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on December 11, 2012
I don't know if there ever was film music, save for the sequels to the original 1977 Star Wars, that had as much anticipation attached to it as The Hobbit. Howard Shore created a milestone with Lord of the Rings, and despite the events surrounding Jackson's King Kong, there was no question he would be on board for these films. It is quite possible, and very likely, given his passion for Tolkien, that he was playing with ideas for a possible Hobbit movie ever since he wrapped up The Return of the King.
Should you have asked yourself the question if themes from The Lord of the Rings would appear in The Hobbit, Howard Shore puts it to rest one minute into the album, when a plain string arrangement of the Shire theme appears in "My Dear Frodo", leading into the prologue music after the opening titles. Here, much like in Fellowship of the Ring, several main thematic threads are introduced; the most prominent being the themes for Smaug and the dwarves.

Given the story of the films, it should be no surprise that Shore heavily expands upon the dwarven music from Lord of the Rings. "My Dear Frodo" and "An Ancient Enemy" are the most prominent examples, when the deep male chorus sings out earthshattering expansions of the dwarven harmonies, together with a new, noble theme on french horns for the great dwarf culture. While their theme in Lord of the Rings ("A Journey In The Dark") was ever downward reaching, this theme moves upward in a proud, yet already slightly resigning way. This is a major thematic thread in this score, but of course not the only one. There are themes and motifs abound.
The centre of the score is twofold. One is the theme "Misty Mountains", as already heard in the trailer. Written by Plan 9, it sets J.R.R. Tolkien's poem to music, and is used in a great number of variations by Howard Shore, who often applies, appropriately, dwarvish orchestrations to it. "Over Hill" would be the most complete statement of that theme, and is a true powerhouse of movie music.
The other main identity is Bilbo's theme(s), which can be heard in full form in "Dreaming of Bag-End" and "A Very Respectable Hobbit". "Dreaming Of Bag-End" takes the idyllic, beautifully simple, tonal harmonies of the Shire music, and adds a simply sublime melody that achieves exactly what it should: it feels warmly familiar and is yet different, depicts Bilbo's longing for his home perfectly, and sits comfortably amongst the classic Shire music from Lord of the Rings. It won't take long until you feel like you always knew that theme. "A Very Respectable Hobbit" is sort of a variation on that, and is used to great effect for example in "The World Is Ahead".
These two themes would be enough to warrant the waiting time for the score, but there is more. The opening music in "My Dear Frodo" reappears at the end of "A Good Omen", acting as a wonderfully lyrical musical bookmark, to open and end the film.

There is a short but poignant motif for Gandalf, opening "Radagast the Brown", followed by haunting boys' choir, and a swirling theme for Radagast. The orcs of the Misty Mountains get a sound similar in tone to the orcs in Return of the King, but more mischievous, with lots of fluttertongue brass, and a short 3/6 notes motif. The 5/4 rhythm is back, constantly changing with 3/4 to create an absolutely exhilarating pace for "Under Hill" and "Brass Buttons", the latter complete with deep male grunting, not unsimilar in style to "The Bridge Of Khazad-Dum". There is also a characteristic short motif for the wargs. And quite a few themes are introduced here that would later become important in Lord of the Rings: Concerning Hobbits, Rivendell, Gollum's themes, Sauron's theme, some Mordor motifs, Nature's theme for the eagles and also the History of the Ring theme, which gets some fantastic variations in "Riddles In The Dark".

