Colin Rudd, Songs of JRR Tolkien (self-released, 2001)  

When I say I'm disappointed with this CD, don't misunderstand me. I'm not disappointed with the singing, or the instrumentation. I mean I am, but not because it isn't good. It's lovely. But somehow, in my head, I just assumed I would be hearing the deep, bell-like voices of elves and gravelly-voiced dwarves and other citizens of Middle Earth singing.

"You what?" you exclaim in disbelief. "How old are you!"

I'm old enough to know better. Obviously, elves and dwarves wouldn't be singing; I realize that now. The dwarves are somewhere underground, I presume. And who ever knows where elves are? Once I got over my unreasonable expectations, I quite liked the CD.

Obviously it is a labor of love. Colin Rudd and Rachael (no last name given) sing with reverent seriousness, while Ben (again, no last name) plays cittern, flutes, whistles, and percussion to give the Celtic-y, New Agey music just the right haunting quality. And what needs to be said about Tolkien's lyrics? Beautifully descriptive, the wondrous tales they tell seem at least as real as the happenings in centuries-old Scottish ballads.

Songs include "Boromir," "The Shadow Bride," the joyful "Song of the Ents," and the mournful "Lament for Gandalf." However, the song the dwarves sing in The Hobbit isn't included. You know, the one that goes "Break the plates..." that they sing while tidying up Bilbo's little house. The song that makes him so uneasy. My husband and I sing this song when we do dishes, and we were looking forward to hearing another interpretation of it.

The liner notes are virtually nonexistent. The lack of a lyric sheet isn't a problem; the words Colin and Rachael sing are easy to understand. But I would have liked a reminder of which book each song came from, or perhaps a brief encapsulation of the events surrounding the song.

All told, though, I am very pleased with this collection. It is a wonderful companion to the novels, and a vivid reminder of Tolkien's dense, green-and-gold prose. I recommend it highly.

[Rebecca Swain]

I discovered a fun Web site, The Tolkien Music List, where you can find lyrics and a discography of many Tolkien-related songs and bands.