The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I suppose if I'm going to finally start posting my music (albeit, mostly soundtrack/score) reviews here, I might as well start with the one and only Hobbit. After all, we've finally run out of Tolkien work (shush, I know there's more, but we're setting that knowledge aside for now) that means we'll be out of Middle Earth Howard Shore work. Until then...

Welcome one and all back to The Shire, Rivendell, and many more places familiar and perhaps not as familiar. I think we all knew that when The Hobbit was announced to be a movie (finally) that Howard Shore would undoubtedly become the composer for its music.  Why not after he did such a phenomenally brilliant job on the first three movies?  That and every director has his favorite composer – and it looks like it’s Team Jackson-Shore for all things Tolkien.

There were two options this time around for soundtrack goodness – the special edition and the everyday soundtrack.  I had plenty of Amazon credit so I went all out (which probably would have anyway even without the credit) and bought the special edition.  It’s a really cool little package that practically looks like a small gift book.  It’s well put together with images from the movie, lyrics from the songs that have them, and a full, fantastic description of the pieces as the movie progresses. However, that also means that there are not one, but two CDs chock-a-block full of music, and that means I’m not going to go through them one by one either.  So here’s the list, check out the names and times, and then we’ll go into a full meat and potatoes dialogue at the bottom.

CD 1 – About 58 minutes total

1. "My Dear Frodo"  8:03
2. "Old Friends" (Extended Version) 5:00
3. "An Unexpected Party"   4:08
4. "Blunt the Knives" (performed by The Dwarf Cast, Exclusive Bonus Track) 1:01
5. "Axe or Sword?"   5:59
6. "MistyMountains" (performed by Richard Armitage and The Dwarf Cast) 1:42
7. "The Adventure Begins"   2:04
8. "The World is Ahead"   2:19
9. "An Ancient Enemy"   4:56
10. "Radagast the Brown" (Extended Version)  6:37
11. "The Trollshaws" (Exclusive Bonus Track)  2:08
12. "Roast Mutton" (Extended Version)  4:56
13. "A Troll-hoard"   3:38
14. "The Hill of Sorcery"   3:50
15. "Warg-scouts"   3:02

CD 2 – About 68 minutes total

1. "The Hidden Valley"   2:49
2. "Moon Runes" (Extended Version) 3:393. "The Defiler"  1:14
4. "The White Council" (Extended Version) 9:40
5. "Over Hill"   3:42
6. "A ThunderBattle"   3:54
7. "Under Hill"   1:54
8. "Riddles in the Dark"   5:21
9. "Brass Buttons"   7:37
10. "Out of the Frying-Pan"   5:55
11. "A Good Omen"   5:45
12. "Song of theLonelyMountain" (performed by Neil Finn, Extended Version)  6:00
13. "Dreaming of Bag End"   1:56
14. "A Very Respectable Hobbit" (Exclusive Bonus Track)  1:20
15. "Erebor" (Exclusive Bonus Track)  1:19
16. "The Dwarf Lords" (Exclusive Bonus Track)  2:01
17. "The Edge of the Wild" (Exclusive Bonus Track)  3:34

The tricky thing for a lot of composers who have to do multiple movies, I think, is that they need for there to be a connection between one movie and the next, and yet maintain a new sound to establish that movie as different from the others.  A good example would be the Narnia movies – the first soundtrack was stunning, the others quite forgettable.  I think that is some of what Howard Shore wrestled with here.  He manages to bring The Hobbit into it’s own with particular pieces, but overall it doesn’t have the power as the other three movies each did.  There’s no real stand out Hobbit theme as there was in the LOTR movies. But we also have, on the other hand, the simple fact that we are merely journeying here and don’t really have tremendous action or even the same stakes that existed in the LOTR movies. Tricksy, very tricksy.

Having said that, while this may not be the strongest soundtrack of the group, it is still like listening to the soundtrack of Middle Earth, and honestly no one is going to argue with that.  Most of the tracks are quite reminiscent of the other movies in their style and sound, which doesn’t really make them anything special – however there are some that do merit some special mentioning.

“Blunt the Knives” is fun because I remember wondering if Jackson was going to include the songs that the dwarves were always singing in the book (there’s a lot of singing in the book). Throwing this in was a nice touch, though I think they could have done the full song without a problem.  It’s goofy and dwarves having a good time at Bilbo’s expense.

“Misty Mountains” is one of the more powerful songs, though once again it is truly a shame they didn’t have the Dwarf Company sing the entire song – even if just for the soundtrack.  Their voices are deep and rich, and the overall tone that will become the main dwarf theme is spot on. This is the one that got stuck in everyone’s head from the trailers, and the one that will stick in your head long after you’ve seen the movie.

“The Adventure Begins” is some of the Shire theme with a lot of excitement thrown in and is really fun to listen to because of its shift in pace – that and you know some good stuff is about to happen. It rolls right into “The World Ahead” and that’s where you get your first serious taste of the dwarf theme brought in from “Misty Mountains” – this’ll send a few goosebumps over your skin.

“Radagast the Brown” is the biggest break from what we’re all used to in Shore’s work with the other movies.  And it had to be, given the character it follows.  It’s wild and unruly and utterly perfect for the scene. I must say it is, in fact, one of my favorite tracks.

“Brass Buttons” has a great section that may remind listeners of the Mines of Moria that’s dark, dangerous, and marches on toward the unknown. I remember it as a piece I’d hoped would be on the soundtrack while watching the movie.

“Song of the Lonely Mountain” took some getting used to. This is the complete version of the song the dwarves sing in “Misty Mountains.” It’s very folksy which goes well with The Hobbit, but turned me off at first.  But after subsequent listenings it’s grown on me to the point that I enjoy it.  I do like the background chorus and the sounds of hammers and anvils for a more “dwarvish” feel.  I do, however, kind of wish that the original lyrics were used, though that’s getting kind of nitpicky.

“Dreaming of Bag End” is a very sweet piece that makes me happy.  It’s like a slice of the Shire with that adorable little flute just piping away – and it doesn’t sound like any other Shire-themed music we’ve already heard.

“Erebor” is, for lack of a better word, pretty epic, albeit short.  It’s a quick grab at the glory that was Erebor and does some nice work with it. Extra points for the bagpipes.

And those are my top picks.  Ultimately, though this soundtrack isn’t quite LOTR I, II, or III, it’s a perfect fit for The Hobbit, and fans that liked Howard Shore’s work before will have a fine time with this one.


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I am an author, I sell books for a living, and I love music like there's no tomorrow. I've experienced much of this country, from forested hills of the East, to the golden plains of the Midwest, the sandy beaches of the Southeast, and the oh-so-majestic mountains of the Rockies. And when all else fails, eat chocolate.