The special edition soundtrack also adds "A Very Respectable Hobbit", "Erebor" and "The Dwarf Lords", which are thematic presentations of those themes. These are certainly major highlights on the album, even if they are short. "Erebor" is as adventurous as adventure music gets, spine chilling. In general, the tone of An Unexpected Journey is thoroughly more lighthearted and spirited than any of the Lord of the Rings films, since The Hobbit is a more lighthearted movie, so don't expect highly dramatic music like "The Breaking of the Fellowship". Don't be afraid, the music doesn't skimp with emotional highlights in all its splendour, but it puts a smile on your face instead of leaving you an emotional wreck. Howard Shore adresses the lighter nature of the film. The Hobbit music is more bouncy, the chorus airier and there is an overall more "active" quality about the music, adding more flourishes.
The album includes "The Song Of The Lonely Mountain", written and performed by Neill Finn, member of Plan 9. As brilliant as the score is, so dissapointing is this song. It is, to me, wholly absurd that Howard Shore, who won no less than 3 Academy Awards for Lord of the Rings (amongst them Best Original Song) was not put in charge of writing the movie's closing song. While for Fellowship of the Ring, Shore was at least Enya's orchestrator, he had no hand in this song. The end result is a jarring juxtaposition that doesn't mesh at all with the rest of the album. Middle-Earth is defined by Howard Shore, it doesn't fit a song chanting "ayayayaaaah".

From the very first second, An Unexpected Journey softly draws you into Middle-Earth by tones both familiar, yet unfamiliar, and it is simply wonderful, comforting and breathtaking at the same time to hear how Howard Shore continues to write his Middle-Earth opera, completely unimpressed and unhindered by changes and developments that took place in film music in the last 10 years, not caring about possibly being ineligible for Awards because of use of established material, seemingly driven exclusively by his own inspiration and his own ideals. For many, this music should define the term "swimming against the current". If there was a suspicion that the expansion of the films would result in a slower or less interesting score, Howard Shore puts them to rest.
Special mention must be made of the presentation of the score. For maybe the first time in history, a film score gets this kind of treatment upon initial release, with two discs full of music on both versions. It is, however, contrary to the Amazon description, NOT the full score from the film. Recording sessions continued after the soundtrack was finished. I would say 85 % is presented here. Included are also liner notes by Doug Adams, who already did incredible work on the LotR Complete Recordings and the book "The Music of The Lord of the Rings", describing the musical thoughts in the score, and revealing passages from the choir lyrics. The packaging of the special edition is a catastrophe though. It's a cardboard foldout with sleeves for both discs. It is damn near impossible to pull them out without leaving fingerprints.
The special edition of this score includes expanded tracks, most notably "Radagst The Brown" and "The White Council", including more Necromancer and Rivendell variations. "Roast Mutton" is not only expanded on the special edition, it is also an alternate to the regular OST version. Because of these expansions, the bonus tracks and the liner notes, it is a good idea to buy the deluxe version.

It is important to realise that Howard Shore did not reinvent the music of Lord of the Rings, he expanded it. And that was exactly his task from the beginning. You don't hear a new theme for Rivendell, you'll hear the one from Lord of the Rings. You aren't going to hear new music for Gollum, you'll hear Lord of the Rings. And that is logical because chronologically, The Hobbit sets up the themes for Lord of the Rings. Howard Shore is writing backwards, forwards. And that is fantastic. Because this is a unique opportunity to create the most coherent, thematically complex and enticing film music work of all time. And considering the quality of An Unexpected Journey, I have little doubt that when the third one is released in 2014, it will be exactly that.
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on February 23, 2013
If I close my eyes and try to imagine setting out on a new adventure, full of danger and the unknown, Howard Shore's music for 'The Hobbit' would be close to the music I would choose to accompany me. And yet I find myself wanting a little more - or more precisely, a little less.

It's amazing music, filled with fellowship and beauty and wonder and danger. Many of the familiar themes of the previous Lord of the Rings films are here, from the notes that hearken back to the Shire in "Old Friends" to a certain slinky theme for "Riddles in the Dark." There's a good amount of new material too, like the jaunty, unexpected "Radagast the Brown" and the rousing "A Good Omen."

I really enjoyed some of the extra tracks on this Special Edition CD, like "A Very Respectable Hobbit" and the majestic "Erebor" - some of the best individual songs here, to be honest. "Blunt the Knives" is a delightful, spot-on rendition of one of my favourite scenes in the book, and "Misty Mountains" is both hauntingly beautiful and irresistibly catchy. "Dreaming of Bag End" is a pretty, pastoral piece that gets to the heart of what makes 'The Hobbit' a story that has caught imaginations of both young and old.

Taken as a whole, it's almost enough to be the music for that journey I have dreamt of and read of many times. Almost.

There's a feeling that pervades, though, that the music doesn't feel like the 'Hobbit' I know and treasure. In places ("An Ancient Enemy" for example) slightly overdone, too bombastic...in others, too familiar, borrowing a little too much from the previous films and not staking new musical ground ("My Dear Frodo" jumps to mind, an almost unnecessary mashup of things we've heard before), as though afraid to deviate too much from the awesome scores of the original films. And please...let's not even discuss "The Song of the Lonely Mountain," the song intended to wrap the movie as the credits roll - the less said about that, the better.

And just a word on the packaging for the Special Edition CD. I loved all the extra pictures and the insightful notes from Doug Adams, but the cardboard case feels a little cheap when I compare it to the leathery, textured covers of the the special edition scores of the Lord of the Rings CDs. It's a little thing, but I couldn't help but be slightly disappointed in the packaging change.

It's still amazing music...but I can't help but feel it misses a beat occasionally. When I close my eyes and let my mind wander to that faraway adventure, I can't help but wonder where my Hobbit went, and wish there was a little more of him here.
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I'm almost embarrased to write this review, as I am a gilt-edged fan of LOTR and especially of Shore's academy award winning score, paired with Annie Lennox' haunting end song. My overall feeling across two disks, is that there was a whole lot of copying done from the LOTR score. There are no really major new themes, except perhaps for Radagast, a brand new kind of character. At all the high points, it is LOTR scenes which spring to mind, not "The Hobbit" scenes; however, I have only scene the film once so far. I will be doubly disappointed if in Part II, there is not a really gorgeous theme for his nastiness, the dragon, Smaug (I am similarly anticipating Benedict Cumberbatch's voice talent as the voice of Smaug.) There are two pieces which stand out, in contrast to this "sameness", and both are performed by the dwarves. The first is the brief song the dwarves sing, "Blunt the Knives" as they are cleaning up after the "Unexpected Party". The second is the low song "Misty Mountains" performed by the dwarves, esp. Richard Armitrage.I have heard Neil Finn's "Song of the Lonely Mountain" earlier, and I thought it was better than Enya's contributions to LOTR, but not as good as "Into the West."

Other reviews have done a fine job of itemizing opinions on the cuts. I think the overall impression, for one steeped in LOTR, is not enough new stuff. I was waiting for at least one new major theme to stand out, but I didn't find it. This is subject to revision as I see the movie at least once more, and see how sight and sound are joined.
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on December 28, 2012
I love film scores and I collect the ones that I feel are wonderfully composed, even if I did not enjoy the film itself. I have all three "Lord of the Rings" scores and I thought the music was original, beautiful (haunting when it needed to be) and fit the films perfectly. Howard Shore is a fantastic composer, and that is clearly seen in "The Hobbit." I admit, I was nervous at first. I was worried the score would contain a rehash of the music from the first trilogy, and how wrong I was. In hindsight, I shouldn't have had any such worries when it comes to such a talented composer.

The music of "The Hobbit" is majestic, adventurous, ominous, and once again, a perfect fit for the film. I first listened to the score before I saw the movie (saw it today, and...AMAZING!) and I loved it. After watching the film, I can't imagine Howard Shore composing anything different. There are some cues which are re-used from "The Lord of the Rings" but they are used for old and beloved (and not so beloved) characters, which makes complete sense. Why would you create a different theme for characters we met in the previous trilogy? On the contrary, the themes announce the characters' presence (elves, orcs, hobbits) before they come on screen. It lets the viewers know we're returning to a place we've been before. The new "Misty Mountains" theme is beautiful and gives off a sense of adventure and purpose. When you think about it in terms of music, it sounds very much like a company of dwarves out on an incredibly important quest. "Blunt the Knives" is a fun song that immediately brought a smile to my face the first time I heard it, and it shows us the boisterous and fun loving nature of the dwarves.

