210 of 214 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2005
This score will naturally appeal to fans of J.R.R. Tolkien, Peter Jackson, and Howard Shore, but it is also a real gem for anyone interested in the way music is composed and recorded and in the way themes are developed.
This set includes not only the music that was included in the theatrical and extended cuts of FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, but also additional music that was not included in either version of the film. Highlights from Disc 1 include Gandalf (Ian McKellan) singing a portion of a poem written by Tolkien at the beginning of "Bag End." Bilbo (Ian Holm) can be heard singing the same verse during "Keep It Secret, Keep It Safe." And at the end of "The Nazgul," Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) sings a passage from Tolkien's poem "The Lay of Luthien," as heard in the extended cut of the film. Disc 2's biggest highlight, for me, is the track "The Great Eye," which was heard briefly in the extended cut of the movie but is greatly expanded here. This song incorporates the theme for Gondor, which makes a more prominent appearance during RETURN OF THE KING. The Gondor theme can also be heard during Disc 3's "The Mirror of Galadriel." Although there are only nine tracks on the third CD, it is actually the longest disc in the set due to several extended pieces of music that were written to accompany the battle scenes at the end of the film.
Another major plus for this set is the interesting and informative booklet that accompanies it. Rather than taking the easy and obvious route of writing a track-by-track synopsis of the score, writer Douglas Anderson instead identifies instruments, themes and motifs within the music that correspond to specific characters, races and environments in the film. Some of the material may be a bit difficult to grasp for those who are not familiar with the finer points of orchestral composition, but overall, the booklet goes the extra mile and becomes an essential part of the listening experience.
Is there a downside to this set? Yes. Quite frankly, the price is too high (although, thankfully, amazon offers a healthy discount). Don't get me wrong - it's a top-quality collection in every respect. However, in light of the fact that you can get the actual extended cut of the movie, which includes not only the film but more than 6 hours of bonus content spread across 4 DVDs, for about half the price of this collection, something seems amiss. (Also, while the booklet is perfect, it is a few pages shy of the "48" promised on the packaging... why can't the record company just be honest?) It is common knowledge that the score for FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING is actually the shortest of the soundtracks for Peter Jackson's trilogy. I can't imagine the scores for THE TWO TOWERS and RETURN OF THE KING fitting on only three CDs. If the forthcoming "complete recordings" for those movies include not three, but FOUR CDs plus a DVD for each set, can we expect the price to go up even higher than $60? Probably, but I hope not.
Price concerns aside, this soundtrack comes highly recommended. It is a perfect gift for fans of Tolkien's books, Peter Jackson's movies, and audiophiles in general.
168 of 178 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2005
First of all, let me share a strong feeling with you that I have right now: frankly, I'm a little intimidated by the thought of writing a review about this Soundtrack Box. That is not only because the music is so utterly beautiful that words can't describe its impact, it's first and foremost the complexity and the background of this score. I just don't know where to begin. I've written about Williams, I've reviewed Star Wars, but this one tops them all.
Maybe I should just start with a little background information on the scoring process of "Fellowship Of The Ring".
In early 2000, director Peter Jackson tried to pick the right composer for his adaption of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings.
He was looking for a man who had the time and who was able and willing to summon enough energy and enthusiasm to get involved with the scoring of an epic trilogy. The dark elegance of Howard Shore's earlier works like "Crash" or "The Fly" swept Jackson away, and what was even more important: Shore works in a very operatic style and that's just what Jackson was looking for. So, Peter Jackson called him up and invited him over to New Zealand to visit the sets. Shore, after realising the scope of the project, immediately agreed to take on this task.
From that point on, he worked on Fellowship, not only by writing themes, but also, and maybe especially, by studying Tolkien's themes and other Ring mythologies. "While writing the score, Tolkien's book was always open on my desk" says Shore, and the more he learned about not only Tolkien, but the historical and mythological background, the more he fell in love with it. Consequently, this score, as well as the following two, go far beyond the normal scoring duties you find in stores en masse. They are a labour of love, captivating, enchanting, rich in thematic detail, brilliant in development and execution, one grand piece of musical art, architecture and beauty equaled by nothing.
Howard Shore took on the monstrous task of conceptualising an 11 hour opera, separated into three movements, and he pulled it off!
Fellowship of the Ring is first and above all about hobbits, especially Frodo, the fellowship of the ring and the breaking of it, caused by the Ring itself. And that's how the score is thematically centered and interwoven.
