On Rare Tolkien CDs

Last weekend at Farpoint this Tolkien fan found something that excited him — the soundtrack to the Rankin/Bass Hobbit on CD.

It was pricey — $40.00 — but I knew I had to have it. It’s the Rankin/Bass Hobbit! I love the Rankin/Bass Hobbit!

The vendor told me that he had the soundtrack to the Rankin/Bass Return of the King on CD back in his warehouse. Same price, and I decided that, yes, I had to have that as well. These were imports from Australia (though even my Google-fu skills are failing me in finding where they came from). I filled out the paperwork, and on Thursday, when I got home from work, I had the package in the mail.

The CDs aren’t quite what I was expecting. I was hoping for CDs of the Glenn Yarbrough songs — “The Greatest Adventure,” “Frodo of the Nine Fingers,” etc. — but instead they’re something far more interesting.

They’re the storybook records that Buena Vista put out for the two animated films.

The Hobbit CD is the two record version of it, not the edited down one record version.

The storybook records, of which I had the one for The Hobbit when I was small, were taken from the film soundtrack, with the songs and the dialogue together, creating what’s basically an audio book.

The Hobbit CD, which runs close to eighty minutes in length, is missing very little from the animated film; the main cut comes in the scenes set in Rivendell.

The Return of the King, which is less than 40 minutes long, though, has none of the songs I wanted to hear. There’s no “Frodo of the Nine Fingers,” no “It’s So Easy Not To Try,” no “Leave Tomorrow ‘Til It Comes.” Even “Where There’s a Whip, There’s a Way” is left to a rocking disco beat with none of the lyrics. It’s not until the final few moments that we finally get to hear from my favorite Lord of the Rings character, the Minstrel of Gondor, with “The Road Goes Ever On.” Plus, the narrative is somewhat choppy, and some of Gandalf’s narration, which is so powerful in the animated movie, is lost.

Yes, I know that many people consider the Rankin/Bass Return of the King an abomination, but I adore the thing. I always have, and this review covers a lot of the reasons for why I have such fond memories of it.

I love Glenn Yarbrough’s work in both movies, and I really am not kidding when I say that I have a great fondness for the Minstrel of Gondor. I was disappointed that we didn’t hear “Frodo of the Nine Fingers” in Peter Jackson’s The Return of the King, and I hope to hear “The Greatest Adventure” somewhere during The Hobbit this year or next.

The thing that comes through most cleanly when listening to the CDs is how remarkably well cast John Huston was as Gandalf. His voice has a gravitas that I’m not even sure that Sir Ian McKellan brings to the role. On the flip side, Casey Kasem in The Return of the King is particularly annoying. :)

I have fond memories of both of these movies. I’m not sorry I spent eighty dollars on these two CDs.

2 thoughts on “On Rare Tolkien CDs

  1. Have you ever run across mp3 versions of the songs from the earlier animated versions of The Hobbit or The Return of the King? Those movies are dear to me and were my first intro of course to the books. I have often searched online for digital versions of the soundtracks but without success.

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