There is a well-known proverb that states, “In the warrior’s code, there’s no surrender.” Is that aged wisdom from hundreds of years ago? Not at all. That’s from Rocky IV, and it’s worth noting that film marked the first time in the Rocky saga that a torch was passed to a new composer. The film was an entirely macho and pugilistic allegory of Cold War tensions, sure, but it was also pretty awesome from a musical sense, both score and song.
Picking up on that departure, Ryan Coogler’s Creed is a fantastic step forward in the saga while also serving as a quasi-remake of the iconic 1976 property. The series may be 41 years old, but every element that made Rocky a success still resonates today. That said, the likes of Garrett Brown, John G. Avildsen, Tony Burton, Burt Young, or even the great Bill Conti may not be household names to a modern audience, yet one thing is for sure – people know the Rocky theme. That music, and the meaning behind it, spans generations.
So enter Ludwig Göransson who picks up where Conti and DiCola left off. While he and director Ryan Coogler initially wanted a completely different sound, they made an 11th hour switch to include essential bits of the music that made this series so endearing. Mostly free of nostalgia, Coogler’s film and Göransson’s score create their own legacy – one that feels legitimate and earned. While there are nods to what was done in the past, it’s not a cut and paste job. Göransson’s work feels very fresh as he infuses bits of Conti’s music into his new material, not the other way around.
In fact, in the liner notes of this Mondo release, Göransson goes on to say, “Many of the sounds in the Creed score are boxing gym sounds I recorded specifically for the movie. In the tracks “Your Daddy Died In the Ring” and “The Sporino Fight”, almost all the sounds are pulled from those sound recordings. Punching bags, jump ropes, and even the boxing bell were all manipulated to make you feel like you’re in the ring with Creed as he’s coming up as a fighter. As Creed’s skill grows, so does the complexity of the score. By the time we get to the final training montage, and the track “If I Fight”, Creed is a full fledged boxer with nothing to hide, and simple beats give way to a lush, full orchestra (The Hollywood Studio Symphony).
The Austin-based outfit has been increasingly prolific with their soundtrack releases, and Creed comes on the heels of amazing recent albums like Home Alone, Kubo and the Two Strings, Fight Club, and Gremlins as well as upcoming titles like Alien and Edge of Tomorrow. Purveyors of awesome, whose proclivity is exclusivity, Mondo’s tag line on the obi (that informative strip/sash on the album) says it all, and reads “the art of soundtracks.” That’s their forte, and if we can use a little boxing vernacular, they give fans a shovel hook when others might have simply thrown a jab.
Take for instance the cover art. It doesn’t scream “Creed”, nor is it an interpretation of a key sequence in the film. In fact, Jay Shaw and Rob Jones have chosen to highlight a very innocuous scene – that is all of two seconds long – yet, with a bit of artistic license, they have swapped out the dangling shoes for a pair of oh, so appropriate gloves. It’s so understated that it’s brilliant.
This “Composer’s Cut” is the first time the film’s score has been released without dialogue, and features four never-before-released bonus tracks (check out the tracklisting below). Not like there was anything wrong with exchanges between Jordan and Stallone, but having listened to the studio release of the score dozens of times and then hearing Mondo’s version, the difference feels like night and day. Spun at 45 RPM, this 180 gram release (the red, white and blue stand out vibrantly from the gritty, gray-toned packaging) sounds amazing; it allows for true film score fans to experience the powerful sound the way Göransson intended it.
This will easily become the sound that athletes today get pumped up to, just as they had previously done with other Rocky soundtracks. Also, whether taken away from the film, or right there alongside Donnie in the ring, this music will make you cry as easily as it’ll make you cheer! Check out the album details below.
Creed – Original Motion Picture Score 2XLP
Design and Layout by Jay Shaw and Rob Jones