Dozens of interrelated leitmotifs are perfectly able to tell the story on their own, without any help from visuals. But it's not only the themes, it's literally the architecture of the music that brings different cultures to life; the dwarves for instance not only get their own, very specific choral voice, but also very symmetric harmonies. Later in the film, as the Balrog approaches, these harmonies get disturbed and mutilated by dissonances more and more, until the Balrog gets its own musical gesture.
Often people complain that Shore's Lord of the Rings is often compared to Wagner's Nibelungen saga. And obviously, Lord of the Rings is not 100% opera, it's still a film score, and sure enough it's Howard Shore's own voice, but it's the way the leitmotifs are treated and developed that makes LotR and Die Nibelungen very similar.
And that Shore is not exactly a friend of mickey- mousing certainly is helpful, too. The music is a mirror image of the things we see on the screen, and yet it never becomes merely "supportive" music. So much in Lord of the Rings is just wordless scenes, imagery, looks, so the music very often takes center stage. With its architecture and choral poems it gives the scenes a meaning, a deeper context; it moves them along, ties them together. It doesn't only connect scenes, but also all three films.
This gem comes in a hardboard box which is not much bigger than a standard jewel case, only much thicker. It comprises three audio CDs with the complete score in a separate, wonderfully designed folder and a bonus DVD with the full score in Dolby Surround Sound. The accompanying booklet is in my opinion the crowning jewel of this boxed set. On 45 pages, Shore- expert Douglas Adams explains all the thematic material and orchestral fine- tunes, what it describes, how it evolves and what Howard Shore himself says about it. There are also printed score excerpts, as well as descriptions of all the specific instruments that brought the cultures of Middle- Earth to life. There are even a couple of pages about the performers.
Concerning the quality of the music, the perfect presentation and the gorgeous box itself, the price of 50 bucks is definitely not too high. Every soundtrack collector should have this jewel on his shelve, since this is the biggest, most comprehensive score release ever, until The Two Towers comes out in mid- 2006.
And bear in mind: this is only the beginning of the adventure!
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2006
Of course, I loved the Lord of the Rings films, and I am an avid classical music fan, yet I never really buy movie soundtracks...they just usually seem to be lacking. I remembered the music from The Fellowship of the Ring and was surprised to find this recording. I quibbled about spending $55 on this, but hey, that's the cost of the 3-disc classical set, so I thought why not.
This work is utterly beautiful and just amazing - I am in love with it. I have listened to nothing else since I bought this three days ago. It is every bit worth the price and I cannot wait until The Two Towers and The Return of the King are released - let's hope.
A lot has been said about the character vocals...I really don't mind them - they were written into the score afterall, and at those times, the focus is meant to be on the character vocals.
I love the packaging...I think it's put together really well. However, my main quibble is the booklet. Yes, it is very informative, but I feel jipped a bit. Go to: [...] and download the free annotated score - NOW THAT IS what should have been included here. It has MUCH more information and has all the choral texts - in the original middle-earth language and translated into English, so one can understand the text that is being sung.
All in all, if you love great classical works, I can't recommend this enough. Beautiful, just beautiful.
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2006
The other reviews (well, the positive ones anyways), sum up how great this "complete recordings" set is more than I could. I would like to add some technical details about the DVD Audio disc for those curious.
First, note that the DVD Audio disc contains the *entire* three hour recordings (so no disc swapping as with the CDs). Further, it's available in up to *four* different formats (which you use will depend largely on your audio setup). They are--
* Dolby Digital 5.1 [DVD Video (compatibility)] at 448 Kbps
* Dolby Digital 2.0 [DVD Video (compatibility)] at 224 Kbps
* Advanced Resolution Surround Sound (48 kHz, 24-bit) [DVD Audio]
* Advanced Resolution Stereo Sound (48 kHz, 24-bit) [DVD Audio]
With regard to the DVD Audio tracks, I was a little disappointed in the only marginal increase in sample rate over standard CD audio (I was hoping for at least 96 kHz, at least for the stereo tracks), but the increase in sample size (16-bit for CD vs. 24-bit on this DVD Audio disc) was *most* welcome. On a positive note, by keeping the sample rate down to 48 kHz they managed to keep the whole score on one DVD (a higher sample rate would likely have meant splitting the content between two or more discs).