The extended versions of the songs, as well as the bonus tracks, are a wonderful treat. "The Song of the Lonely Mountain" by Neil Finn is quite good. I was a little iffy about it at first when I'd only heard bits and pieces of the song. After hearing it in full, it's a delight to listen to. I won't compare it to Enya's "May It Be" or Annie Lennox's "Into the West" as it's different and unique in it's own way, but very much fits the feel of Middle Earth, just as the other two did. Listening to the soundtrack has an air of coming home about it, especially when the hobbit theme can be heard. You're coming back to a place you know very well, and though a little different than what you're used to (set 60 years before "Lord of the Rings"), it's still a place you recognize the look, feel, and sound of.
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on August 7, 2013
I like listening to this music and it definitely has it's place. It has good flow and you can picture parts of the movie as you listen to it.
The movie was an adventure, so I remember the music being faster and more aggressive. While it does have tracks that have those qualities, a lot of the tracks are slower. They're still great tracks, but it goes to show how skewed your perception can be when you are engrossed in a movie. I'm still happy I bought it and I listen to it plenty.
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on February 10, 2013
I have the three Lord of the Rings special edition CD 's. So I bought the extended version of the Hobbit rather than just the regular cd. I love Howard Shore 's compositions and I wasn't disappointed even though I bought the CD before I saw the movie. This cd includes both "Misty Mountains" and "Song of the Lonely Mountain" (which plays as the credits roll). The two songs I really wanted. I always hate it when I buy a CD only to find that it's missing some of the music or songs from the movie. "Blunt the knives" Is also included. A fun song the dwarves sing around Bilbo's table. I rated it 4 stars because its not my favorite of the four films. I do so much love Richard Armitage's deep voice as he sings "Misty Mountains" and the track "Song of the Lonely Mountain" but the rest of the CD is just better than nice. Even with hindsight I'd still fork over the extra coin for the extended version. I'm always sorry afterwards when I don't.
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on December 15, 2012
I, like many other Tolkien faithful, have been anxiously awaiting this movie. Naturally, it should come as no surprise that I should invest in its soundtrack, especially after the amazing job Howard Shore did in Lord of the Rings. All the familiar notes and chords remain, reminding you that you are indeed back in Peter Jackson's vision of Middle Earth, but the Hobbit is distinctly its own. Solid and stirring, tranquil and chaotic, all the sounds that we remember combine with the new elements to make an excellent soundtrack. Every fan should have this in their collections, it's as simple as that.
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on March 31, 2015
Lots of other folks have already done a wonderful job giving in-depth reviews about this set. I just want people to be aware these cd's are only in cardboard--not hard jewel cases as we expected. And yes, that was enough of a disappointment for me to take a star away.

Also--if you were hoping that Peter Jackson and Co. would expand the wonderful "Misty Mountains" song to include all the Tolkien verses of the song from The Hobbit, that did not happen. :( Boo and Hiss. But unlike the expectation of the discs coming in a hard jewel case (like the LOTR soundtracks we bought), I was **hoping** for an expansion of the song (we LOVES it)--not expecting it.
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on April 12, 2013
I read all the reviews of both the special edition and the other CD for this product and was a little apprehensive to buy it because of what they said. A few reviews mentioned the songs were not the same as the movie, but from what my husband and I can tell is that they are great and exactly what we wanted.

This purchased even came with free MP3 downloads so as soon as I bought the CD (hadn't even shipped) I was able to download the MP3s to my computer and we listened to the whole CD before it even arrived in the mail. This was awesome especially because we were concerned by what the reviews had said.

Needless to say we love it and it was a great birthday present for my husband.
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on December 30, 2012
Probably listened to it 5 times already. Have it playing while playing Eve Online, another excellent purchase.

The stuff directly out of the movie is total GOLD, ok yeah all of it is, but.. As in the songs sung by the Dwarves at Bilbo's house are just so well done. If you liked the other LoTR films music scores, get this one.

More from Howard Shore = win. Only thing better probably would be Shore and John Williams.
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