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Customer Review

49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Howard Shore's musical interpretation of The Hobbit Pt 1 is as spellbinding as his work for the LOTR trilogy, 10 Dec. 2012
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This review is from: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Audio CD)
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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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 14 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 10 Dec 2012 21:38:34 GMT
EHZ says:
Great review! THX!

Posted on 10 Dec 2012 22:19:44 GMT
[Deleted by the author on 7 Sep 2013 17:30:28 BDT]

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Dec 2012 01:28:18 GMT
Last edited by the author on 11 Dec 2012 01:30:32 GMT
L. Hubbard says:
Sorry, I take exception to your comment for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I listened to the CDs when I got in from work and then wrote the review after that. I admit the review is tailored more towards people who are knowledgeable or know Howard Shore's work for the Lord of The Rings films. I didn't include an in depth analysis of each track because I don't actually believe people are interested in a track by track analysis of the CD. Instead, getting an overall feel for a product, and perhaps certain standout tracks in terms of certain styles of music present. I think the majority of people looking at this product will be familiar with Howard Shore's music for LOTR, or interested in the quality of the music present on the album. I do not claim to say how well it works within the film, only on how much I enjoyed listening to it on the album.

Secondly, your point regarding the review being a "vote chasing" review, this is simply not true. I ordered the CD so it would turn up on the day of release because I am a huge fan of Howard Shore and his music for LOTR. I listened to it, and then gave my opinion based on the music and packaging/CD notes. Is this the best review out there of the CDs? Probably not. But I have tried to be honest in my portrayal of the product as a whole. A lot of the products I have reviewed in the past have not come out on the day of purchase, and I am not interested in "vote chasing". Given that the majority of my past reviews have been on soundtrack releases, which do not typically appeal to the mass market (and thus will not generate a large proportion of positive votes in response to positive reviews), I have no reason to be dishonest or biased in my reviews of products. If people find what I have to say relevant to making a choice about buying a soundtrack or anything else, great. Writing reviews are of no benefit to me, but for people who like this genre of music may find it useful.

And by the way, I gave it five stars because I believe it deserved it - this is film scoring at its finest, and I own a lot of film scores that are rubbish. But I stand by my review, and if people agree or disagree with it, that's fine too. I want people to listen to, and enjoy the CDs for themselves if they wish.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Dec 2012 01:33:43 GMT
L. Hubbard says:
Cheers, glad you found it useful :)

Posted on 11 Dec 2012 09:31:54 GMT
D. Lynch says:
Brilliant review. I am trying not to get sucked into all the merchandising as I did with LOTR but it looks like this is a must buy companion to the film. Oh well time to empty my wallet into Peter Jacksons bank account again.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Dec 2012 10:12:37 GMT
L. Hubbard says:
Cheers! Having brought the original trilogy on DVD, then the extended versions on Blu Ray, the original soundtracks, and then the complete soundtrack recordings, I can safely say I managed to avoid getting sucked into the merchandising!!!! It is annoying because I am almost certain they will release the "complete" scores to the Hobbit in the future, which I will undoubtedly get. I don't know if it's great marketing, or fanatic fans who will buy anything extended relating to LOTR/The Hobbit (I am including myself in there)! Enjoy the purchase though - Shore does not disappoint.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Dec 2012 10:52:50 GMT
[Deleted by the author on 7 Sep 2013 17:30:35 BDT]

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Dec 2012 12:11:33 GMT
L. Hubbard says:
Your point is definitely fair, I would say it was 98% accurate. I have to confess, I did notice upon second listening that the Over Hill track on CD2 included the best statement of the "misty mountains" that was the main orchestral music that played over the latter half of the trailer after the dwarf vocals. This somehow passed me by on the first listen, but I have updated the review in the section where I mentioned this previously. Everything else I wrote previously was true I would say. I loved the CD on the first pass, but a second run through it has got even better, and you can hear extra intricacies in Shore's writing that wasn't obvious on the first run through. Thanks for your comment though - I do like a healthy level of skepticism, and as highlighted the first version did require a small correction! Cheers

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Dec 2012 18:24:21 GMT
D. Lynch says:
Just completed my "first listen" of the extended soundtrack and have to agree with you about Neil Finn's Lonely Mountain (track 12 disc 2). Wrong voice, wrong style, wrong music. The rest of the soundtrack was everything I hoped for.

I was interested to see how Shore would introduce the themes for the different races, hobbits, dwarves etc without surpassing the LOTR soundtrack (bearing in mind this is a prequel) but there were just enough nods and references to the familiar LOTR pieces to satisfy.

Now excuse me while I go and press play (and repeat) on the cd player.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Dec 2012 19:24:02 GMT
L. Hubbard says:
Couldn't agree more. There is plenty of new material, and the way Shore has incorporated the older themes he wrote into this score does make this a very satisfying album to listen to. It just gets better with every listen!
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