|Hobbit All For The One||Indie|
Review By: Phil Ashcroft|
There's an interesting story attached to Texan pomp merchants Hobbit. Having had their 1st, 2nd & 3rd stabs at fame and fortune between the years of 1977 and 1985, the Tolkien-influenced foursome finally gave up the ghost after a string of record company promises saw recordings languishing in the vaults, seemingly forever.
However, after a 14 year hiatus, the original line-up of Paul Turk Henry (bass, vocals, guitar), Gene Fields (vocals, guitar, keys), Richard Hill (lead guitar, keys), and Rusty Honeycutt (percussion) decided they should finally do something with the music they'd recorded.
The albums Two Feet Tall and Rockin The Shire were remastered and independently released, and two years later with Lord Of The Rings fever at it's highest ever level, the band entered the studio for the first time in 18 years to try to do justice to one of the greatest stories ever told. Their self-styled Fantasy Rock is the perfect vehicle for a project of this type, and while the band have dabbled in Tolkien-esque themes before, this time they ve thrown caution to the wind and jumped in with both big hairy feet!
Lord Of The Rings will no doubt be seen by some as a ridiculous concept to try to set to music, especially as Hobbit have done it complete with narration and a whole host of background noises and character voices. What they ve also managed to do is be faithful to the book (no missing Bombadil's here!), and instil a passion in the lyrics and their delivery that overrides the urge to guffaw, except of course the bits that are meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Even if you can t get into the late 70's/early 80's pomp sound of the band, you can't knock their attention to detail or the phenomenal amount of work that's gone into making this CD such a complete tribute to something that has touched so many.
Musically they're a bit of an enigma. Sounding not a day more modern than Equinox to Grand Illusion era Styx at their heaviest, or Yes/Starcastle at their lightest, while the elitist in me wants to compare them to bands like Rail, The Hunt, and Morningstar. Is that any clearer? I thought not!
A track by track review would be pointless as there are 32 different tracks, 20 of them are individual songs or instrumentals, while some are just dialogue and are untitled. To be honest the style is dictated mostly by which part of the story you're at, and as it's a concept album in the truest sense of the word, there's plenty of scope for light and shade. From the joyful pompy opening of Everywhere and In The Shire, to the serenity of the Eleven cities Rivendell and Lothlorien, and to the depth's of despair in the Mines Of Durin, Echoes of Mirkwood, and In Mordor, all heavier and menacing but no less tuneful. Every piece conveys the appropriate mood, sometimes the folkiness of Jethro Tull or early Heart (The Wind and the Way and Hey Bombadil), and sometimes something far darker and more sinister (Nazgul and Witch King), each one sung in character and with additional spoken voices in the background for atmosphere.
The sheer volume of work that s gone into this is impressive, and made all the more charming by the fact that the narrators can't seem to stay in whatever accent they're supposed to be speaking. But all this would be pointless if there were no songs, and thankfully the guys can write a catchy tune or 10.
There are some standard melodic rock moments among the Gene Fields sung hooks of Everywhere, and especially Destiny Chaser, not to mention the all-too-short and uplifting farewells with it's killer guitar solo, and half-a-dozen or so decent ballads. On the other side of the coin it's the darker Paul Turk Henry vocals, left-field arrangements, and superb basslines of Echoes Of Mirkwood, Mines of Durin and the brilliant Whispers Of Gollum which score the highest.
Lyrically Hobbit have done the books proud with all the relevant character and place names incorporated, and while it s not the best produced album around, it's adequate considering the sheer amount of instrumentation, voices, and background noises that are heavily layered throughout.
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