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The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Soundtrack (Howard Shore) - CD cover
Composer: Howard Shore
Released: 2005
Label: Reprise Records (093624945420)
Type: Movie
Format: CD
Reviewers (10.00/10)
Members (8.89/10) (36 votes)
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Disc One
1. Prologue: One Ring To Rule Them All (7:16)
2. The Shire (2:29)
3. Bag End (4:35)
4. Very Old Friends (3:12)
5. Flaming Red Hair (2:39)
6. Farewell Dear Bilbo (1:45)
7. Keep It Secret, Keep It Safe (8:53)
8. A Conspiracy Unmasked (6:09)
9. Three is Company (1:58)
10. The Passing of the Elves (2:39)
11. Saruman the White (4:09)
12. A Shortcut to Mushrooms (4:07)
13. Strider (2:34)
14. The Nazgûl (6:04)
Disc Two
1. Weathertop (2:14)
2. The Caverns of Isengard (4:54)
3. Give Up the Halfling (4:49)
4. Orthanc (1:06)
5. Rivendell (3:26)
6. The Sword That Was Broken (3:34)
7. The Council of Elrond Assembles - Featuring "Aníron (Theme For Aragorn and Arwen)" (4:01)
8. The Great Eye (5:30)
9. Gilraen's Memorial (5:01)
10. The Pass of Caradhras (5:04)
11. The Doors of Durin (6:03)
12. Moria (2:27)
13. Gollum (2:26)
14. Balin's Tomb (8:30)
Disc Three
1. Khazad-Dûm (8:00)
2. Caras Galadhon - Featuring "Lament For Gandalf" (9:20)
3. The Mirror of Galadriel (6:21)
4. The Fighting Uruk-hai (11:32)
5. Parth Galen (9:13)
6. The Departure of Boromir (5:29)
7. The Road Goes Ever On... Pt. 1 (5:58)
8. May It Be (3:26)
9. The Road Goes Ever On... Pt. 2 - Featuring "In Dreams" (3:41)
Disc Four
1. DVD AudioEntire Score in Superior Sound
Total duration: 180 minutes
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Review of Tom Daish, submitted at , score: 10/10
I had been pondering the best way to provide some kind of commentary on the voluminous music that Howard Shore produced for his multi-award winning Lord of the Rings trilogy, but concluded that a detailed analysis would take too long and probably be a futile exercise. Providing highlights from ten hours of music would be difficult and at my usual rate, probably take till approximately the end of time. In any event, all three releases come with possibly the most detailed liner notes ever to grace a soundtrack release (although there are plenty of strong contenders these days) so anyone with more than a passing interest in the plethora of themes and their use is likely to be much better served reading them. Therefore, at the risk of casting too shallow a view, I plumped for more general thoughts, leaving the more detailed commentary to the original single disc releases. In truth, the expanded releases don't particularly change my view of the three scores; Fellowship establishes the best of the core thematic material, The Two Towers is darker, but still a little unfocussed for much of its running time and Return of the King mixes the best of all worlds, providing for a very strong finale. Much though it will likely pain die hard fans, the original releases do, for my money, still contain all of the best bits of certainly the first and third scores, The Two Towers being a touch too dark and introspective for much of its running time for highlights. Indeed, at just over three hours for the first two and three and three quarter hours for The Return of the King, there is an awful lot of music, even just one at a time. I like the epic symphonies of Mahler or Havergal Brian plenty, but much beyond 90 minutes, it's hard to maintain focus.

One of the comments I made in my original review of The Return of the King was my doubt that the Lord of the Rings scores would benefit a complete release. I rather fancied it was inevitable and the presentation of the Complete Recordings is as sumptuous as any release I can think of, but I'm still yet to be totally convinced of the merits of having every single note (more or less) available. The themes which didn't perhaps seem that strong first time round (save for maybe the ubiquitous Fellowship fanfare from episode one and the jaunty Hobbit music) have certainly distilled themselves successfully into the consciousness and it's maybe the crucial, but less hummable melodies that turn out to the strongest in the long run. Whether it's the mysterious Ring theme that opens each film or Gollum's skittish melody (although I'm still puzzled that Shore didn't use the melody from the song that closes The Two Towers as its tortuous melody seems even better suited), the important, but secondary main themes (if that isn't a contradiction in terms) are all the more powerful and potent.

