Ludwig Göransson's score to Creed, the pseudo-Rocky picture starring Sylvester Stallone in the Burgess Meredith trainer role and Michael B. Jordan as Apollo Creed's son Adonis, has a beautiful sense of tradition to it, without feeling overheated. Göransson uses woodwind, piano, and guitar to introduce the spirited theme for Adonis but adds in electronics for a modernist feel. The theme is an instant classic, and feels like a part of the heritage of Rocky and Bill Conti's scores without being a slave to the referential.
And man can Göransson throw it at us, such as in the powerful 'Adonis' which uses the orchestra's brass to its full extent, if briefly. Göransson also introduces a wonderful use of humming as a device, almost the sound of nostalgia, of growing up. Creed does strum the strings of familiarity - how could it not - but it doesn't use them as a crux. A piece of dialogue on the album (more on that later) has Adonis talking about being compared to his father, and that's really applied to Creed both as a film and a score. What's surprising is how it really echoes the original Rocky, not through reprisals of themes but via its emotional grounding and tenderness. Göransson could have easily plunged for grit here but his use of the orchestra is wonderfully varied.
Göransson really grips you with the aforementioed combination of wood, piano, and guitar, and has no problem playing the Creed theme and adding a little bit of Rocky's theme to tug on the heartstrings even more. There are other elements at play here; a fair amount of electronics that give it a heavier feel, and little bits of jazz, but it all feels part of the same body. Even the dub-step in 'Front Street Gym' seamlessly blends, especially when it segues into a brass rendition of the main theme. The inevitable training montage is here ('If I Fight, You Fight') and it's one of the best tracks on the record, with the humming turned to choral, echoing 'Gonna Fly Now' while the brass pounds itself into shape. From this, Göransson gives lyrics to the Creed theme and knows that it'll energise the character and the listener, a mix of pure majesty and a recall to the glory days of Philadelphia's greatest ever fighter.
'Conlan Fight' is brutal and uncompromising, the snippets of Creed's theme acting as respite amidst the thick brass, before becoming propulsive on their own. But Göransson knows he needs the crowdpleaser, and 'You're A Creed' opens with a big rendition of the opening strains of 'Gonna Fly Now' before bringing in the 'Going The Distance' theme from previous films. Muscle memory here kicks in and you're grinning from ear to ear, but it kicks up another level when the 'Final Bell' theme comes in - along with more of 'Gonna Fly Now' - before it goes back to Creed and Rocky's themes interpolating on piano: a beautiful moment.
Creed is a fantastic score, both in its own right and as a follow on from Bill Conti's Rocky scores. My only real grumble is that some cues have dialogue over them, but for me it's not a deal breaker by any means. Creed punches hard, it punches fast, but in the end it hits you were it needs to: the heart.
Creed is out now from Watertower Music