Howard Shore

CD Review: Howard Shore – Collector’s Edition Vol. 1

It’s LORD OF THE RINGS week here in New York City and I’m Shore-ing myself up with the music of Howard Shore all week in anticipation of the FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING concert on Saturday. As part of the press junket for the event, Howard appeared at Barnes & Noble last weekend to talk with Doug Adams about LOTR and promote a new series of COLLECTOR’S EDITION releases on his Howe Records label. Another benefit of Shore’s appearance was a chance to get ahold of the disc 10 days before street date. (There are days I really do love living in New York City!)

Album series producer Jonathan Schultz went into Shore’s “vault” and uncovered thousands of recordings–film music, concert pieces, chamber music, and songs–that had never been released in any form. If you look at the track listing, you’d be hard pressed to guess what was inside. Shore said that was done purposefully because he wanted it to be a “surprise.” VOL. 1 consists of selections from two film scores from the mid-1980s, both of which showcase Shore as both musician and performer, as well as his experimentations with synthesizers and computer samples and effects.

The first four tracks feature music from Martin Scorcese’s cult film, AFTER HOURS (1985). The steady ticking sound, the groove of the arpeggiated accompaniment, and the hollow sound of the computer and synthesizer samples provide the perfect backdrop to Paul Hackett’s (Griffin Dunne’s) wild night in New York City “after hours.”

Howard Shore's Collector's Edition Vol. 1

The final track is a 4-minute snippet from Shore’s score for Diane Keaton’s 1987 documentary about the afterlife, HEAVEN. Arpeggiated lines and celestial “voices” underline the music’s synthesized feel. Of all the tracks on the disc, this track comes closest to the harmonies of Shore’s work in Middle-Earth. Think LORD OF THE RINGS as written by Vangelis. (Oddly enough, I mean that as a compliment!)

Filling out the rest of the disc are seven jazz-inflected pieces that revolve around a coffee theme. With titles like “Espresso,” “Macchiato,” and “Decaf,” much of the “Coffee Suite” (for lack of a better name for it, since Shore never officially names it in the liner notes) sounds as close to acoustic film music as anything on the disc. Shore combines jazz with the computer and synthesizer samples, as well as some lovely orchestral passages and instrumental solos. These tracks are as welcome as a Sunday morning cup o’ Joe.

Jonathan Schultz should be applauded for his mastering efforts. The tracks sound like they were recorded last week. For fans of Shore’s music who are most familiar with his LORD OF THE RINGS scores (like myself), this disc provides a refreshing cleansing of the musical palette. If nothing else, it reminds us that Shore had a career prior to LOTR and will continue to enrich the world of film music once that segment of his career is finished. Click here for more audio samples.

Shore said that he had 30 or more film scores that haven’t been released, as well as his other unheard music, so “there’s plenty more to come.” Bring it on!

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