For all the myriad of melodic content, I still have this nagging feeling that Shore doesn't do as much with the material as he might. Possibly they are too linear or too brief (few of them are more than half a dozen bars long) to put them through the assortment of variations one might expect in scores of this length and magnitude. The Wagnerian allusion is often made (both with the story itself, as well as Shore's music) in terms of the use of leitmotif, but too much feels like simple musical markers to highlight a character, object or place, rather than actual storytelling in music. I know it's an easy comparison, but the original Star Wars scores still hang together far more effectively as musical storytelling than Shore manages. It could, conceivably, be a matter of length and familiarity, but there are lengthy passages in all three of Shore's scores that don't really feel like they are going anywhere, especially some of the less inspired battle music; the final forest battle from Fellowship is a particular case in point, quite a lot of banging and clanging, but not a great deal of direction. Shore remains ostensibly stodgy in his approach to much of the action; true, when he fires up the chorus for the finale of Return of the King it makes your hairs stand on end, but too often it trundles along loudly, but without a great deal of musical purpose. Perhaps it's a side effect of having to score sprawling battles rather than the tighter skirmishes Williams had, but even so there are moments (some of them fairly lengthy) when Shore definitely seems to be marking time.

With typically effortless skill I'm pouring a lot of cold water on some scores that people do love, notably the listeners of Classic FM. Mind you, before The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I think they decided Gladiator was the best score of all time. Hmmm. However there is ample to admire. As noted above, the melodies are strong and there are a lot of them, many of which aren't obvious on first listen (Gollum's theme seemed particularly elusive for me first time round) but naturally many get a much wider airing on a three hour disc compared to a one. There are also a good number of scintillating moments, although few beat the Lighting of the Beacon from Return of the King, ironically one track not to benefit from being expanded. The addition of some joining material (of which there is a quite a bit on the Complete Recordings generally) robs the original album sequencing of some of its power as the buildup is stalled a few times. It's little things like that which validate the impact a good editor can have, carefully pruning the material to produce the best stand alone musical experience. Still, it's not the first example of the soundtrack listener becoming accustomed to a track on disc only to be reminded that the original film version isn't quite so slick and powerful. Sure, The Lighting of the Beacon is still a spine tingling moment, but the extra build up material doesn't really enhance the power of the moment, just makes it a bit laboured. On the flip side, the additional music afterward is very welcome.

Naturally, going from one and a bit to three or nearly four hours, the feel of each album is very different to the original highlights albums. The structure is always going to be a little looser than on a 75 minute disc, but it's surprising just how different it feels compared to say (sorry again for the lazy comparison) the original Star Wars albums and the double disc versions. Where they basically felt the same, with just the occasional addition and re-edit here and there, the Complete Recordings feel like completely different versions of the same music. There are passages that are obvious from the original discs, but few move or develop in quite the same way and the surrounding tracks are almost certain to be different. This is certainly notable in Fellowship and The Return of the King where there are obvious highlights around which ones memories of the score are built. Despite plentiful listens, there's not nearly so much material that stands out in The Two Towers save for the arrival of the Elves at Helm's Deep, which also constitutes one of Shore's best reworkings of a major theme, turning the mysterious Elvish music into something martial and striking. If only he'd applied that level of invention slightly more often, particularly the Fellowship fanfare which, even in Return of the King still seems to just appear in full brass mode every time and at the same tempo; in an action cue such as the otherwise fine Osgiliath Invaded, it simply doesn't gel with the dense, dissonant material surrounding it. Even more frustrating as when Shore actively shifts tone, such as the move from dense orchestral writing to solo female vocalist, thirty seconds before the end of the cue, the effect is stunning and immensely powerful.

