The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King - Complete Recordings  by Howard Shore



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The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King -
Complete Recordings
by Howard Shore


Lord of the Rings
Return of the King

Buy online

The Soundtrack
The Complete Recordings
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The Lord of the Rings:  Return of the King - Complete Recordings (Soundtrack) by Howard Shore

The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King - Complete Recordings
Composed by Howard Shore
Warner/Reprise (2007)

Rating: 10/10

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Listen to this soundclip of The Lord of the Rings:  Return of the King - Complete RecordingsLighting the Beacons (320 kb)

Listen to this soundclip of The Lord of the Rings:  Return of the King - Complete RecordingsAllegiance to Denethor (353 kb)

Listen to this soundclip of The Lord of the Rings:  Return of the King - Complete Recordings

"For Frodo" (356 kb)

Listen to this soundclip of The Lord of the Rings:  Return of the King - Complete RecordingsBilbo's Song(352 kb)


“HOWARD SHORE'S score for THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, is the most significant work of film music of the new millennium (and, truth be told, even longer than that) and RETURN OF THE KING is arguably the best of the three.”

When That Which is Complete Has Come
Review by Christopher Coleman

Gandalf the WhiteHard to believe that it's been four years since Peter Jackson's climactic, part 3 of his LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy hit movie screens. With the subsequent release of the extended edition DVDs and then the Complete Recording releases of THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING and then THE TWO TOWERS, there has been plenty to keep fans of the film and its score well occupied.

Although there are plans for more LORD OF THE RINGS/ HOWARD SHORE musical-goodness to come in the not-too-distant-future, THE RETURN OF THE KING: COMPLETE RECORDINGS, does wrap up the epic set of music from the trilogy. As we know the third film, being the longest, also featured the most music.  Factor in that the extended edition of the film added almost an hour of additional footage - much of it requiring additional score, and there has been a mumakil's worth of score that has gone unreleased until now - including some of the music from the RETURN OF THE KING's top moments. Now, just as the two previous Complete Recording releases did, RETURN OF THE KING delivers just about every second of music one could hope for from the film and does so in impressive fashion.

Once again Warner/Reprise Records pulls out all the stops with premium packaging which not only delivers the 3 hours and 50 minutes of score on 4 compact discs, but also a high resolution audio version of the entire score on a fifth, DVD-Audio disc.

Doug Adams, again, provides great insight into the depth and detail of HOWARD SHORE's masterwork.  As with the previous two releases, Adams breaks down every thematic element of the score with clips of musical notation alongside.  Shore's music has a story all its own and Adams tells it well.   The notes conclude with references to the instrumentation employed for THE RETURN OF THE KING as well as performance and production credits. 

The analysis and insight contained in the booklet again proves to be a very compelling experience...and makes the writing of a review of this soundtrack seem more than a little redundant. Redundant or not, HOWARD SHORE'S score for THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, is the most significant work of film music of the new millennium (and, truth be told, even longer than that) and RETURN OF THE KING is arguably the best of the three. With accolades like that, I think a little review-redundancy should be acceptable.

In order to keep this review digestible for the masses (if not keep it doable by its author), while covering the content of each disc in general, I am going to highlight a handful of inclusions that help set this release apart from the original soundtrack from 2003. Like THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING and THE TWO TOWERS Complete Recordings, listening to the these discs straight through is very much like watching the films with the screen off. When compared to the original soundtrack release, this listening experience is completely new. Sans the dialogue and sound effects, it feels like a brand new score. With each successive listen, I find little moments sprinkled throughout that have gone unnoticed before due to the film's audio mix or because my attention is completely focused elsewhere when viewing or even because the music was edited out of the film entirely!

Disc 1, contains some 57 minutes of music which carries us from the momentarily tranquil beginnings of the film through to one of the highest music moments of any of the films- "The Lighting of the Beacons" (15).  As with so many of the pieces included on this set, "The Lighting of the Beacons" is greatly extended from the original soundtrack version.  Beyond what "The White Tree" on the o.s.t.  delivers, this extended track goes on to include a favorite musical moment of mine - the bold and determined quote of the Rohan theme as King Theoden chooses to answer Gondor's call.  An excellent choice to end disc 1 as it begs you to move on to the next.

Disc 2, expands on the running time of disc 1 by some almost 10 minutes, reaching 66. Contrasted with the content of disc 1, the tone of the music becomes decidedly more somber and dark - mirroring the film, of course. Within this disc we experience the Orc invasion and defeat of the Gondorians at Osgiliath, the rejection of Faramir by Denethor, the rejection of Sam by Frodo, Aragorn and the Army of the Dead, and Gollum's trap within the lair of Shelob.  Thankfully, we aren't left to despair as we are caught up in the Shore's musical perils.  A bit of hope is restored at the conclusion of the disc 2 with "Merry's Simple Courage" (14).  The gutsy brass prepares us for "the plunge" into thick of things found on the next disc.

Disc 3 finds Shore starting to bring THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy to its musical peak. At about 59 minutes, disc 3 contains the most intense music of the film. Each fracture of the fellowship now faces their own dilemmas, thus affording Shore a multitude of opportunities to really "let 'er rip." Such moments include: Sam's duel with Shelob, the Battle of Pelennor Fields, Theoden and Denethor's deaths, Cirith Ungol, and the events leading up to the final confrontation between the heroes and the Dark Lord Sauron and his minions.  Traveling through the tracks of this disc is a true roller coaster as we feel the despair of Denethor, then the triumphant charge of the Rohirrim, to the darkness of Frodo and Sam's travail through the plains of Gorgoroth.  Once again the producers do not leave us alone and defenseless before the great hordes of Sauron, but instead end the disc with uncertain triumph in "For Frodo."  By far, the exclusion of this piece was my greatest disappointment with the original soundtrack, but now we have that blessed, choral statement of the fellowship theme!  I could die a happy man with that brief moment reverberating in my ears and soul...but of course the story does not end there.

