Recorded six years prior to his passing, Mancini Rocks the Pops finds the revered pop writer and arranger giving an easy spin to '80s rock staples by Michael Jackson, the Bangles, Phil Collins, and the Police. As one might expect, the going can get grisly at times: polite rock rhythms and leaden horn and string charts leave much of the program stuck in neutral. To hear "Thriller" and "In the Air Tonight" in full symphonic glory might do it for the lawn-chair set at many a pops concert, but for the listener at home, this sort of blown-up Top 40 can get old fast. And it's not as if Mancini can't score and arrange with incredible results (one has a slew of top-notch soundtracks alone to choose from), but here he seems to have missed an opportunity to transform songs by U2 and the Eurythmics (if this is even possible) into widescreen pieces. To his credit, Mancini turns in a surprisingly fetching version of "Walk Like an Egyptian" and seems right at home with the melancholy tinged contours of John Lennon's "Imagine." While it might be deemed a hidden treasure by future revisionists, Mancini Rocks the Pops -- for now at least -- is not the kind of record Mancini fans and lounge aficionados need to worry about.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook