Review Summary: Howard Shore creates a most fitting soundtrack for the peoples of Middle-Earth
When it comes to The Lord of the Rings franchise, describing it with words like "epic" and "grandoise" don't really do the series justice. Starting from the immense novel written by J.R.R. Tolkien, the series has come to develop a life of its own. The books have inspired millions, and found themselves reiterated in the forms of movies, comics and music. The most well known of the "remakes" is obviously, at this point the trilogy directed by famed comedy-gore directer Peter Jackson. Thanks to his vision, dedication and direction, the movies not only became huge hits, but also and more importantly touched hearts of Tolkien's true fanbase, gracing them with a work of art that brought the story to life in the most amazing of ways.
Aside from the genius film of Peter Jackson, Canadian born composer Howard Shore also proves himself to be a virtuoso of sorts, crafting a musical score that could not be more perfect to fit the epic trilogy. After the initial release of the varying soundtracks from 2001-2005, The Complete Recordings, starting with The Fellowship of the Ring were made available for release, a fantastic set of music that is essential for any Tolkien fan.
Sprawling over three discs, The Fellowship Of The Ring: The Complete Recordings is an immense two hours and twenty minutes long. While this length may seem daunting, nothing could be farther from the truth; this could prove to be one the easiest listens you've ever heard. Expanding from the already released The Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack, The Complete Recordings includes every single piece of music written for the movie, and is essentially the direct audio companion to the film. While this may include what would've been considered "filler" it also includes a number of tracks that would have been warmly welcome on the previous albums. One such tune is "Flaming Red Hair", the music that was being played at Bilbo's going away party. Folksy and fun, the song brings an immediate smile to the face, and instantly warms the heart. It's this type of instance that shows why Shore is the perfect composer to create a score for the Lord Of The Rings; understanding the novel, and the love that is felt by the books millions of fans, he arduously worked to create beautiful arias that could connect with fans on a deep emotional level with the utmost of ease.
While, musically, the two share nothing in common, structurally the flow of The Fellowship of the Ring: The Complete Recordings is much like that of post-rock; serene passages slowly but but surely grow into roaring epics, then back to gentle serenity once again. The album, while mostly reliant on Shore's striking classical pieces, does also feature some breathtaking vocal work. "Khazad-Dum" features not only deep, almost viking inspired chants, but also the quite angelic voice of British born Benedict Del Maestro whose high registered voice carries a certain melancholic tone with it. Perhaps the best song on the album, "May It Be" features Irish vocalist/composer Enya, whose haunting voice could very well be the definition of perfection.
The Fellowship of the Ring: The Complete Recordings remains connected throughout, with a strong use of song reprisals. The main theme from "Bag End", a song that continues the folk influenced song-writing Shore has associated with the Hobbits, reveals itself numerous times across the album, such is in songs like "Farewell Dear Bilbo", "A Conspiracy Unmasked" and "The Road Goes Ever On...Pt.2" amongst many others. Although most would assume hearing the same tune repeated over and over again may seem overindulgent, nothing could actually be farther from the truth; replicated through different instruments almost each time, the theme brings to mind thoughts of home, and comfort, a place where you really love to be. Once again, it just proves the amazing composition skills of Howard Shore, whose incredible ability to create emotionally evocative pieces of music really hits with this song.
This is the perfect album to just sit back, relax and lose yourself in. From the folksy textures of Hobbit music to the pounding tribal rhythms inspired by Saruman and his fearsome Uruk-Hai The Fellowship of the Ring: The Complete Recordings is one of them to enjoyable soundtracks ever to exist. Containing the rare ability to co-exist successfully outside of just the film, this captivating album deserves only the highest regards.