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Section Header
Rocky II
Composed, Co-Orchestrated, Conducted, and Produced by:
Bill Conti

Co-Orchestrated by:
Pete Myers

EMI Records

Release Date:
July, 1996

Also See:
Rocky III
Masters of the Universe

Audio Clips:
2. Gonna Fly Now (0:31):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

3. Conquest (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

4. Vigil (0:32):
WMA (213K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

6. Overture (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

Regular U.S. release.


Rocky II

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Buy it... if you seek only one of the first three soundtrack albums in the Rocky franchise, for this one summarizes all of the themes from the original classic while exploring the ideas that would be reprised to constitute most of Rocky III.

Avoid it... if nine minutes of gorgeous Bill Conti instrumentals (without 1970's pop or disco elements participating) in two tracks on this album aren't worth a continuation of a badly dated general sound for the concept.

Rocky II: (Bill Conti) The greatest lesson of the 1976 popular hit Rocky was that you can succeed without winning the fight. The inevitable 1979 sequel, Rocky II, failed to resist the same temptations, allowing an initially reluctant Rocky Balboa to defeat champion Apollo Creed in a high profile rematch. Allotted a budget of twice the amount of the original film, Rocky II was another phenomenon at the box office, drawing in $200 million worldwide despite split decisions from critics. On the whole, Rocky II is still a superior film to most of those that followed in the franchise, retaining the cast of the original and further exploring the flaws of the title character, his questionable spending, and his unyielding care for his family. The music for Rocky was itself a monumental success, catapulting composer Bill Conti into the mainstream spotlight and selling at rates rarely seen in the soundtrack industry. Like many franchises, the sequel scores and their associated songs were bound by the parameters of the profitable equation used in the initial entry, and Rocky II and its successors thus contain a significant amount of overlap in content. Interestingly, the city of Philadelphia would no longer play a major role in the storyline after Rocky II, with this film and Rocky Balboa in 2006 the only sequels to show the famous character running through the streets of the city and glorifying its landmarks. Accompanying these scenes very memorably, of course, is Conti's main identity of the franchise, "Gonna Fly Now." Its fusion of pop and symphonic elements came to define the style of the music that Conti would provide for the initial three films, a blend that ensured these soundtracks' popular acceptance while often testing the patience of the collectors of strictly orchestral film scores. To his credit, Conti mostly resisted the movement towards massive orchestral sounds for motion pictures at the time (led by John Williams throughout the late 1970's), though there is some dramatic symphonic influence in Rocky II that serves as a precursor for a similar balance in Conti's one James Bond entry, For Your Eyes Only, a few years later. Because the Rocky II score combines many of the best aspects of Rocky and would be largely regurgitated in Rocky III, some enthusiasts of the concept point to this soundtrack as the best single representation of the franchise's music. If entering the realm of Rocky scores for the first time, this one is the likely the safest place to start.

The infamous brass fanfare from Rocky and its pseudo-song variation, "Gonna Fly Now," both return in full glory, though Conti does make some interesting alterations to them. The song has been increased in tempo, treated to more blatant disco effects, and accompanied by children's choir (the last an important change to reflect the crowd that Rocky draws while training in the film). In many ways, this version is more obnoxious than the original (if you consider all of these performances badly dated now), though Conti does compensate by giving the theme a prominent role in several cues in the score. The suite-like "Overture," combining the themes of the first and second films satisfactorily, opens with the traditional fanfare and extends to a more palatable disco version later on. The composer often alludes to the theme in his material for Adrian and Rocky's infant son, usually on elegant piano ("All of My Life") or in plaintive strings ("Vigil"). The new, primary identity for Rocky II, "Redemption," uses fragments of the fanfare extensively. That redemption theme doesn't receive enough airtime on the soundtrack to really establish itself as the heart of this score, though its determined, minor-key progressions have better stood the test of time than the title fanfare. Outside of the opening performance on album, this deliberate theme is given an instrumental variation in the last two minutes of "Overture." All three of the secondary themes from Rocky return as well, mostly encapsulated in the lengthy "Overture" recording. That track transitions to the adversity theme (which had closed the first film, strangely) right after the primary fanfare, and this idea is also played as an interlude to the new material in "Conquest." The more exuberant victory theme, heard best in the second half of "Going the Distance" and "The Final Bell" in the previous score, is the third theme to hold any length of time in "Overture" here. The love theme carries over in striking variations throughout the first two sequels, informing "All of My Life" in its structure and "Vigil" in its sincere symphonic tone. Ironically, like the adversity theme, there are even more coincidental similarities to Howard Shore's later The Lord of the Rings themes in the horn solos of "Vigil." For casual listeners, the progressions of "All of My Life" are unique enough to qualify it as an entirely new theme representing Rocky's new family and its challenging circumstances. Outside of this and the neglected redemption theme, the only other new motif of note in Rocky II is the disparate fight music heard in "Conquest." This piece, hinted in fragments in the first few minutes of "Overture," explodes with classical force in "Conquest," a cue reprised in full in Rocky III.

