Personnel: Maynard Ferguson (trumpet, flugelhorn); Bob James (conductor, piano, keyboards); Jay Chattaway (conductor); Patti Austin, Lani Groves, Ellen Bernfeld, Richard Berg (vocals); Mike Migliore (soprano saxophone,
alto saxophone); Mark Colby (soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone); George Young (alto saxophone); Joe Farrell (tenor saxophone); Bobby Militello (baritone saxophone, flute); Stan Mark, Dennis Noday, Ron Tooley, Jon Faddis, Marvin Stamm, Randy Brecker (trumpet); Randy Purcell, Julian Priester (trombone); Biff Hannon (keyboards); Jeff Layton, George Benson, Eric Gale (guitar); Gordon Johnson, Will Lee (bass); Peter Erskine, Harvey Mason (drums); Ralph MacDonald (percussion).
Recorded in 1976. Originally released on Columbia (63557). Includes liner notes by Dean Pratt.
Maynard was shrewd, and Maynard was quick, and he managed to beat almost everyone to the punch -- sorry -- when he recorded the theme from Rocky and watched it rise to number 28 on the pop charts. As blatant as Ferguson's rendition is, it was still the best rendition of the Bill Conti tune at the time (a lot better than the composer's own number one version) -- and Maynard Ferguson's heroic propensity for high notes and his underdog status as a hitmaker make it easy to link him with his celluloid counterpart. It is also the best track on an otherwise overloaded Jay Chattaway production, where the combination of the chrome-plated Chattaway hand and list of noted supporting players (George Benson, Joe Farrell, Bob James, the young Jon Faddis, Julian Priester, Harvey Mason, etc.) nearly overwhelms the Ferguson big band and even Ferguson himself. The title track has a certain flamboyant grandeur emanating both from Ferguson and the electronic brigade that dominates the tune, yet Benson's fluid cameo and Ferguson's obbligatos are wasted by the irritating female voices on "Mister Mellow." This record gave Maynard Ferguson the largest amount of exposure that he ever had; the Faustian tradeoff is that it often sounds gimmicky today. ~ Richard S. Ginell