the car... once you've seen the films you'll recognise most of the scenes. Lovely music.
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on 17 January 2014
A more enjoyable listen than the first score. First CD has the stronger moments, especially the spider sequence and barrels. Still over scored at times.
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on 21 August 2014
I really enjoyed the music from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. That music was able to stand up well apart from the film. I found that listening to this without the film was a little hard work. Howard Shaw is a good composer but I suspect he had his work cut out as the Hobbit Trilogy has been rather drawn out with bits tacked on that don't really work for me. I preferred the music from the first Hobbit film in the series. Await with interest for the third film offering.
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