If all that sounds like a load of reasons not to buy The Complete Recordings, don't let it be. The Lord of the Rings scores are a superb achievement, especially from a composer whose style didn't inherently seem to lend itself to such a grandiose undertaking. Maybe it's just a reaction to the almost universal praise they have received which leads me to pick them apart just a little more than I might otherwise have done. Also, the rampant completism of the Complete Recordings doesn't really show the scores in their best light. There's definitely plenty of material omitted from the originals that is worth hearing, but also a lot that wouldn't be a huge loss if it weren't on disc. In all three cases, the music at the beginning and end of the scores is generally stronger than the middle and a little pruning midway might have worked in favour. Still, it was always likely to be more or less complete despite, I suspect, there being quite a number of alternate versions of certain cues or where there are differences with how music features in the film; they are not slavish, Phantom Menace style releases with every edit from the film left in - fortunately. Maybe I'll revisit these comments in five years and realise that I was too harsh, but I just felt a little perspective was in order. However, if you can clear a few hours in your day for each of these scores, they do contain plentiful riches and whatever one can say about the technical aspects of the score, Shore has successfully created an all encompassing sound world that is exciting, dark and atmospheric enough to evoke every corner of Middle Earth.

As a footnote, each release comes with the entire score on one DVD in 5.1 sound and it has to be said that the results are considerably more impressive than the occasionally uninspiring mixes found on the regular CDs. Whether it's the mixing, the orchestration or the recording venue, there have always been some grumbles about the stereo mixes, but 5.1 allows the sound field to be opened up. You get a real three dimensional feel for the orchestra and, in particular, the choral passages there the layers are more clearly separated and the clarity is notable. Also great to have all the music on one disc. Mind you, iTunes is what 3 disc sound

Read other recent reviews by Tom Daish: The Snow Files: The Film Music of Mark Snow, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Andromeda

Review of Adam Andersson, submitted at , score: 10/10
One can say and think many things about the commercialism that surrounds high-profile, big budget movie successes like Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. Much of the products that come out on the market as a result of these projects seem to have more to do with shameless ways of making money, sheer marketing tricks, than any actually good products that are worth the often horrendous prices they are sold at. But there is a definite good side of this: connected to these films are often, if they are successful enough, ”special edition” releases of the films’ scores - in the best cases expanded or even complete. Sometimes it is indeed so that there is not much more to these special editions than fancy packaging and a ridiculous price, but in the case of the complete release of the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring score, it is much more than that. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - The Complete Recordings finally enables us to hear the magnificent, operatic score Howard Shore wrote for the film in complete form; something that indeed is a unique listening experience, not found with many scores, and, for that matter, not with much music at all.

The original soundtrack album of The Fellowship of the Ring was a wonderful listen, perfectly balanced and well-rounded, containing all the best moments of the film score. When that is the case, complete releases such as this often lose their point somewhat, only feeling like more of the same but not really a better experience - just longer and perhaps even a bit boring. However, in the case of this lavish three-disc complete release, it is definitely not so. With this release, one can completely follow Shore’s intricate thematic development - how he turns themes into new ones, allows them to develop with the characters, as well as his complex orchestrations, varying with the settings of the film. It is a bit like orchestral suites from classical operas or incidental music - they are all very good listens (for example Bizet’s Carmen suites, or Grieg’s Peer Gynt suites), but that does not make the complete opera or complete incidental music an inferior listen - like the suites are a condensed form of the opera, the original soundtrack album for this score was a condensed form, only pieces from the great puzzle that is this score. To fully understand it, one needs to see the whole picture. In some cases, such as this, it deepens the experience of the music vastly. True - if you did not enjoy the original soundtrack album for The Fellowship of the Ring, you will hardly find it motivated to buy this quite pricey release, and I admit that you most likely would not enjoy it more in this form. But if you did enjoy the original release, even if only a little, I am quite sure that this will deepen your experience of the score and take it to a new level.

More or less, this complete recordings release is an isolated score from the extended DVD version of the film. There are some more music on the album than it is in the film though - some parts that were faded out in the film, where we now hear Shore’s original envisions for these scenes. Actually, much of what was on the original release is versions of the music that is not featured in the film (the Prologue, for example), so in many cases we now hear the film versions for the first time. The arranging of the album tracks is very good as well, no bad cuts and overly short tracks. The tracks work well as single pieces as well as the album as a whole works well as a coherent symphonic work. Sometimes these complete releases tend to stagger in parts, but with the amazing quality of Shore’s writing, it just does not happen here.

