BWW CD Reviews: UMe's ROCKY BROADWAY (Original Broadway Cast Recording) Fights from the Heart
While the Broadway production of Rocky is going down for the final count on Sunday, August 17, the show and its bombastic score are continuing to delight audiences on a nightly basis in New York City. Whether you've seen the show or not, UMe's release of Rocky BROADWAY (Original Broadway Cast Recording) is sure to pump you up and entertain you.
Before you think I'm crazy, I'll take a step back here. The first time I listened to the album, I was struck by how bland and seemingly dumb the lyrics are for Rocky. Lynn Ahrens avoids artistic trappings in the language of the show, forgoing even simple metaphors for completely literal lyrics that describe actions and thoughts as they occur in real time. Yes, Rocky actually sings about bruises and then declares, "Yeah, my nose ain't broken/It still looks nice./Don't need no stitches/Don't need no ice." Yet, after spinning the album a few more times and actually seeing the show last night at the Winter Garden Theatre, I just can't find it in myself to write off Lynn Ahrens' lyrics. They can be silly at times. They even border on being totally campy. However, the characters singing them are rather simple people, and the humble and totally unpretentious lyrics capture that at their heart. So, while some of Lynn Ahrens work may make the more sophisticated theatergoer inside us grimace, I feel certain that the poetry of the common man captured in songs like "Raining," "Fight from the Heart," and "Keep On Standing" will move even the most cynical among us if given the chance.
On the disc and even more so in person Stephen Flaherty's bombastic score truly gets the blood pumping. This music, with its blasting brass and throbbing electric bass riffs, will have you jabbing the air, jogging in place, doing push-ups, and feeling like a prize fighter. There just aren't words to describe its entirely infectious quality. On my first listen, it was Stephen Flaherty's score that kept me modestly interested in the recording. The soaring trumpet lines and interpolations of "Gonna Fly Now (Theme From Rocky)" and "Eye of the Tiger" made me look forward to my second listen. During my third listen, it clicked with me and this electrifying score is has made me feel alive on every subsequent listen. In all sincerity, I really thought I hated the music and lyrics to this show the first time I heard it, but the more I experience it, the more I find it exhilarating.
The vocal performances on the album are all great, maybe even superb. I am a sucker for a baritone voice, and most composers give all the great parts to their tenors. Luckily for all of us baritone fans, Stephen Flaherty has composed some fantastic baritone and bass melodies for Andy Karl to sing, and he sings them with perfection. Andy Karl's smooth vocal tonality, charisma, motivation, and drive appeal to both the heart and spirit of the listener, ensuring that Broadway fans root for this American underdog just as much as fans of the film did and still do. He sells each number he performs, but his standouts are definitely the Act I Finale "Fight from the Heart" and the 11 o'clock ballad "Keep on Standing."