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Fire David Fricke: AMG’s Bizarro Review of the Rocky IV Soundtrack

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 13, 2008

Can any critic stand alone

My love for reviews on the All-Music Guide (the internet’s premier musical encyclopedia) that significantly deviate from the norm is well-documented on this blog. The AMG tries so very, very hard to toe the critical line on all counts (which, to be fair, is what an information-first site like the AMG probably should do) that when they actually branch out and give props to a record that it seems like no one else would give a second’s thought to (critically, at least), it’s frequently stunning and even more frequently hilarious. But almost as good as one of these unnaturally glowing reviews is a review where the writer takes his task a little too much to heart, gets a little too emotionally invested in a review of an album that isn’t really particularly important, where a short paragraph, maybe even only a two or three-sentence blurb, would probably have done just fine.

Catching Rocky IV during a marathon of the Rocky series on Bravo today (and I have absolutely no idea what TV’s new official home of metrosexuality is doing showing a fucking Rocky marathon, but hey, more power to ’em), I was mildly curious what the song that plays as Rock plans his voyage to Russia that goes “there’s no easy way out” (actual answer: “No Easy Way Out” by Robert Tepper, a #22 hit in 1986), and when my first-resort of Wikipedia (always, always) gleaned me little information, I decided to look up the soundtrack album on the All-Music Guide. I figured I’d be lucky if they had a full tracklisting. I never could’ve predicted anything like the full-scale analysis that AMG scribe Rob Theakston had in store for me.

Theakston really took the ball and ran with it on this one. It’s impossible to do his thorough song-by-song breakdown of the soundtrack’s power, cohesion and historical timeliness justice, so I’d advise reading the review for yourself. But if you’re not quite patient enough, some highlights:

  • (Opening Sentence) “Quite simply, Rocky IV was a movie for the ages. The story of a man who had it all, only to lose so much overnight. Revolving around tension and alienation at the personal, political, spiritual and athletic levels, Sylvester Stallone’s portrayal of Rocky Balboa in Rocky IV was without question the most multi dimensional role of his career.” (Hey, what about Demolition Man?)
  • “This torch is then passed to John Cafferty; who soundtrack fans will no doubt recognize from his work on Eddie & The Cruisers, Eddie & The Cruisers 2: Eddie Lives and Eddie & The Cruisers: The Unreleased Tapes.” (Oh, the Eddie & the Cruisers from EDDIE & THE CRUISERS: THE UNRELEASED TAPES! Got it now)
  • “Anyways, this combination was no doubt inspired by a similar pairing of blue eyed soul boy with r&b legendary diva: George Michael and Aretha Franklin would hit the top of the charts with their fantastic duet “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me” (which is sadly not included here).” (Yes, it is sad that a song recorded two years after a movie’s release is not included on its soundtrack)
  • “”Living In America” perfectly sums up the decadence, extravagance and sheer bloated pompousness of the eighties. It also reinforces the symbolism of Creed’s death: that Americans, through this hedonism, have become fat, soft and bloated themselves, especially when compared to the steel and precision of Russian boxers.” (Hey, what the fuck you trying to say about the US of A, you fuckin’ commie??)
  • “Though barely heard from again after this, Tepper’s voice no doubt left an impression on the landscape of rock music, as Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger undoubtedly made a conscious investment to emulate Tepper’s emotive, yet throaty delivery, a move that would catapult the mediocre band into superstardom and swimming pools filled with money.” (Seriously, if I hear ONE MORE mediocre band with a swimming pool filled with money ripping off a legitimate innovator like Robert Tepper…)
  • “…We are treated to yet another montage and the first of two synth-based instrumentals from composer Vince DiCola, who quietly steals the show with “Training Montage”. Easily a proto-jock jam, this ranks up there with some of the finest sports anthems ever. And while it doesn’t have the accessibility of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” or Gary Glitter’s “Rock & Roll Part Two”, it’s emotional peaks and valleys set the perfect contrast to what’s on screen.” (I don’t remember Russia looking THAT flat…think there were some mountains in there at least)
  • “While it was meant first and foremost to be entertainment, Rocky IV transcended both sports and politics to offer the thought provoking message: that if we all look past the surfaces of one another, if we can somehow disregarded our minor differences, we will see that we are all the same. That if his perceptions and cultural attitudes can change through education and acceptance, then we all can change. It was also the highest grossing movie in the Rocky series.” (Woof.)

Man, if the AMG is willing to take on contributions from seventh graders looking for Language Arts extra credit, maybe they’d pay me a couple of bucks for my extended thoughts on the cultural signfiicance of the Spawn soundtrack. I can do that.

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