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)
Produced by Hobbit
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 pre-ordered at www.hobbitband.com , 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 for www.glory-daze.com