Film, Reviews

Lost Files: Vince DiCola’s Complete Rocky IV Soundtrack (Review)

July 28, 2010 | | 5 Comments Share thison Facebook Lost Files: Vince DiCola’s Complete Rocky IV Soundtrack (Review)on Twitter

We were shocked (and delighted) to hear that INTRADA Records had decided to release Vince DiCola’s score for Rocky IV back in May. While the film received an official soundtrack release back in the 1980s, it featured mainly licensed music with only a few contributions from Vince DiCola. This means that the majority of DiCola’s score has been lost in the void for nearly 25 years, unavailable outside of the movie-watching experience.

So, is the album’s 32 minutes of music worth the $19.99 price tag we mentioned back in May? Well, one of the most interesting things about this album is that it shows DiCola’s versatility as well as his ability to masterfully work in references to classic Rocky themes from the past, both of which you may have missed if you were only familiar with his two tracks that made the cut for the 1980s soundtrack release.

Hit the jump for more in our review of the Rocky IV Original Motion Picture Score.

The first thing you’re greeted by is an incredibly 80s synth rock arrangement of Bill Conti’s iconic Rocky theme, “Theme From Rocky.” While this version is very bright with some friendly sounding synth lines and belltones, the bass, percussion, and guitar effectively give the track a rock edge. This is an interesting contrast with Conti’s original orchestral theme, and sets the tone for the rest of the album.

We all know one of the coolest things about Rocky IV was Ivan Drago. I got a kick out of the ominous tone found in all of his musical accompaniments. “Drago Suite” works in steam pistons as well as a fat synth bass, both of which reminded me of “Unicron’s Theme” from Transformers. Yes, Ivan Drago is that evil. Later, “Drago’s Entrance” opens with an alarm before familiar piston percussion and chugging synth bass come in, accompanied by startling circus-like synth lines.

While most people know DiCola for his heavy bass and progressive rock sound, he’s certainly capable of a whole lot more, as many of the gentler themes on this album suggest. “Anniversary” is a somewhat melancholy piano ballad that works in the Rocky theme, while “Rocky and Son,” sporting similar instrumentation, is a touching piece that actually references “Training Montage,” which I’ll talk about later, and I find it odd that I never picked up on the reference while watching the movie. “Apollo’s Death and Funeral” goes from terrifying to mournful, again showing DiCola’s sentimental side, while “Gym” goes in another directing, taking a smooth jazz approach with side stick percussion, rich electric piano chords, and a funky bass line. One of my favorite departure’s is the initially ominous “Paulie’s Robot” that quickly gives way to a playful techno melody and a robotic vocal of “Happy birthday, Paulie!” It’s only 45 seconds long, but it’s a lot of fun.

Now, let’s talk about “Training Montage.” This track was featured on the original soundtrack release along with “War”( both are used frequently for sporting events all around the world), and is one of the pieces most associated with DiCola’s work on Rocky IV. It’s also the longest track on the album at 5:13, starting with droning pads and dark ambiance before launching into powerful synth rock with chugging percussion and an epic brass synth melody. Try your own workout listening to this song… it works wonders! Afterward, “Up The Mountain” is an overwhelmingly triumphant piece brimming with energy, pushing Rocky towards the final showdown. I really enjoy the “Gonna Fly Now” referenced tucked away in this track as well. While “Pre-Fight” is mostly comprised of heartbeat-like bass drum hits and dissonant pad progressions, it’s incredibly effective at building the tension before the fight.

Fans should also recognize the aforementioned “War” when Rocky final gets off the ropes after being pummeled by Ivan Drago and finally gets around to kicking some ass. Heavy bass drum and snare hits come with deliberate, march-like timing as wailing electric guitars and powerful synth lines take charge. The triumphant “Knockout” is followed by an energetic synthesized version of Conti’s theme, titled “Victory.” It’s kind of funny, but I always thought the first few seconds on this melody sounded like the HBO splash logo that they used back in the day. It closes with the classic brass motif that appears in every movie as he appears broken and battered, and just as with the movies, this final moment on the soundtrack is one of the most powerful and moving.

I still can’t believe this album has been released. I’m really thankful that INTRADA recognized Vince DiCola’s score as something worthwhile to pursue after close to 25 years in the void. While we noted that the $19.99 price tag for the 32 minutes of music was a bit steep, there’s more here to add to the value of the album.  A nice, thick booklet containing a thorough 9-page walkthrough of the score by Daniel Chweiger puts the music in the context of the scenes of the film, working in quotes from DiCola throughout. DiCola also adds his own comments at the end, making for a great read and an excellent bonus for fans. The pages are also printed in alternating red and blue, going for maximal patriotism, so you’ll certainly need to buy this album if you love America.

As Vince DiCola’s film debut, fans owe it to themselves to check this album out. While you may be one of those people who already own the film’s soundtrack from the 1980s (which featured “War” and “Training Montage”), there is so much more to enjoy, and I recommend heading over to INTRADA Records to pick up this limited release before it’s sold out.

Do you have fond memories of Vince DiCola’s work on Rocky IV? Are you still surprised that they put this soundtrack release together so long after the film was released?

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