What in my opinion mainly motivates the buy of this release, apart from the fact that it is just more music from this fantastic score, is the opportunity to really follow Shore’s thematic development. This is very clear in the first part of the score, the Shire music, where you now clearly can follow the jaunty Hobbits’ theme presented on fiddle and whistle through its transformation into the sweeping hymn and ”understanding” versions of the theme heard later in the film. The way that Shore transforms this altogether happy theme into a majestic theme filled with both sorrow and beauty is nothing short of amazing. It is now also completely clear how the themes for the fellowship and Aragorn slowly enter the stage, first only fragmentarily, then slowly developing into their full forms. Thanks to the amazing liner notes, by Doug Adams (from the Music of the Lord of the Rings book, to be published later this year), the thematic structure is also completely straightened out for us, with the thematic material being analysed in short in the booklet complete with note examples and listening references on the CDs. Finally, Shore’s complex thematic considerations for all the characters, peoples, lands and monsters of Middle-earth stand completely clear.

I think it also is nice for the feeling of the score that the vocals of ”The Road Goes Ever On”, as performed by both Ian McKellen (Gandalf) and Ian Holm (Bilbo) in the film. Of course, they are no singers, but the short vocals by them gives the right mood to the cues which I find a very good thing. Plus, the underscore Shore wrote for these scenes are supposed to accompany the vocals of this song, so of course it should be there. Some source type music has been included as well, for example the music played at Bilbo’s party and the song of the Elves which Frodo and Sam watches travel through the forest, both pieces composed and performed by Plan 9. I think it is great that they have completed the score with this music - this way the story is indeed told in the music as well, with all its moments of joy, sorrow, awe and fear. The Lord of the Rings is an amazing story, and Shore’s music has really managed to capture the many dimensions of it.

As well as the wonderful opening of the score with the Shire music and its development, the extended Rivendell sequence is also a highlight of this release. The noble introduction of the Gondor theme on solo horn is here, as is the sad theme for Aragorn’s mother Gilraen, a theme also used for the diminishment of the elves. On this release the part of the film in Lothlórien is given more time as well, allowing for more of the Elves’ music, as well as the introduction of the other theme of the human race, the Minas Tirith theme, which is a wonderfully majestic and melancholic theme introduced in ”The Mirror of Galadriel”, as Boromir speaks of his grand home city. And the finale of it all, in ”The Road Goes Ever On…” is of course an absolute highlight, on this album as as well as it was on the original, merging together a number of the themes in a wonderful, sombre, and very emotional ending.

The ultimate question is of course though - is it worth it? Is it worth its fifty dollars? And, even if it may be a bit overpriced, I will say that it is indeed worth it. The packaging is very beautiful, and there is in addition to the three score CDs a DVD included with the whole score in surround sound, which I am sure can come to great use if you have the equipment for it. There is in the end not much one can complain about with this release, even though it is very expensive. Its three hours have been well arranged, it comes with great liner notes, and it looks good in the shelf!

The main concern with this kind of releases is often that one worries that it might be too long - that it will just be too much of underscoring where more or less nothing happens. But in this case, it is not so. Thanks to Shore’s very operatic approach to the scoring of the Lord of the Rings films, music is playing almost the entire time, and all of it is well written, thematically attached, symphonic music. There is just no such thing as atmospheric underscore where nothing happens in this film. So do not worry. This complete release is a wonderful listen from start to finish with new things to discover each time - new things to discover about a score that I consider one of the finest masterpieces in the history of film music.

Read other recent reviews by Adam Andersson: Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Star Trek: Nemesis

Review of Andreas Lindahl, submitted at , score: 10/10
One of the most anticipated scores for one of the most anticipated films ever has finally been released and I love every minute of it! To be honest I was never totally convinced that Howard Shore was the right composer for this trilogy. Mostly because the scores I have heard by the composer generally have been very complex, subtle, non melodic and dissonant, which doesn't rhyme well with the kind of scores I felt suited the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Luckily, in the end Howard Shore turned out to be the right composer - the music for The Fellowship of the Ring is one of the best scores of 2001. If not the best.

