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 on 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. This isn't to shirk the original Rocky, which dealt with questions of class, ethnicity, and overcoming obstacles to victory -- but Rocky IV was more of a movie to be related to on a universal scale.
This indomitable spirit is best exemplified by the album's lead-off track "Burning Heart." The logical sequel to Survivor's epic, instantly recognizable and painfully unforgettable sports anthem "Eye of the Tiger" finds the central protagonist a bit more mature and refined; world-weary from his battles and exponentially more introspective than he was in his burning youth. This torch is then passed to John Cafferty; whom 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. Here, Cafferty has replaced his Beaver Brown Band with the urgent, yet mildly dated synthesizer work of Vince Dicola.
Decidedly pacing the album's soundtrack as well as setting the calm before the storm, the soundtrack producers wisely teamed up Kenny Loggins and Gladys Knight for "Double Or Nothing." This combination was no doubt inspired by a similar pairing of blue-eyed soul boy George Michael with the legendary R&B diva 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).
Perhaps the soundtrack's second most popular tune (second only to "Eye of the Tiger" which makes a return appearance for good sales, no doubt), "Living in America" perfectly sums up the decadence, extravagance, and sheer bloated pompousness of the '80s.
Composer Vince DiCola makes another appearance by quietly stealing the show with "Training Montage." Easily a proto-jock rock 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.
Balboa's struggle to gain the advantage, both physically and psychologically, and win the fight is beautifully scored by Dicola's "War/Fanfare from Rocky." Easily the weaker of the two pieces, this still complements the movie's climax and eventual denouement with grace and class. The final song not mentioned on this soundtrack belongs to one-hit wonder Touch. Finding a suitable Journey soundalike in the 2000s being a near impossible chore, Scotti Bros. and Stallone made the decision to go with Touch's stirring rendition of the song. The decision paid off in spades, as it still remains one of the best songs in the entire Rocky soundtrack catalog. ["Man Against the World," originally recorded and slated for inclusion in the movie, was regretfully edited out of the final cut. This heroic battle anthem ranks as one of Survivor's finest songs. As a bonus, the 2006 reissue features this existential fight song, putting it in its rightful place alongside the rest of the soundtrack.] ~ Rob Theakston