Disc 4 is only 45 minutes long. Comparatively short, but oh what a 45 minutes of music! Here we have the final defeat of Sauron and the tale's conclusion (some would say "conclusions" due to the films very long denouement). From the death of Gollum, the fall of the dark tower, Barad Dur, to the departing of the ringbearers from the Grey Havens - disc 4 delivers the most emotional music of this and perhaps the other two films as well.  The zenith of the film is heard in "Mount Doom" (1) and "The Crack of Doom" (2).  The choir is let loose to belt out the ring theme, introduced so long ago, in the prologue of THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, but now it plays over the final struggle between Frodo and Gollum.  The intensity turns to innocent bliss as Gollum finally obtains his prize and the massive choir gives way to the sweet voice of Renee Fleming.  One last choral charge is taken as Frodo makes one last struggle for the ring and finally Gollum clutches his precious in his death-fall.  From that moment, the score takes its final turn toward resolution and Howard Shore delivers a sort of triumphant relief.  Victory is won.  A new peace is restored, but at a great cost to the hero. From the "Crack of Doom" (2) to "Days of the Ring" (7) Shore soulfully leads us on Frodo's final emotional journey and we cannot help but follow him. 

The final track of this release is the stellar "Bilbo's Song" (8). This beautiful piece was written by Howard Shore specifically for the end credits of the RETURN OF THE KING: EXTENDED EDITION DVD and is warmly performed by The Oratory School Schola Boys Choir. A wonderful coincidence - ending this series with a song focused on Bilbo.  Bilbo is, of course, the central figure of THE HOBBIT, and as I write this review, there is much ado over the possibility of THE HOBBIT finally becoming a Peter Jackson-reality.  If/when THE HOBBIT happens, perhaps we will hear this theme again.  (Recall that last year HOWARD SHORE did mention in our interview with him, that he had already starting toying musical ideas for THE HOBBIT.) 

Now the Complete Recordings series is now, itself, complete and, folks, THE LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING - COMPLETE RECORDINGS is good as it gets.   Yet, even these mammoth releases will satisfy Tolkien and Shore fans forever.  Even before there is any "hobbitizing,"  we will have Doug Adam's book on the trilogy's score and yet another disc of "rarities" from the trilogy.  In the meantime, Warner/Reprise have given our ears something to be thankful for this holiday season so carve out 4 hours from your busy schedule and enjoy!

Rating: 10/10

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Disc 1



Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Roots and Beginnings 6:31  ****
2 Journey to the Crossroads 2:17  ***
3 The Road to Isengard 2:18  ****
4 The Foot of Orthanc 4:44  ****
5 Return to Edoras 1:51  ***
6 The Chalice Passed 1:50  ****
7 The Green Dragon 0:34  ***
8 Gollum's Villany 2:10  ***
9 Eowyn's Dream 1:24  ****
10 The Palantir 3:10  ***
11 Flight from Edoras 2:18  ****
12 The Grace of Undomiel 6:21  *****
13 The Eyes of the White Tower 4:33  ****
14 A Coronel of Silver 8:26  ***
15 The Lighting of the Beacon 9:03  *****
  Total Running Time (approx) 57 minutes  

Disc 2



Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Osgiliath Invaded 8:47  ****
2 The Stairs of Cirith Ungol 2:40  ***
3 Allegiance to Denethor 3:19  ***
4 The Sacrifice of Farimir 4:08  ****
5 The Parting of Sam and Frodo 4:04  ***
6 Marshalling at Dunharrow 4:56  ****
7 Anduril-Flame of the West 3:27  ****
8 The Passing of the Grey Company 4:12  ***
9 Dwimorberg- The Haunted Mountain 2:26  ***
10 Master Meriadoc, Swordthain 1:39  ****
11 The Paths of the Dead 6:22  ***
12 The Siege of Gondor 9:01  ****
13 Shelob's Lair 8:53  ***
14 Merry's Simple Courage 2:08  ***
  Total Running Time (approx) 66 minutes  

Disc 3



Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Grond - The Hammer of the Underworld 1:32  ****
2 Shelob the Great 5:12  ****
3 The Tomb of the Stewards 3:58  ****
4 The Battle of Pelennor Fields 4:10  ****
5 The Pyre of Denethor 2:59  ****
6 The Mumakil 0:57  ****
7 Dernhelm in Battle 2:06  *****
8 "A Far Green Country" 1:27  ****
9 Shieldmaiden of Rohan 5:07  ****
10 The Passing of Theoden 2:16  ****
11 The Houses of Healing 2:58  ***
12 The Tower of Cirith 4:41  ***
13 The Last Debate 4:21  ****
14 The Land of Shadow 6:29  ****
15 The Mouth of Sauron 8:15  ****
16 "For Frodo" 3:16  *****
  Total Running Time (approx) 59 minutes  

Disc 4



Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Mount Doom 4:09  ****
2 The Crack of Doom 4:01  *****
3 The Eagles 2:23  *****
4 The Fellowship Renunited 12:18  *****
5 Journey to the Grey Havens 7:34  *****
6 Elanor 1:27  ****
7 Days of the Ring 11:09  *****
8 Bilbo's Song 2:57  *****
  Total Running Time (approx) 45 minutes  




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