Soundtracks I Have Loved: Rocky IV

Soundtrack: Rocky IV
Year Released: 1985
I Bought It On: Vinyl
How Does It Hold Up?: Like our great American flag, strong and proud

Track List:

1. Burning Heart--Survivor
2. Heart's on Fire--John Cafferty
3. Double or Nothing--Kenny Loggins and Gladys Knight
4. Eye of the Tiger--Survivor
5. War--Vince DiCola
6. Living in America--James Brown
7. No Easy Way Out--Robert Tepper
8. One Way Street--Go West
9. The Sweetest Victory--Touch
10.Training Montage--Vince DiCola

I'm not sure I've fully recovered from the death of Apollo Creed.

In the months leading up to the release of Rocky IV, I'm sure it must've been revealed that Apollo was going to meet his maker and that he was going to be sent on his way by the evil Russian Ivan Drago. And I know I collected the Rocky IV trading cards, which were probably released before or around the same time the movie was. So it seems reasonable to say I knew it was coming.

But it still hurt.

And so, I never wanted Rocky to win the big fight more than I did in Rocky IV. Nikolai Volkoff, with his quaint singing of the Soviet national anthem, was surely hated by Young Me, but he hadn't killed Hulk Hogan. Drago not only killed Apollo but he seemed OK with it, even sort of pleased. Douchebag.

But at least (SPOILER ALERT) Rocky showed him at the end. And almost ended the Cold War in the process. What a guy.

And the song playing as Rocky's Speech for World Peace ends (John Cafferty's "Heart's on Fire") is but one of the many gems on the movie's soundtrack, one of the three Rocky soundtracks I've owned in my life (the original, IV, and V...yes I bought the soundtrack to Rocky V; maybe we'll discuss that another time). It was also among the first albums I owned, and I still have my original vinyl (no skips).

The soundtrack definitely aims to please, or pander, depending on your degree of cynicism, which, if you've seen and enjoyed Rocky IV is likely pretty low. Not only does it include previous soundtrack hero Cafferty (this time without the Beaver Brown Band, or at least they're not credited), but it also turns to King of the Soundtracks Kenny Loggins for a duet with Gladys Knight. Unfortunately, the song's terrible, proving that, as hard as this may be to believe, even Kenny Loggins sucks sometimes.

Survivor, on a soundtrack roll of their own with "Eye of the Tiger" and "The Moment of Truth" from The Karate Kid, make their bid for Logginsian greatness with the leadoff track, "Burning Heart." It's a solid tune, though not enough to send them into the soundtrack stratosphere (it is, as best I can tell, their last soundtrack hit, though I suppose there's still time). I'm not sure if "Deep in our soul/A quiet ember/Knows it's you against you/It's the paradox/That drives you on" is brilliant or garbage, but most people have the same debate about the Rocky movies, so the song fits fine.

"Eye of the Tiger" also makes a return appearance from the Rocky III soundtrack, which would be completely stupid and unnecessary except for the fact that everything is made better with the inclusion of "Eye of the Tiger." Don't believe me? Ask Paul Anka. Or check out Staten Island's own PS 22 Chorus.

Side 2 of the soundtrack almost derails the awesomeness, but the two clunkers from Go West (better soundtrack days awaited) and Touch (no clue who they are, and the song's so bad, I don't feel like Googling them or finding you a YouTube link) are easily floored by the one-two punch (see what I did there?) of James Brown's "Living in America" and Robert Tepper's "No Easy Way Out." The former, which, of course, precedes Apollo's untimely demise in the movie, is best enjoyed on the album cut, where Brown throws in an "Eddie Murphy, eat your heart out" toward the end. But I feel like it wouldn't be right to not put in the clip from the movie. I think every boxing match should start like this.

Robert Tepper's contribution, though less celebrated, is no less impressive. Plus, if Wikipedia is to be believed, he's from Bayonne. North Jersey, represent!

And, then, of course, there are the training montages. You can debate the overall merit of Rocky IV, but I don't think you can deny the greatness of the movie's training montages. Vince DiCola (whose "War"--definitely not Edwin Starr's song--is in the big fight scene) lucks into giving the incredibly '80s background music for one of them (the other, decidedly more awesome one features "Heart's on Fire") and cleverly titles the resulting song "Training Montage."

Eat it, Communist pigs! Not only did your lifeless, Apollo Creed-killing robot not break the great, dogsled-pulling Rocky Balboa, but you also, to the best of my knowledge, never produced a soundtrack as cool as the one to Rocky IV.

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

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