· Produced By: Hobbit
· Running Time: 74.00
· Release Date: Out Now
· Released: US
· Genre: Progressive / 70's /
· LabelLink: Hobbit
CD REVIEW: By Lee Bradfield
Thanks to Lee for the use of this review, composed for GloryDaze.com. See that site for an excellent Hobbit feature in 3 parts.
Hobbit - All For The One
(2003 / Midwest Records)
Gene Fields (vocals / guitars / keys), Paul "Turk" Henry (vocals / bass / guitar / narration), Richard Hill (lead guitar / keys), Rusty Honeycutt (drums)
It's been 18 years of silence, almost two decades since Hobbit recorded a batch of original songs in 1985. To come back after all this time, surely nothing less than a classic would seem worthwhile to them. Then again, why settle for just "classic" ? This 74 minute concept album experience redefines the term "masterpiece" by taking the listener through not just the letter but the spirit of the Lord Of The Rings, which has been the subject of concept albums before - but never like this ...
As you'd expect with Hobbit, the intro is nothing you could've predicted a grumpy troll expressing his appetite for a hobbit shinbone ! Then running directly into the launch song Everywhere, an anthem for the ages full of all the ingredients that make AOR the treasured genre it is - anthemic melody and hook combination over a powerful 4/4 bedrock of drumming, thrilling from start to finish. Flowing directly into In The Shire, a sweet and short pomp rocker at midtempo, devoted to the joys of living in the Shire just before the great threat. Trademark Hobbit melodies abound, paving the way for Turk's chilling spoken introduction to Nazgul, a menacing slice of Dio-esque rock, all power riffs and big melodies despite the ominous vocal delivery from Turk, bringing across the threatening subject matter with conviction. There And Back Again ushers in the first of many finely crafted gentle acoustic based tracks, bringing through the mystical / minstrel style that Hobbit can call on at will. This particular gem focuses on setting the scene for the journey to begin, and features a rocking uptempo middle section with flute adding a Celtic flavour to good effect. The Wind And The Way is similar in style, but a little more laid back with ethereal tendencies. It's a beautiful tribute to Tolkien for having created a separate world for our imaginations to to wander into.
One More Time is another clear highlight on display, one of many. Travelling between ethereal and power ballad, this is what we could consider the blueprint for "fantasy rock" - melodic, powerful and mystical yet another string to the AOR bow. Hey Bombadil is a different creature entirely, built around nothing less than a dulcimer and filled with atmosphere from the book (whistles, frogs and some quotes from Tom B himself), it's an advanced master class in acoustic based melody, recalling the very best Kansas had to offer. From Turk's shadowy spoken intro you're aware of darkness to come, and Echoes In Mirkwood certainly delivers sounding creepy and intimidating yet always musical, Turk sings the courage right out of you with some chilling delivery and inflection. Respite is at hand though, with Rivendell celebrating a place of strength and hope via Kansas-like tempo changes and melodies, yet it sounds like only Hobbit could deliver it. Grand Departure is an instrumental pomp rock workout of the highest order, showing Styx how it's really done. Mines Of Durin is the very darkness under the mountains come to life ominous and intimidating, and by design slightly less melodic to better suit the subject matter.
After the brief instrumental Lothlorien takes us to a lighter place (complete with phonetic lessons from Treebeard !), Whispers Of Gollum perfectly captures the divided scheming mind of Smeagol / Gollum, again more ominous than melodic, as required. Beyond The River returns us to the ethereal acoustic based style established earlier, full of subtle melody and reflective lyrics considering the dangers that wait across the Anduin River. After a stirring spoken intro, Destiny Chaser launches into a midtempo AOR classic recalling Survivor and Franke & The Knockouts. The chorus is especially powerful, showing their capacity for classy 80's hooks, and demonstrating just how to weave a vocal attack around them. Gene is once again in fine vocal form, combining the silky and powerful aspects of his voice for an absolute winner. The spoken intro to Witchking is truly menacing, possibly delivered by Sauron himself in the black tongue ? Witchking commences with a wicked hook and powerhouse vocals from Turk, remaining mostly within the minor chords yet melodic throughout. Special mention must be made of the instrumental break, encompassing guitar work from Rick that ventures into anthemic Iron Maiden territory, and fierce double bass drumming from Rusty to challenge even Metallica at their own game.