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There has always been something odd about the tone of the standout "Conquest" cue; it represents the ultimate in showdowns between Rocky and Apollo, but the cue's driving string and snare rhythms, punctuated by heroic brass hits, expose a troubling Star Wars influence (as well as occasionally bizarre Latin flare in some of the trumpet accents that don't reference the adversity theme) that still sounds more appropriate for Conti's later Masters of the Universe score. Honestly, some of this music will make you think that Rocky is fighting Skeletor rather than Carl Weathers. The interludes of quietly whining strings and burping tubas in this cue are equally strange. It's impressive in the whole, and it makes for great listening on album in parts, but it's just too monumental for even the heavyweight bout on screen. Aside from the score, there are the usual song contributions to be expected in any Rocky soundtrack. Nothing here lit up the charts like "Eye of the Tiger" would in Rocky III, though Rocky II would still break into the top 200 on the charts for five weeks in America. Vocalists DeEtta Little and Nelson Pigford perform the pop variation of "All of My Life" in equally badly dated form. Stallone's brother Frank had an increasing role in the soundtracks, and his throwback tune "Two Kinds of Love" in the first sequel is likeable but completely out of place. The album as a whole will require some shuffling and combining with the other soundtracks in the initial Rocky trilogy (like the others), though this one has the extra perk of the beautiful "Vigil" and "All of My Life" instrumental tandem. The nine minutes in these two cues is as lovely as Conti music gets, especially with the horn solos that have defined some of his more memorable works. A rolling piano performance of the title fanfare in the last minute of "Vigil," with the "All of My Life" (and related love theme) material as counterpoint on strings, is fantastic. Add the track "Mickey" from Rocky III to these two cues and you have the best strictly orchestral music from the franchise's early years. The muscular "Conquest" cue will be of interest to some score collectors as well, but it really does sound misplaced in this context. The long "Overture" recording, expertly summarizing all of the themes from the first two films, is the key to this album's recommendation, for it clinches a strong rating for those seeking their first Rocky album. This is for casual listeners who weren't old enough to remember the hoopla surrounding Rocky in the 70's; otherwise, purists will prefer the arrangements of the first score. If you can't tolerate the pop or disco tones of that era encroaching upon the orchestra at all, however, then the issue is moot. This is, after all, vintage mainstream Bill Conti music. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.04 Stars
Smart Average: 3.07 Stars*
***** 17 
**** 27 
*** 27 
** 20 
* 18 
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    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   Rocky Balboa album
  Fraley -- 12/22/09 (11:20 a.m.)
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 34:06

• 1. Redemption - piano performed by Bill Conti (2:34)
• 2. Gonna Fly Now (2:35)
• 3. Conquest (4:43)
• 4. Vigil - horn performed by David Duke (6:32)
• 5. All of My Life* - performed by DeEtta Little and Nelson Pigford (4:00)
• 6. Overture (8:38)
• 7. Two Kinds of Love (2:37)
• 8. All of My Life - piano performed by Mike Lang (2:27)

* not used in the film

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes no extra information about the score or film.

  All artwork and sound clips from Rocky II are Copyright © 1996, EMI Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 12/15/09 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2009-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.