As most of us already know, the Professor's written work has so permeated the culture that references to it abound absolutely everywhere. All a person has to do is to keep their eyes and ears open, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the world of music. There are literally hundreds of musical recordings out there which are based on Tolkien's works and characters, and quite a few of them are epic and well worth collecting. Nevertheless, most professionally published fan music only obliquely references its source, so most LOTR-based recordings, with some exceptions, are more circumspect than this ambitious 2004 album.
Perhaps because of the boldness of its title, no performer's names or other identifying features are listed on the CD flyer except for "Jason Bouwman Illustration," which designed the cover art-- there isn't even a publisher's address. But the performers on this disc are highly inspired professionals, and include an acoustic guitarist, a pianist/synth player, a drummer, vocalists, an impressive choir and at least one very good composer.
The disc, which is not available as a download, is composed of ten tracks. EDIT: The disc IS available as a download, here!
1. "Sing Hey" This beautiful piece reminds me of Rivendell, with a capable singer, and an acoustic guitar performing lovely chords which evoke the "sehnsucht" recently described to some of us by sartorias
-- the emotion of deep longing which we feel while witnessing great beauty. An interesting interlude in the midst of the piece contrasts with the rest, sounding a bit like Gollum creeping past an otherwise lovely scene.
2. "Gandalf" begins with a choir singing in a style totally befitting this character's power, majesty and dignity-- perhaps illustrating his origin as one of the Maiar. Then synthesizers, electric guitars and drums enter the picture, and we are given a tense, action-filled overview of the wizard's adventures. A lingering interlude with a female choir suggests his healing in Lorien, and this is followed by an unusually jazzy moment of gloom-and-doom before he sets out again on his epic journey.
3. "Fog on the Barrow Downs" begins with a tentative, contemporary synth composition which segues into a bit of slightly dated soft rock. Then comes a pleasant, rollicking medieval interlude, played on period instruments, which reminds me of Bree. Modern instruments eventually enter to strengthen the backbone of the melody, but before long we've left town and are on the road again, accompanied by the same synthesizers with which we began.
4. "I Sang of Leaves of Gold" features the same singer and guitarist who we heard on the first track, making it easy to visualize Galadriel wandering among the trees of Lorien.
5. "Ever On and Ever Goes the Road" is a piece my Frodo/Sam "radar" finds extremely interesting. (I could write an entire essay on "plausible deniability" regarding the treatment of my favorite pairing by fan music-- and maybe someday I will.) Anyway, this composition sounds like them to me, as they begin their long march down to Mordor and beyond from the heights of the Emyn Muil. It's quite unusual, consisting of a long, call-and-response "conversation" between two synthetic violins superimposed over a steady synth pedal which unambiguously illustrates weary marching feet. (Violins are a favorite among fan musicians when they wish to illustrate the sweetness of Sam and Frodo.) There are a few brief moments of discord, and many lovely displays of harmony; times when their melodies run parallel to one another, and times when they despair; and the piece is long enough to be quite satisfying. Though (by design) it is not particularly beautiful or flashy, by the music's end I always feel as though I have been honored to have had such an intimate journey with these, the most humble of heroes.
6. "The Riders of Theoden" Probably the weakest track on the disc, this composition still begins impressively enough with the choir and the sounds of a horse running in circles. A grating synth entering the background does not appeal, but this quickly turns into a lively keyboard composition representing great deeds. Then back to the choir we go for more drama.
7. "Annon Edhellen" This exquisite composition tends to bring tears to my eyes, and is rich in the aforementioned "sehnsucht." It's the one I can't forget, and it is the most beautiful composition on this disc. I don't know which part of LOTR the composer was thinking of when this was written-- perhaps they were thinking of several scenes at once, or the beauty of the book in general. But when I listen to this, I see Frodo and Bilbo standing at the prow of their swan ship, laying their eyes on that "far green country" beyond the Sundering Seas for the very first time. And the final chord does not return to the root, but leaves us hanging, for the road goes ever on...
8. "Party at Bag End" And do hobbits know how to party! This piece begins with the eager anticipation of a chatting crowd, quickly adding a touch of sparkly chimes and a magic flute before diving into a robust, rollicking, vaguely medieval-sounding celebration. But a thread of tension runs through this celebration, as though it is to be taken more seriously than it appears. At its climax we are having a blast, with a rock-and-roll band showing us this is one heck of a party; but a brief interlude of plucked strings and flute also illustrates someone tiptoeing out the door...
9. "One Ring" The disc's second weakest composition, this piece has a strong melody but IMHO suffers at the beginning from a mishmash of instrumentation, including a synth that almost sounds like a light saber. Still, much of it stands strongly, so your mileage may vary. The tune at its height is very dramatic.
10. "Bilbo's Song" is haunting and lovely, a beautiful, sad, sehnsucht-filled melodic collaboration between a very good saxophone player and an equally good pianist. It's too bad we may never find out who the performers were.
Overall, I would give "Lord of the Rings" a solid A+. However, be advised that this piece is not as rarified as the lofty works by the Tolkien Ensemble, or "In Elven Lands." This is lovely and innovative pop music. I consider it an important part of my collection.
As far as I can tell, the disc has two editions, with different cover art for each. It is not overly easy to locate and may require some online searching. The only way to positively I.D. it is to check the track listings. I've seen it on several big name websites at wildly varying prices; I got mine from eBay for $1.99.
EDIT: Here is a photo of my edition, to aid in identification.