Finally, to give you an idea of how the space on this DVD Audio disc was used, here's the size of the AUDIO_TS and VIDEO_TS directories (and their percentage relative to the total size of the disc)-
\VIDEO_TS - 0.94 GiB (14%)
\AUDEO_TS - 6.00 GiB (86%)
Total - 6.9 GiB (100%)
The AUDIO_TS directory contains the DVD Audio portion of the disc (Advanced Resolution tracks above). The VIDEO_TS directory contains the DVD Video (compatibility) portion of the disc (Dolby Digital tracks above).
As a parting note, yes, this is more expensive than I would have thought. But it is worth it, especially if you love Howard Shore's score for the film (and even more especially if you enjoy higher quality audio as is available on the DVD Audio disc included in the package). Now the wait for the next two films to be given the "Complete Recordings" treatment.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2006
If you read the reviews of the package they are all deservedly praising of this collection. I could add my voice to the crowd but I will only say this: get this if you love the movies and music already. It is well worth the high cost in my opinion. I strongly suggest you log into [...] to download the companion Annotated Score. It is a beautiful track by track guide to the CD and free. I am so looking forward to the same packages for The Two Towers and The Return of the King. I hope they will be out soon; if anyone has release information please share it with us all.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 14, 2005
I just picked this up yesterday on the day of its release and after listening to it, I am thoroughly impressed. I'm glad to see the Lord of the Rings Trilogy receive the same treatment as Star Wars did in the mid-late '90's when they released the complete scores for the original movies. (I just wish they would release Episode II and III) This release really completes the story/movie. The quality and quantity is amazing, over 3 hours worth of music from start to finish, Howard Shore definetly poured his years of composing experience into this story and it shows. It's unbelieveable how much great music was left out from the earlier release.
Hopefully there isn't such a long wait between releases for The Two Towers and Return of the King.
This is welcome addition to anyones library of film scores.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2006
I picked this up because I am a big fan of the earlier CD releases of Howard Shore's scores for the Lord of the Rings films. If there is one aspect of the films that will age very well, it is Shore's brilliant soundtrack. I believe orchestras will be performing this work in years to come. As some reviewers have mentioned, the booklet that comes with the CDs is excellent, and has a great exposition on the various motifs found in the score, and how they reappear and merge and change over the course of the film. It is, as one reviewer commented, an education in film scoring in and of itself.
I had no trouble importing the CD content with iTunes. The artwork, box, and enclosed snap-in trays holding the CDs are all nicely done, although the package is somewhat fragile and I have had to tape together a torn corner already.
The enclosed DVD is a bit troublesome, though, for several reasons, some of which are within the control of the people designing this boxed set, and some which aren't.
Because it contains the entire score in multiple formats with better audio quality than a standard CD can hold, it is the most valuable part of the set. Yet it is not enclosed in a protective tray like the CDs: instead, the cover of the faux-book box has a cutout with a rubber nub glued on it, and the DVD is stuck onto the nub. It is somewhat unprotected against scratches in this configuration; keep in mind that even rubbing against cardboard can scratch a CD or DVD. The set must involve hand-assembly, and the rubber nub on my set was not properly centered in the cover, and so after removal I could not re-insert the DVD until I peeled off the nub and centered it, which tore up the inside cover somewhat. It is difficult to put the DVD back onto the nub. The second time I removed the DVD, the nub tore off completely, so I wound up just throwing out the nub and sticking the DVD into a vinyl CD sleeve of my own, which I put in the box. The DVD now has a number of fine scratches, and although this doesn't seem to affect playback.
It is frustrating to have such a beautiful piece of packaging that is so dysfunctional! I understand the reason for treating the DVD separately, because of the fragility of the spindle holes in DVDs, but this solution doesn't work well. Since I plan to buy the complete scores for The Two Towers and Return of the King if and when they become available, I hope that the people producing the packaging for those boxed sets come up with a better solution. The DVD needs better protection and a place of honor in the set, especially since it is difficult or not possible to back it up by "ripping" it. Let me elaborate.
Prospective buyers should be aware that DVD audio is not well-supported on as many platforms as CD audio. This is a general problem in the "format wars" -- there is not a clear winner in the category of better-than-CD audio formats.