To me, strong themes are one of the most important ingredients in a score. And The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring has plenty of strong themes. The hobbits, or Hobbiton, have been given a playfull and jaunty little jig inspired theme, heard in full in the second track, "Concerning Hobbits", performed by staccato strings, fiddle, dulcimer, accordion and other instruments. It's really a great little tune, that has a tendency to occupy your mind for hours, refusing to leave.

Frodo Baggins and the Shire is represented by one of the scores' nicest and most memorable themes. It's lush, sweeping and very noble, presented for the first time in the very end of The Prophecy where fragments of it are performed by brass. Parts of it return in "Concerning Hobbits", performed by whistle and strings, but the entire theme is heard for the first time in the wonderful "Many Meetings", performed by the entire 106 piece orchestra, making it one of the scores' very finest and emotional moments. The theme also closes the score in "The Breaking of the Fellowship", where it, turned into a hymn, is sung with lyrics by a boy soprano backed up by a soft choir and strings, creating a very sad and desolate sound.

The theme for the Fellowship is a heroic, but also a little restrained and serious, fanfare inspired little ditty, often performed by brass and percussion. It never gets to upbeat or heroic, thankfully, since the Fellowship really isn't a bunch of merry heroes running around doing heroic stuff - these guys aren't exactly thrilled to do what they have to do. The theme evolves throughout the entire score and is heard in full for the first time in "The Council of Elrond". Grand statements of it return in "The Ring Goes South" and "The Bridge of Khazad Dum" and a couple of other cues.

The score for The Fellowship of the Ring is dark. Often incredibly dark, with low brass, pounding percussion and uneasy strings, with occasional choral outbursts. Tracks such as "At the Sign of the Prancing Pony" and "The Bridge of Khazad Dum" are perfect examples of this kind of writing. Great stuff and exactly the kind of music I hoped that Shore would write for this film. But the score and story have room for more upbeat, problem free music, as well, highlights being the already mentioned "Concerning Hobbits" and the first part of "The Black Rider" with it's flute and string rendition of the hobbit theme, followed by some lively scherzo sounding music dominated by string. Even the beautiful "The Breaking of the Fellowship" cue hosts some lighthearted and optimistic music.

Voices play a large role in this score. Shore uses the sound of a dark, chanting choir to represent the nine Ringwraiths, in many cues, such as "The Shadow of the Past", "A Knife in the Dark" and "A Journey in the Dark". The lyrics are in languages constructed by Tolkien and the result is music that sounds incredibly evil and very dramatic. And huge, performed by almost 200 musicians. Then there's the use of female vocals in "Lothlorien", creating a very ancient, ethnic and almost relogious sound that represents the elves really well, and the soft sound of a boys choir in "The Breaking of the Fellowship" and "The Flight to the Ford". And let's not forget about Enya. The songs by her written for this film has been a controversial topic among both film music and Lord of the Rings fans. I must admit that I wasn't that thrilled when I learned that she had been hired. Luckily, her music, in the score heard in the "Council of Elrond" track and as a standalone song, "May it Be", at the very end of the disc, works really well together with Shore's score, without sticking out like a sore thumb. I suppose that two of the largest reasons it actually works is that Howard Shore orchestrated and arranged these parts himself and that Shores' score already has a very strong vocal sound.

Still, I am quite annoyed that Enya seems to be the one getting pretty much all the credit for the music for The Lord of the Rings in the media. Although her part of the disc and the score only occupy a couple of minutes, she is without doubt going to be the center of the part of the marketing circus (would you like some Frodo Fries with that Bilbo Burger?) focusing on the music. If one person should get any praise whatsoever for the music for this film it is of course Howard Shore. None other. And he should get lots of it. The score will of course get an Academy Award nomination. And sure, Enya's "May it Be" will of course get one, as well.

Click here to read about The Themes of the Ring

Read other recent reviews by Andreas Lindahl: The Rocketeer, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, The Phantom of the Opera

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