Thoughts Of Frodo is a gentle minstrel piece of pure class, imbued with classical influence and over all too soon. Gene remains at the mike for Emptiness, another mystical excursion fusing acoustic and electric guitars with inventive drums. Next up is In Mordor, a Hobbit classic from 1978/9, re-recorded here. As he did of old, Turk narrates the hair-raising spoken intro, surpassing the original narrative with deep inflections and tones that only the years bring. The song has been remodelled, toughened up and injected with a fierce power that will amaze all who know the original. Turk sings lead on this daunting new version, in keeping with the Gene / light, Turk / dark approach to vocals on this disc. Most importantly, the classic melody is unchanged and flourishing in it's new sonic surrounds - even the beloved Kansas-styled break in the middle part sounds as good as ever. Farewells is a downtempo slice of grand / classical pomp rock, with melodies to cause chill bumps. Gene's beloved vocals are stamped all over this too short stunner, and it's easy to picture him singing with his trademark smile as he did when delivering "Changes" to a packed arena in Palestine, Texas all those (20) years ago. Hobbit have always been able to end a recorded work with considerable style, and the years have changed nothing - Last To The Havens combines all the bittersweet sadness and heartache of the final chapter, and sets it to music that chills the spine, with words sure to affect anyone with a heart in his chest.
There are so many additional virtues, added sound effects and quotes, and general atmosphere that cannot all be mentioned in one short review. Also, it's good to leave some surprises for the listener to discover. For now, let's just say that Hobbit are not only back, they're on the throne of pomp AOR.
It must also be noted that Richard's wife Tammy made large contributions on flute, keys and arrangements.
All For The One can be ordered through http//www.cdbaby.com/cd/hobbit3 , the official Hobbit website, to ensure you encounter no delay in getting your copy.
Rating - 98
Pro's - concept albums will forever be compared to this disc from now forward
Con's - the track Farewells is too short
Composed by Lee Bradfield
Artist /Album Details
Hobbit began some years ago (1st Age) when 'Turk' (Bass/Vocals) and Gene (Vocals/R.Guitar) sparked a vision to make music. The combination of similar rock-n-roll influences, and the powerful attraction (and living in) to J.R.R. Tolkiens's Middle Earth, opened the way to a style everyone called "Fantasy Rock"?!
The addition of Rusty Honeycutt, and his artistic "drumworks", rounded out this then 3-piece band. When Richard Hill (L.Guitar/Keyboards) came into the "fold", the Fellowship was complete, and the vision became a reality. It was during this period that the project titled "Join The Celebration" was recorded in a 10'x20' storage room, converted to a studio in Gene's smial. This recording contains the bulk of the "Fantasy/Tolkien" oriented songs that made up the "roots" of Hobbits' style. One day, the band hopes to either, re-record this project, or release it as is?! After some time, Rusty left the band and was replaced by the very solid drumming of Keith Young, bringing a close to the 1st Age, and ushering in the 2nd Age.
A couple of years later, after drawing a very successful regional following, they were advised by Robin Hood Brians (recorded ZZ Top's first few albums) to become a little more mainstream, than singing about Mordor, Wizards, Rings, Nazgul, and Hobbits! The results, were songs like "Love Is Forever", "Take Me Tonight", "Need Your Love", and "'Til I Get You Back", and a 45 done there, of "Love Is Forever" and (flip-side) "Take Me Tonight". Although they have never lost, nor will ever lose, the fantasy side of their roots, as seen in "Midyear's Eve", "Two Feet Tall", "Intensity", and "Up And Down", they have a variety of musical styles that should provide something for everyone, in the Melodic/Pomp Rock, AOR vein.
"Two Feet Tall" (the CD) was beginning to take on shape. Soon after, B.S.A. took the band to New York, where the recording (done at Wizard studios and mixed at The Record Plant) turned a dream into a reality (2nd Age). During this time, along with many self-produced concerts and countless club dates, Hobbit opened for such acts as: Cheap Trick, Loverboy, Nightranger, Quiet Riot, Axe, Iron Butterfly, and Humble Pie (a huge thank you to Mikel Leff/Beaver Prod. for most of those!). They were also featured on Q-102 and Zooberry LP's out of Dallas/Ft.Worth, including substantial air-play of "Midyear's Eve" and "Need Your Love" from those respective radio stations.
Due to legal problems, "Two Feet Tall" has remained "vaulted/shelved" until now! Hobbit invites you to join the growing family, share some scones, ale, and relax afterwords with some LongBottom Leaf, colourful smoke rings, and some AORock, with the hopes that you will enjoy this unique blend of music and fantasy from the land of the "little people"?!
