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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - The Complete Recordings Soundtrack
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|1. Roots and Beginnings|
|2. Journey to the Cross-roads|
|3. The Road to Isengard|
|4. The Foot of Orthanc|
|5. Return to Edoras|
See all 15 tracks on this disc
|1. Osgiliath Invaded Featuring Ben del Maestro|
|2. The Stairs of Cirith Ungol|
|3. Allegiance to Denethor|
|4. The Sacrifice of Faramir Featuring Billy Boyd performing The Edge of Night|
|5. The Parting of Sam and Frodo|
See all 14 tracks on this disc
|1. Grond The Hammer of the Underworld|
|2. Shelob the Great|
|3. The Tomb of the Stewards|
|4. The Battle of the Pelennor Fields|
|5. The Pyre of Denethor|
See all 16 tracks on this disc
|1. Mount Doom Featuring Renée Fleming|
|2. The Crack of Doom|
|3. The Eagles Featuring Renée Fleming|
|4. The Fellowship Reunited Featuring Sir James Galway, Viggo Mortensen, and Renée Fleming|
|5. The Journey to the Grey Havens Featuring Sir James Galway|
See all 8 tracks on this disc
The final film in the Lord Of The Rings blockbuster trilogy features the climax of the epic journey that brought Tolkien's world before our very eyes. The Complete Recordings series featuring the soundtrack albums have been hits and award winners. Now with The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King featuring Into The West by Annie Lennox, this album from the series' composer Howard Shore is sure to score with movie fans. For fans of The Lord Of The Rings films, and those who purchased last year's The Fellowship Of The Ring The Complete Recordings and The Two Towers The Complete Recordings, this incredible package completes a now classic set of soundtracks.
This five-disc set caps off the "complete recordings" series, which offers extensive versions of Howard Shore's score for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The main problem lays in its being the last installment: Most of the main characters, along with their themes, have been introduced in the previous two sets, creating a certain sense of familiarity. But there is still plenty to please fans here, and then some. Though it includes the climactic trek to Mount Doom, the overall mood is less dark than in The Two Towers. The London Philharmonic Orchestra handles the heavy lifting, with help from adult and children's choirs, and well-selected guest stars. Soprano Renée Fleming, for instance, lends a particularly eerie, otherworldly touch to disc 1's "The Grace of Undómiel," and disc 4's "Mount Doom" and "The Eagles." Meanwhile, flutist James Galway provides a quasi-spiritual counterbalance, a musical ray of hope on tracks such as disc 3's "The Mouth of Sauron." And of course, Annie Lennox's Academy Awardwinning "Into the West" is here, incorporated in disc 4's "Days of the Ring." Finally, the fifth disc is a DVD-Audio that includes the score in super-duper surround sound. It may seem like overkill, but too much is never enough for LOTR fans--and besides, people buying this set are exactly the kind of people who own the type of equipment required to make disc 5 explode. Finally, the packaging includes new artwork and liner notes written by Doug Adams, an expert on the music from LOTR. --Elisabeth Vincentelli
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Top Customer Reviews
Howard Shore's brilliant orchestral score for Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings concludes here in the most ambitious form and doesn't let down. From the prologue to the end credits, the film was an ultimate in terms of just about everything, made even more powerful by its music.
Listening to it, more than ten years later, reminds me of what it was back in 2003 in theaters: in the top 5 of the greatest experiences of my twenties.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The End? Not really. For three years now, Howard Shore himself supervised the production of these Complete Recordings, and it speaks for his character that he didn't give this project out of his hands.
So, here we are, holding The Return Of The King in our hands, and the question is today as relevant as it was four years ago - maybe even more, since we can now judge the full vision of Howard Shore: does it hold up? Did Shore do justice to his own brilliance, did he actually manage to bring the full spectrum of themes to a logical, conclusive, satisfying end?
If the last 20 years of film making have taught us anything, then it's certainly a strong reluctancy to set our hopes for sequels or prequels too high. How many times did we have the highest hopes for a single project, and it didn't only fail, but also had that uniquely ability to not only tarnish the film itself, but all previous entries as well?
That is the most important lesson, and it also reveals a very important aspect of creativity: dazzling the mind with a lot of flash is easy; illuminating the mind with structure demands far more from any artist. That today's movies fail to give us amazing eye candy can't be expected anymore, but amongst all the FX artists doing their magic and sound effect guys blasting the theatre's speakers, where's the story, the gravitas, the ingenuity?
