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Soundtrack review: Rocky IV (Vince diCola, 1985)

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Soundtrack review: Rocky IV (Vince diCola, 1985)

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The 80s weekend continues with one for the ages…A legendary movie, a legendary score, and an icon that transcends this decade and will remain forever in popular culture: Rocky Balboa; every man’s hero for six movies, the guy who came from nothing and overcame all the odds to become a champion. This particular installment of the movie is Rocky IV, my favorite of the series, and, for me, the most personal and defining Rocky movie.
The music from Rocky has mostly been associated with the immortal theme composed by Bill Conti and the “Eye of the tiger” song by Survivor, both made famous by earlier Rocky movies. For this movie though, Vince DiCola was hired and he created a score and also helped composed a couple of songs that are now in the playlists of almost everyone who works out or runs. The heroic lyrics, the relentless tempo, the pounding synthesizers and the memory of the training scenes from the movie make for the most motivational cocktail possible. The songs on this soundtrack have all became 80s and sports anthems: “Eye of the tiger”, “Burning heart”, “Hearts on fire” (John Cafferty) and “No easy way out” (Robert Tepper). All of them are a constant presence in my running playlists.
It’s not all fire and energy though. Drago’s theme is dark and unforgiving. The eternal clash between Russia and the US is mirrored in the themes for the two heroes: bleak and restrictive for the Russian, heroic and triumphant for Rocky.  
For me, there’s no music or movie more motivational for training then this one. It’s cliché, I know, but it’s cliché for a reason: it works, pure and simple. You can’t avoid being moved by Rocky’s story, and you would feel ashamed to give up when you listen to this score. And then there’s the crown jewel…the “Training montage”….Such a generic title for the most used work out track in the world…Generic, but brilliant, because this way each of us can be the hero, everyone can feel like Rocky. It’s your training montage. It’s everyone’s training montage. There’s no other cue that can make me forget fatigue, get back in the zone and fly on the road like this one. I’ve ran countless kilometers in the middle of winter, on snow and ice, because of this cue. I especially love the film version of this track, and I’m glad it finally got released, because the scene in the movie is perfect and I can relive it entirely through this version of the track. Rocky is running through the snow, lifting logs, cutting trees, while his rival was training with the most state of the art technology. Rocky is alone, getting back to basics, in touch with nature, going over his limits…and the “Training montage” ends with his reward…seeing his wife Adrian on the steps of the cabin. What more do you need…?
The music of the Rocky saga will live forever. There’s no way you haven’t heard, or hummed, or you can’t recognize a theme or a song from Rocky. And this speaks volumes of the legacy it leaves. And for me, Rocky IV is the one score I’d take on a deserted island  at an isolated mountain farm in the middle of winter. Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren are still fighting together to this day, 30 years later, in the Expendables series.  But it’s their first on screen meeting I will forever remember…
My ratings:
Cue score: 95 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 51 / 54
Album excellence: 95%
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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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