My Sony DVD player will play two of the four versions -- I'm not sure which -- but unlike an audio CD, which will play automatically, it is necessary to use the remote control and on-screen menus to pick the mix and start playing the content; you can't just hit play or navigate with the track buttons on the DVD player. That's annoying, given that this is not a movie.
As other reviewers have pointed out, the score on DVD audio sounds fantastic -- the improvement in dynamic range is noticeable esepcially at higher volumes. The content is terrific, too. Whether in the higher-resolution format or plain old CD (does anyone remeber when CD meant "perfect audio forever?"), the new pieces are great, particularly the Celtic-sounding jig "Flaming Red Hair" and the haunting choral piece "The Passing of the Elves." The additional content is definitely not filler! After listening to this, the original soundtrack album sounds like a Cliff's Notes or highly abridged edition by comparison. I can't wait to hear the next films.
Like many people these days I do just about all of my listening via iTunes and put away my actual CDs to keep them safe. If I don't have the audio ripped, I often just put in the CD and listen to it on a PC or Macintosh while I work. It is problematic to try to use DVD-Audio format material this way. My brand-new Dell PC at work will not play the DVD audio at all, even though it has a DVD drive.
DVD-Audio is copy protected. It may be possible to use some devious software to import the higher-resolution audio tracks into iTunes, and I am looking into this, but it is not supported by default, and the typical computer is not guaranteed to generate clean playback of 24-bit audio (my Airport Express, for example, apparently won't do it, even though iTunes will allegedly support the 24-bit files). If I can't figure out how to import it myself, I will try to find a way to download (that is, "pirate" or "steal") an iTunes-importable version of the high-resolution audio data I just paid a lot of money to listen to, so that I can listen to it when and where I want to.
Fortunately you don't need to rely on the DVD to listen to the content. Depending on your usage patterns and how you feel about copy protection, it may be best to consider the DVD an interesting curiosity, and not the mainstay of the boxed set. It is unfortunate that there isn't a widely usable higher-resolution standard, and the "format wars" also raises the irritating possibility that there may be yet another better-sounding release of this music in the future, on SACD or Blu-Ray or X-Ray or whatever. The next scores had better also come on CD, because I will not knowingly purchase content released in only a copy-protected format, although I would love to have a better format that met my usage patterns and did not take away my rights to use the content I paid for. I've already purchased all three of the original soundtrack albums, and have now purchased this premium offering. As Kay says in _Men in Black_, "So now I gotta buy the White Album again?" There's another saying that also might apply: "fool me twice -- shame on me."
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2006
Admittedly I was hesitant: like many fans of the music, I already own all three Lord of the Rings scores. Was it really worth buying more? I took the chance, and just a few minutes into listening I had my answer: You bet.
Not only does this first-time release of the complete Fellowship score give you hours of beautiful new music not previously available, but it also includes gorgeous new orchestrations of the themes you already have if you own the abridged albums.
These are better.
All those tracks that were cut short, deleted or combined to fit on the original CD are restored to their full length and orchestration. This music is far superior to the original CD, and is worth every penny.
A terrific bonus is the booklet on the score. Not mere liner notes, this is a detailed education into how an epic film score is created. You get a glimpse into the mind of Howard Shore and how he conceived every theme and variation.
With brief bars of the score printed alongside detailed notes, including exactly where on the CDs we first hear each theme and each variant, you can get as richly rewarding a listening experience as you desire. I found it fascinating to learn, for example, why Shore chose a boys chorus at one point and a solo Irish whistle at another for the same theme, to evoke specific moods and places; or why the main Fellowship Theme develops in mere fragments at first until it is finally heard much later in all its fully orchestrated glory; or how it actually utilizes part of the sinister Seduction of the Ring Theme, transposed to a major key; or why Shore chose to make the Ring theme the only one that does not vary in instrumentation, key or style. These and dozens more more insightful tidbits broaden your appreciation of the score -- and the careful design of the film.
It is packaged beautifully and intelligently, as you can see in the photos Amazon has provided. I cannot wait for the next two to be released.
(Two track details: 1. I'm particularly happy this set includes one of the most beautiful Lord of the Rings themes, in my opinion, which until now one could only hear in the extended versions of the movies [or at Shore's symphonic concerts]. Here, it's on Disc 2, partway into Track 9 ["Gilraen's Memorial"], at 3:00. Brief, but powerfully stirring. 2. Thankfully, this set also includes the full version of the heartrending theme played after Gandalf's fall -- it runs over twice as long as the original abridged release. Disc 3, Track 1 ["Khazad-Dum"], at 5:45.)