So, am I trying to ease you into the message that Howard Shore actually didn't really deliver this time? No. I want to show you the vast deepness of the chasm on whose edge Howard Shore stood.
Obviously, Lord Of The Rings is not the first movie series with sequels that are better than the original. Motion picture history is littered with improved second parts. The difference, however, is that usually, when a composer delivers an improved sequel, it feels like revisiting the previous score. The composer develops themes by reconsidering the first installment. He might take the score from film one from A to B, and the second score from A to C.
In Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, Shore went from point A to B and B to C, respectively. Themes continued developments without a recap, drawing fresh connections while pushing the old in new directions; the palette widened, incorporating a grander sense of scope and advanced realisations of the styles.
Return of the King takes us triumphantly to point D, which logically expands the compass even further. Shore has built his emotional arc through nearly eight hours of music before reaching this score, and now, as we reach the destination, everything is touched with a sense of gravity. We've earned this voyage; we've come to its conclusion naturally, and the effects are nearly overwhelming.
Nowadays, it's an easy task to find film scores with beautifully soaring themes and powerful action. Nearly every film score today appears to see its task in creating music that is soaked with emotional highlights, moments of pathos and orchestral clashes of almost orgiastic proportions. But in 90 % of those cases, an essential element is lacking: the music and the film don't *earn* these moments, resulting in an atmosphere of fakeness and emotional pretentiousness.
This isn't the case with Lord of the Rings, and especially not with Return of the King. Two scores and six hours of music steadily, subtly and systematically build into this archetectural masterpiece.
Return Of The King has a different vibe from the very first bar. Orchestrations and compositions are a lot more diverse and intricate, and even the palette of soundscapes is more elaborate.
This is largely due to the fact that in Return of the King, Howard Shore combines and collides his themes to bring them down to a common denominator, to bring the stories to their logical climax. For instance, in "A Coronal Of Silver and Gold" or "The Land Of Shadow", the 5/4 beat of Isengard meets the Fourth Age Of Mordor theme, and the Orc theme of Isengard meets the Threat Of Mordor motif, indicating that Isengard's power and creatures have now been fully consumed by and integrated under the eye of Sauron.
From the very beginning, Return of the King builds on The Two Towers' maturity, and adds an amazing layer of thematic and textural developments. The bridging is absolutely seamless - the first 30 seconds of "Roots and Beginnings" sound like a direct continuation of Two Tower's end credits.
This score has a distinct touch of understated grandesse, which roots in Howard Shore's inherent subtlety, and which is perfect because the movie isn't about heroic, uplifting battles, it shows a world in decline and its hope of revival.
Everything builds into this, and the true meanings of all themes are revealed. Right in the opening sequence, "Roots And Beginnings", the essential meaning of the Ring's Seduction theme is presented. Or the ringwraiths; listen to Fellowship's "The Nazgul", Two Towers' "Wraiths On Wings", and then "Shieldmaiden Of Rohan", and you will not only see, you will understand. That's also a feelings very few scores can create.
When Aragorn bows to the four hobbits during the coronation scene, you hear the exact same short piece that plays when Frodo says "I will take the ring" during the Council Of Elrond; these are the moments that reveal a true genius of musical storytelling.
And amongst all these intricacies, Howard Shore never loses the focus on the heart of the tale. That is why the emotional climaxes reaches their full blossoming in the listener's mind, and each one stabs right into your heart, unfolding a deep satisfaction.
As you know by now, this gem includes four CDs, one DVD with the score in Surround Sound, and a more than intriguing booklet by Doug Adams, who guides us through the soundscapes of Middle-Earth.
Also, like Two Towers, this release includes countless additions that didn't make it into the film. These additions are sometimes of bigger, often of shorter nature, but they all glue together some score parts that appeared incoherent in the film. In the best sense of the word, they give the score even more time to breathe and to shine.
I don't think there has ever been a film score that lived and breathed quite like The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, and The Return Of The King especially. Every piece of music has its meaning, talks to you, and leaves you deeply satisfied.
Unlike the Ring films themselves, their scores, or more precisely their themes, may never become part of popular culture, and in times where this is considered the knighting for any film score, Lord Of The Rings doesn't need to, since it has an entirely different goal, and works on an entirely different level.