NOTES ABOUT THE SONGS IN “ALL FOR THE ONE”
We spent over two years writing and recording this project. It didn't start out as a vision of what it became. We just wanted to write and record, and it's odd how everything seemed to take shape into the entire piece. Early in 2002, we got the vision to create a non-stop total creation with all the dialog. We used a couple of Roland 1880's and worked both together and separately on the songs. All but one song was built around a click track. You can imagine the challenge to maintain track sheets and data with two separate recording studios. Anyway, we evolved into a very productive lifestyle over this period, and kind of surprised ourselves. So each song was it's own file and eventually ended up as a stereo mix. A new file called “collection” was created and each song mix was placed into it in the proper location. All of the dialog, sound effects, etc were then added to the collection, to tie everything together. We then downloaded each usable track from each song and from the collection, into the system at Rosewood Studio in Tyler Texas (Over 700!). With the superb help of JB Patterson, we were able to optimize the sounds, tightness, dynamics, and overall flow to the final version. Hundreds of iterations to song mixes, collection locations, effects, etc, etc were made to get AFTO where it is.
Turk and Gene pretty much write the lyrics to the songs that they sing, although there is always helpful input from both sides. Gene's are the lighter and Turk's are the darker songs and lyrics. Gene's lyric and phrasing style is generally more mystical and uses metaphors here and there, to relate to our own lives. Turk's lyric style is more descriptive and filled with the lore of Middle Earth. This contrast lends itself to the inherent themes within Tolkien's work. In addition to his lead vocals, Turk is the storyteller or narrator throughout the journey. It's something we started long ago, even in concerts. Besides these parts, he also did a great rendition of orcs, ents, wizards, and even Sauron himself (digital effects helped a little!). If you're good, you can decipher every one of these. Anyway, here are some random thoughts about each song's creation and recording.
The beginning to the CD is certainly bazaar, but we wanted to establish up front that this is not a typical project. Turk had been saying this phrase for a month or so; we just had to find a place to put it. The song started out as an acoustic piece over at Turk's one evening. Turk had the initial riff, and Gene pretty much wrote the rest. As the song developed and we added the electric guitars, it was apparent that it had a lot of punch. Turk actually played the lead guitar, but Richard added the stuff at the end. Gene did the lead vocals and keyboards. Turk's vocal lines weave around Gene's real well. It's almost like two lead singers. One of the last things we did was to spotlight that goofy line “when you had more hair”. It's a real good opening song, yesssss?
IN THE SHIRE
The whisper “open the book” turned out to be a classy transition, with a lot of meaning. Part of this song actually started out in about 1979, as another title, and never finished. Turk just kept pushing to get this one in the collection. Gene added the beginning parts and wrote new lyrics in Tolkien style. We edited the song into two minutes, and it flows well. Here's the first place where we reference previous Hobbit songs – “it's time we get two feet tall”. Again, Turk's vocal parts really added dynamics to Gene's.
The intro to this song is the first of Turk, the storyteller, that goes throughout the entire work. Here's another one that has roots back in the early years, but done quite differently now. It's the first heavy driving song, and is a good fit here. Turk's vocals are very powerful and spooky at the same time. It's also the first of many songs that we modified some vocal sounds, by shifting the pitch real low. Richard did all of the guitar work on this one, with many layers of the J Station sound; and it's Richard's best lead work.
THERE AND BACK AGAIN
Gene came up with this one, and it's a very Yes influenced song with an unexpected middle part. The lyrics are a bit reflective and laid back, with a catchy melody. Kind of makes all of us want to be “under the trees on Bagshot Row”. The Tull influence in the middle part takes off into almost a new song, but the glide back into the last chorus is cool. Thank goodness for click tracks. Gene did the guitars and keyboards on this one. The line “when Saturday comes we'll take a walk in the woods, and make up a song” is reflective of that day in McAndrew's Wood when Gene and Turk came up with “Through The Looking Glass”. The last line flows into Turk's dialog as the theme of AFTO.