Note on price: it is very fair and absolutely worth it. Some have complained it shouldn't be more expensive than the extended DVD movie, but one must remember that far, far fewer people buy scores than DVDs, and fewer still will buy a 3-disc extension of a score they already own. To be worth the extensive time and cost of producing it for a niche market, this must be priced a bit higher. Given the extremely high quality and detail and extras that have gone into this set, I am perfectly satisfied.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2006
I received this package today,on J. R. R. Tolkien's
birthday. The reason for the high price became apparent when
opening it. It has the DVD on one side, with a firm peg to hold
it in. The deeper other side contains the three cd's with a nice
ribbon around them, to pull up the cd booklet. Under the ribbon
lies the printed booklet. I became blind at birth, so couldn't
get into that, but immediately I began browsing the dvd and
cd's. The dvd sounds great, unfortunately my player would not
allow forwarding and rewinding through the tracks, which became
annoying, so I switched to the cd's. As one without physical
sight, I can say that the music definitely contains the story.
Often, it can let you know what goes on by itself. Hearing the
complete score brings back the movie even more than the original
soundtracks. It feels like the difference between the theatrical
and extended versions of the movies, except even more so. The
original soundtracks did the job, but the discerning listener
would quickly realize the deletions, especially with the song at
the end. This suite has it all! Firstly, Gandalf singing The
Road goes Ever On helps add a vividness to the music. Bilbo then
sings the same song, and with just the music, it actually sounds
darker than in the movie. Hearing the music like this adds a
full appreciation of its qualities. For me, the biggest
highlight came at track eleven, The Passing of the Elves. I
first got into LOTR when a friend invited me over to watch the
movies. When the part with the wood elves came on, we both
wanted to hear the song by itself. It sounds even more haunting
and beautiful than it does in the movie. It gives the sense of a
real Elvin choir. Other highlights include the song of Luthien,
and the complete end music. The soundtrack cut off the second
song. This set delivers everything it promises, and more. It
also felt very fitting to receive it on Tolkien's birthday. I
first became familiar with Tolkien's work almost two years ago,
and it has shaped and improved my life immeasurably. To those
who do not want to say that they have come to journey's end, this
set and the knowing that the other two will come, can help keep
Middle Earth alive within.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2006
I'm a musician, which means I'm pretty good at separating what is good and what is kitch, in terms of music. I've just finished listening to the DVD-Audio version of this soundtrack, and I am absolutely blown away. Firstly, for all the learned researchers out there who continue to muse about whether or not the human ear can actually hear the difference between the enhanced DVD-audio sound and CD-quality sound, I would like to say that yes, there is a difference, and yes, it can be heard. It can be heard in the same way that a good listener can hear the difference between the warmth of a vinyl album and the early sound of the original analogue-to-digital transfers that went into the first commercial CD's. I would ask you to do the following, if you are skeptical: place the DVD-audio version of this soundtrack in your computer (which is the only thing I have a 5.1 set of speakers attached to) and crank up the volume. If the hair on the back of your neck isn't on end after you've made it through the first few minutes of prologue, then you are dead.
As for the music itself, I've never bought a soundtrack album in my life, previous to this. Most soundtracks are crap. This one is absolutely remarkable, even for the slight flaws that have crept into the production. Firstly, I don't actually agree all that much with the one reviewer who finds Ian McKellan singing near the beginning to be disconcerting. I DID find the sudden break between two pretty ominous passages, in order to hear hobbits singing, slightly jarring, but of course this IS a soundtrack following the movie narration, and it DOES actually make sense to create a small break between two heavy sections with a lighter passage. Secondly, there are spots when the DVD moves from one track to another where the audio "dies" and then returns as the music moves from track to track. And yeah, that's annoying after one has gotten immersed in the music and suddenly is confronted with the reality that this really is a facsimile of a musical performance, and not the performance itself. Otherwise, though, the sound quality here is extraordinary. I've heard the terms "pompous" and "bombastic" used to describe Shore's music, but this isn't really fair. The movies themselves are really just a modern interpretation of the Nibelungenlied and a few other Northern European sagas mixed in for good measure, so it makes perfect sense for the soundtrack to have a Wagnerian atmosphere to it. Well, I highly recommend this soundtrack.