If you wanted to place "The Return Of The King" in film music history, you will have to go back to the glory days of film music in the 50s and the 60s, when there was no difference between classically trained composers and film composers, when those great musicians didn't need to worry about sales or becoming part of pop culture, but instead created music through which their films lived, breathed and acquired true greatness. Spartacus, El Cid, North By Northwest, Ben Hur, Jason and the Argonauts, that is the royal company in which The Lord Of The Rings does not need to feel ashamed.
You could even say that The Return Of The King goes back to 18th/19th century opera in terms of how dozens and dozens of meticulously interwoven motifs not only shape the actors' performance, but also tell the story on their own. In this light, Shore's Ring trilogy has even an advantage over scores like Ben Hur or King Of Kings.
Howard Shore's masterpiece combines genuine opera with a glimpse of Golden Age, and this is an achievement for the ages.
I would argue for this being the greatest score ever written for a film sequel, except that technically it isn't. Peter Jackson set out to produce a single, gigantic epic, which he then broke into three parts for convenience. In much the same way, J. R. R. Tolkien wrote the original novel half a century ago but split it into the familiar trio. Thus, when Howard Shore was asked to create the music, he had the luxury of thinking in terms of the whole trilogy, and began to lay the groundwork in "The Fellowship of the Ring" right from the beginning. This gave him a tremendous advantage over, say, John Williams, who was at the mercy of George Lucas coming up with a new Star Wars script every few years. He had to make up the music as he went along.
According to the "making of the music" video in the extended DVD version of "Fellowship", Shore knew from the outset that he wanted to create an opera. If you read the excellent notes which come with the music boxed sets for all three movies, you'll know that he heavily employed a 19th century technique called "leitmotif", wherein every character of note, and every place, gets its own theme, and all of these melodies are skillfully woven together. By "The Return of the King", all the pieces were in place for the grand climax of the epic.
The beauty of this composing technique is that I could sit there with my eyes closed, and follow the progression of the movie. Certain visions and bits of dialog would pop into my mind. I could see Deagol plunge into the water and lose hold of his fishing pole, only to find the Ring embedded in the mire instead -- to his undoing. Or how about when the treasonous Saruman is standing atop Orthanc, up to his old tricks, trying to sow dissent among the ranks of his opponents? Or that wonderful extended scene where Sam and Frodo see the sun shining for one last, forlorn moment upon a floral crown atop the fallen head of a Gondorian statue at the Cross-Roads?
My favorite track of all is "The Lighting of the Beacons". I've seen that scene probably three times more often than the rest of the movie in its entirety, and the music plays a huge part of that. Another good one is "Osgilliath Invaded", which features boy soprano Ben del Maestro's ethereal voice soaring above Pelennor Fields, figuratively speaking, as Gandalf rides forth from Minas Tirith, light streaming from his staff, to dispel the Nazgul on their fell beasts and thus rescue Faramir's band.
And, of course, there is the whole sequence of Sam and Frodo on the side of Mount Doom: "Then let's be rid of it, once and for all. I can't carry it for you, but I can carry YOU!"
If you've watched the "making of" videos for the extended "Return of the King" DVD, you may recall that Annie Lennox was working on a second recording, called, I think, "Live for the Day", but this never made it into the movie. I was kind of hoping maybe they'd slip it into the boxed set, alongside "Into the West", but no dice. They did, however, include something just as nice: "Bilbo's Song". I listened to it twice, feeling utterly haunted by the melody. What a great way to finish the journey.
As with the other two boxed sets, the packaging is very attractive. I have a minor complaint about the CD pegs being a hair too tight, but no matter. Be aware, too, that the DVD is two-sided, which means there is no label side to absorb grease from one's hand inadvertently brushing across it. It's happened to me a couple of times already. That also means being extra careful when you twist the DVD off its rubbery peg, lest you get fingerprints on the surface.
The notes for all three movies keep referring to a book called "The Music of The Lord of the Rings Films". I hope this becomes available sooner rather than later. There are very nice PDF booklets available for download giving a track-by-track discussion of the music in all three films -- but this would mean listening to the music in front of my computer. And that isn't always practical. Perhaps it's time to invest in a nice color printer.
But why spend any more time reading this, when you could be listening to the music instead? It was well worth the price for me. Go for it!
Shore's brilliant blending of themes occurs in this final chapter of the film trilogy, more so than either of the two previous releases. The Fellowship theme, after forming and then breaking, must draw itself to a new level of focus as they reach Mount Doom. The Elves' theme bestows its final gifts to Middle-Earth, receding into the West. Isengard's theme must meet its fateful demise, but not before incorporating those themes into Sauron's theme near the end of the story.