WIND AND THE WAY
Richard came up with most of the music part of this one, and it dates back to the first few songs we wrote after the reunion started in late 00. For a long time, this was like the flagship of our project. Richard did the guitars and Tammy added some great keyboards. The chorus has a kind of Pink Floyd feel. Turk's bass lines are hypnotic in this one, as well as some great background vocal parts. Gene's lyrics and vocals are intended to make the point that we all need a fantasy adventure, a voyage to a magical place, and that the works of JRRT are the wind and the way. Pick it up and read it! Rusty's drums are elegant and powerful. The melodic part after the first chorus was actually created last, and was kind of inspired by Michel LeGrand's “Summer of 42”. In the end, Gene's flute part is one of many transition pieces between songs, and surprisingly leads to:
ONE MORE TIME
This is also one of the early 12 string guitar songs written after the Hobbit reunion began. The lyrics tell of being settled in the Shire, as many of us are, only to rekindle the desire to have an adventure one more time. Gene created this one, and did all the guitar work. The middle part is another venture into a dramatic melodic change, only to realize “there I stood before that fire, but I could not decide”. Sometimes it's a great perspective in a song to write it in first person. The vocal crescendo at the very end was Turk's idea. We struggled with producing this song, but like the way it turned out.
This may be the most unusual song in the whole AFTO collection. Turk and Richard constantly ribbed Gene when he came up with it, that it was like a washboard jig band from West Virginia, but we all like the way it came out. It's introduced by the frog choir, of course. Gene played the 12 string, keyboards, and a real dulcimer. Turk's bass parts are very catchy. Rusty's percussion really set the song apart, although it took several takes to get it right. How about the reference to “Intensity”? The bird whistle was the same one used in “Television”, but that big bullfrog is a first. It kinda lands in your lap! The Tull influenced lead break is quite unique. The “old man willow” line that Turk added is a hoot, after shifting the pitch down. One of the last things we added were the whistling parts, and held Turk at gunpoint to do them while we all fell out. All in all, it's a bizarre song about a bizarre character in the book.
ECHOS IN MIRKWOOD
The storyteller provides a good transition into the darkest creapiest song in the collection, after all that's how Mirkwood is. Richard came up with most of the music in this one, with fusion, lyrics, and vocals from Turk. Richard did all of the guitar and keyboard work in melodic fashion. The intro into the lead guitar solo is a good hook. We have both real cello and guitar synthesizer cello in this one (see the liner notes). The middle part gets hypnotic, and the sounds of woods and creatures throughout make this one it's own adventure. It ends with Turk's trademark growling and laugh!
Out of the darkness and into the light – what better place than this. We tried to pick an order for the songs that followed a chronology as well as balanced the whole collection, and there were many iterations to this order. Richard came up with the initial chord pattern, and Gene the chorus of Rivendell on the first night of our reunion back in October 2000, but it was a while before we actually began writing the song. Gene tends to build lyrics with metaphors, and this one's a good example. “It's not too far away” means simply that it's in the book. Both Gene and Richard played guitars and keyboards. The part after the first chorus is very classical influenced, and a direction that Gene explores the most. That party in the middle is reminiscent of “Midyear's Eve”, and is one of our favorite parts. Bet you can't understand all of it!
This transition piece of pomp rock music provided a good path to get from the lighter Rivendell to the darkness of Moria. Initially it's a Yes influence, and smoothly moves into a driving groove. The panned echo parts before and after this one are so easy with digital recording! The last thing we did with this piece was to add the Orc curse.
MINES OF DURIN
Richard and Turk wrote this one entirely, and it is a powerful song. Turk's lyrics and vocals really take the listener through that frightening journey in style. Richard's guitar work is some of the best on the collection, especially that melody at the ending. We took all of Turk's vocals through the J Station, to give it that dark power. Most of the time that we recorded together, we had a blast. This is the song where Turk discovered his perfect “Barliman singing drink” – Jack Daniels and Sierra Mist.
Here's another musical transition, that Richard produced. He used a Martin 6 string for this piece, and the sound is excellent. Turk's bass lines are a great compliment to the melodic patterns with the keys. Tammy added the keys. Check out the Ent voice, and see if you can decipher, it's a description of the place. This one flows seamlessly into Whispers, with the help of that thunder.
WHISPERS OF GOLLUM
Rusty actually initiated the writing of this song, but the musical contribution is mostly Richard and Turk's. After singing “Elven tongue” for months, Gene finally wrote the lyrics. Richard's guitar sounds and patterns give the song a groove like no other in the collection. The fast parts in the middle provide a good contrast, like the vocal blending of Turk's verses and choruses. What a great performance he had imitating Gollum's talking in the middle part – we just about fell out that night. While we were still writing the song, Rusty added some hilarious rap in that part. We flipped it backward and it's perfect. We tried to capture the ultimate schizoid, Gollum, in this song and did pretty good.