The themes of men, Rohan and Gondor, each given isolated themes in the previous releases, now join forces assuming lead roles in the preparation for war with Sauron's forces. The theme for the Ring itself is also brought to its climax as its fate is decided on Mount Doom. The three main Ring themes now interact with each other, creating a musical fusion that beautifully haunting.
As Middle-Earth survives the War of the Ring and enters its Fourth Age, Shore grants the surviving culture's themes peace and prosperity and maintains the aesthetics of each society. Men are granted respite; the Elves, peace; Hobbits, wisdom; and Ring to its fate, destruction.
Released in a beautiful boxed set, Shore's score is recorded on four discs. Disc five is a DVD audio disc that contains the entire score in Dolby Digital Surround Sound, Dolby Digital Stereo Sound, Advanced Resolution Surround Sound (24-bit), and Advanced Resolution Stereo Sound (24-bit). The set also comes with a detailed 45-page booklet about the score for the third film, along with Shore's inspirations for some tracks, new instruments used during the scoring process, a list of performers, and much more.
It's really difficult to say which tracks are standouts over others because the entire score is fantastic. Disc four's "Days of the Ring" (which is actually the film's end credits) features Annie Lennox's Academy Award winning song "Into the West."
This is truly a fantastic piece, I've been waiting for its release ever since the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Complete Recordings came out two years ago. It's hard to express just truly how moving this music really is. If you're a fan of Lord of the Rings, or even just a fan of score music like me, then you'll definitely want to pick up this set.
It is natural to think of that other 'Ring', Wagner's, when considering this work. And I would not wish to suggest that they are comparable, though Shore himself spoke of this score as his 'opera'. Yet it is a vast and wonderful work, quite moving, often exciting, and almost always interesting. He was given an unusual amount of time to write it, and the result is a score of astonishing complexity.
A few details. The packaging, as for the previous two, is quite elegant. The notes are good (and on line you can download a more detailed analysis on some 50 pages or so). Also, it comes with a single dvd on which the entire score (2 sides) can be played. Sound is good to very good - on my system, I notice no particular difference in quality between the cds and the dvd.
Criticisms are minor. If you have little interest in the movie, this may not be for you. If your taste in music veers away from the Classical or folk-like, this might not be your cup of tea either. There is a fair amount of repitition (but so is there in Wagner) and you might not be overly fond of some of the solo singing (Liv Tyler's song is a bit weak, and some may not like Annie Lenox, though I do, very much). You probably should be a fairly serious fan of the movies in order to appreciate the score to its fullest (that however, would also be true of Wagner, or of any opera or vocal work). There is a sweet nod of the head to Wagner at the end. It is also a real investment. And finally, you can buy single cd versions of the score of each of the movies, which might be enough. But I have to say - not for me. I like the whole architecture of the work. I'm just amazed that they went to the trouble of releasing this, as well as the other two. It suggests a labor of love.
I saw the film one more time, which I believe was enough to both satisfy me and to keep my interest piqued for the soundtrack. It was about a month later when I purchased the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, and never have I been more disappointed.
Film soundtracks somehow always tend to leave out some piece of music that was uniquely memorable to me, however I was horrified to find a good deal of my musical highlights from the film omitted. I understand of course that they have to be ruthless in order to edit a 250-minute score into 70 minutes of CD, but that did not comfort me.
Over time I got used to it, as it appeared to be the only version of the music I was ever going to hear, and I will even admit to loving it: I enjoyed most of the tracks, especially "Minas Tirith", "The White Tree", "The Black Gate Opens" and I still prefer to "Anduril" to the one presented on the Complete Recordings.
However, it cannot be overstated: The Return of the King - The Complete Recordings is magnificent, everything that I've ever wished for in a musical score and an amazing testament to Howard Shore's skill and genius as an artist. It is what I waited 4 years to hear, and I'm truly glad that I lived to see the day when Shore's 10-hour opera was made available on disc.
I'm not going to make any attempt to critically analyse the music and its various thematic elements, etc. - any attempt would be futile, as that has already been done expertly by Doug Adams, and I would refer anyone interested to know more to the comprehensive Annotated Scores for all 3 Complete Recordings to be found on [...]
Instead, I can only offer an emotional response to what I view to be the highlights of this monumental recording. First, "Roots and Beginnings" gives us the music that Shore intended to accompany Smeagol's murder of Deagol and his transformation into Gollum, which was replaced by sound effects in the film: it's extremely powerful music.
"The Grace of Undomiel" is another favourite of mine as it features the best segue music I have ever heard: as Narsil is re-forged, the Rivendell theme builds to a crescendo before it flows into the Minas Tirith theme, which is appropriate as the film then flashes to Gandalf and Pippin as they approach the capital city of Gondor. The Fellowship theme sounds in an urgent yet heroic statement and then The Realm of Gondor takes over: incredible!
I was always disappointed with "The Ride of the Rohirrim" on the 2003 Soundtrack as it presented the least stirring of the Rohan melodies when there were 2 other far superior tunes that they could have chosen. "The Lighting of the Beacons" ends with one of those: the Rohan fanfare is presented as similarly heroic and urgent as Theoden and his troops prepare to depart, before it builds through a majestic version of Nature's Reclamation.
"Osgiliath Invaded" is another superb track, and it offers us a rare opportunity to hear music that was composed to an earlier, alternate edit of the film. The Morgul-host clash violently with Faramir's rangers before the fellowship theme interrupts the battle: in this version, Gandalf and Pippin have only just arrived in Gondor and, seeing the Nazgul attacking the retreating Gondorians, they charge the Pelennor fields, Gandalf's staff-light blazing, and the Nazgul flee.
The music Shore composed for all of the Paths of the Dead scenes is actually a lot better than I originally thought that it was: the use of hanging Tibetan gongs was a particular stroke of genius on his part: they're just so haunting and exotic! Similarly, Shore's music for the Shelob's Lair sequences not only showcases what is clearly one of his favourite compositional styles, but also reflects the action on screen perfectly, serving as a musical imprint of events.
I suppose that that goes for the entire score, but mention must be made here of his compositions for "The Siege of Gondor", "Grond - The Hammer of the Underworld" and "The Tomb of the Stewards": the music that represents the evil mechanical might of Mordor is evocative and harrowing at the same time.
Perhaps the one piece of music that I have most looked forward to hearing and have found myself humming many times over the last 4 years comes from one of my favourite scenes in the trilogy: Theoden's charge on the fields of the Pelennor. "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields" on Disc 3 does not disappoint and never ceases to make my hair stand on end as the Hardanger fiddle sings the Rohan fanfare over brave brass doing the same. Fantastic!
The bloody and frantic battle that results from the Rohirrim's arrival is just as well represented musically: from the deep, ponderous percussion of the Mumakil charge to the high, hellish choir that backs the Witch-king's attack on Eowyn, we are presented with a kaleidoscope of melodies that fight for dominance. And yet, amid all the chaos, a clear simple tune calls out during a lull: the Grey Havens theme makes its first appearance in "A Far Green Country", and what a tune, orchestrated differently from the film, but better!
Finally, Legolas' bringing-down of a Mumak serves as a suitable climax to the battle, both visually and musically, before we fall back to earth where Theoden lies dying. I am in constant awe of Shore's aptness to composing simple yet very emotional music for death scenes: Boromir's in "Fellowship" was one, and Theoden's is of a similar kind, as choir and halting strings and brass give the impression of a person's breath slowing and finally giving-out.
However, the true climax of the film, and the entire 10-hour score/opera for that matter, is the destruction of the ring. "For Frodo" sets those events in motion as Aragorn leads the Army of the West against the forces of Mordor and Gollum returns to attack Frodo and Sam on Mount Doom. The incredible choral accompaniment follows these events to perfection as first it sings heroically then its tone turns dark, until it is comforted by the Nature theme.
The Ring is at last destroyed, and the music for "The Crack of Doom" is some of the best I think that I have ever heard. The Fate of the Ring theme, which once appeared briefly when Aragorn and Gandalf were discussing the future of Middle-earth in The Two Towers, is now brought to the fore by full chorus and orchestra as it represents the downfall of Sauron and hope for a new day. I feel sure that if there is ever a Judgement Day, and Evil is destroyed forever, that music will be playing! The Gondor Reborn theme also features, and it is another example of an alternate version to the film, but a far superior one!
Let me make this clear: the entire 10-hour score/opera is amazing, and is an essential for any discerning music lover. If I had the time to write a review for all three Complete Recordings, I would: this all too brief critique has only looked at a small percentage of the music, and then only my personal highlights. The whole set of 10 CDs may look costly, but I assure you that it is worth every penny, and if you loved the films, the books or just good music, then you will find eternal joy in this score/opera, as I have done and still do.