BEYOND THE RIVER
Gene came up with this one. The riff on 12 string kind of set the whole song up and it was written in a very short time. His lyrics and vocals have a mystical feel that sets the song apart. Kind of odd having three minor chords in a row isn't it? Actually, part of the song started out as something called “Fallen”, about the Pelanor Fields. Anyway, the keyboard parts really take this one to a different level, and were done by Richard, Gene, and Tammy. Richard's lead guitar parts have a very unique sound for the project, and fit the style of this song well. Finally, the ending has a “low spark” flavor and is pretty unique for Hobbit. Turk added some cool percussion into this part, especially the odd tambourine hits.
This one was also born on the 12 string Yamaha and has some good dynamics. The electric guitar parts and drums really make this a nice melodic rocker. This is one of only about 5 that we cut live with the drums. The lyrics are about Eowyn, and it's interesting how she seemed to fit into where they were going even before there was a theme. She couldn't stand to wait on it; she chased it, remember? The bell and backward cymbol are good subtle effects. Richard's guitar solo is real melodic. Turk's vocals and whispers weave real good with Gene's lead vocal.
The intro to this song is pretty dramatic, with the “monk voices”, something that Turk and Tammy created. The voice of Sauron started out as just 'ole Turk, but JB found a really good pitch effect to give it that evil sound. This one is another Richard and Turk creation, and is a driver. That guitar riff at the beginning is a good hook. The lyrics are great in this one, and in Turk's style, true to the lore. It was a memorable night when he recorded the vocal tracks in this song. All of Richard's guitar work, like the others, is in stereo through the J Station. The many tracks blend together into a good overall sound. Rusty had a good night recording the drum tracks too.
THOUGHTS OF FRODO
Another one minute transition song, this one starts with a Rachmaninov piano melody. It's another one that was written in a single inspirational evening. Gene played it all but the bass, which Turk created in his melodic style. The lyrics are very reflective and hopefully capture how Frodo must have felt at the time. Originally this led into Emptiness, but we liked the overall balance better here.
This one was written at the same time as “Hey Bombadil”, believe it or not. We haven't done many songs in ¾ time, and it's a fresh feel for the project. The guitar solo and chorus fills are a real addition to the song. The pauses and repeats in the last chorus were Turk's idea, and we like the way this one turned out. The keyboard parts are subtle, but add a lot. Gene's lyrics and vocal provide a lot of dynamics to an otherwise mello song. Again there is a little classical melody in the middle part; this time from Dvorak. One of the last changes we made to Emptiness was the cello accents in the verse riff.
This song was written back in January of 1978, and included on our “Join The Celebration” release; but produced much better for this project. We felt that it fit AFTO so well that we had to record it again in 2003 style, with Turk doing the lead vocal. The dialog before this one was his first effort in this area. Back in the early days, when we played this song, Turk wore a huge wizard hat and it was a hoot on stage. We actually rewrote the verse parts in this version, to better fit Turk's vocal style. That middle instrumental part was obviously inspired by Kansas, and has always been one of our favorite parts. Richard's guitar work is great on this one, but it's Turk's vocal that sets it apart. Gene's added chorus part at the end was not part of the original version, and may be the catchiest piece in the collection. To be honest, it was a real struggle to produce this song because we wanted to give it Turk's vocal dynamics but still keep Gene's melodic style. We like the way it turned out.
Here's the final transition “songlet”, beginning with a melody from Mendelssohn. His “Hibrides Overture” was about the sea, and oddly turned out to be a great introduction to “Havens”. Anyway, from here it escalates through oboes and cellos into a heavy guitar piece that at one time was the beginning to “Faggots in The Fire”. Only Hobbit fans from way back will remember this. The ending swirl of guitars and pick drags settles into the ocean sounds that set up the final song.
LAST TO THE HAVENS
We always thought of this song as the ending to this entire creation. Richard came up with most of the music to this one in early 2001, and it's beautiful. He and Tammy added most of the great keyboard parts, and this song is a statement because of it. It's the only one done without a click track. This may be Turk's most outstanding bass work of any song. Gene's lyrics and melody present a fitting end to AFTO, right there at the Havens. Everyone declared his ad libs in the middle part to be “Motown”! Each of us share the same opinion: our favorite part of All for The One is the last 15 seconds. That melody with the bells leaves you motionless, as the ocean dies out. We struggled to come up with a final whisper that provided an emotional but triumphant ending. It was Turk who discovered the contrast to Gene's earlier one by simply saying “close the book”.