Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Angel Heart - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Antilles New Directions-Island, 1987)

Angel Heart has long resided in my list of all-time top ten movies. In my opinion, it has all the hallmarks of a five-star film: clever plot, great acting, intelligent action, a sense of eroticism, and a very hard-hitting ending. Although the bulk of what lead actor Mickey Rourke did during his late 1980s heyday was tripe, his portrayal of protagonist Harry Angel was a tour de force and arguably the best thing that he's done in his career. Robert DeNiro was still doing good things at the time and is absolutely outstanding in a supporting role as a thinly-disguised Satan operating under the identity of Louis Cyphre ("Mephistopheles is such a mouthful in Manhattan"). Even Lisa Bonet (remember her?) turns in a fine performance as young voodoo priestess Epiphany Proudfoot. Unfortunately - no thanks to Bill Cosby's overreaction - Angel Heart is best known for the intense sex scene between the erstwhile Denise Huxtable and Rourke, which in this second decade of the jaded 21st century probably wouldn't even raise an eyebrow. Add esteemed director Alan Parker to the mix, and you've got one hell of a motion picture.


Oh yeah, I forgot to mention another hallmark of a five-star film: a great soundtrack. And boy, does Angel Heart have one. As for the original music, it's essentially a two-man effort in which South African cinematic composer Trevor Jones and British jazz saxophonist Courtney Pine join forces to create one of the most atmospheric film scores ever recorded. Amazingly, Jones' primary instrument here is the Synclavier. I've never been a big fan of synthesizers, but I must admit that this particular make and model is used quite effectively in this instance. Courtney Pine's haunting saxophone is superb on the extended musical sequences "Harry Angel," "Looking for Johnny," and "Johnny Favorite" and gives the listener an idea of why he's considered to be one of the greatest jazz artists that the UK has produced. Excerpts from the film's always interesting dialogue are interspersed throughout these pieces, and if you've seen the movie, some of the scenes will replay inside of your head as you're listening. The titles of these bits appear in italics under the tracks listed below.

Since much of Angel Heart takes place in New Orleans, Alan Parker also wisely included some classic blues and R&B performances on this soundtrack, such as an excerpt of Bessie Smith's "Honeyman Blues" and LaVern Baker's sultry "Soul on Fire." Crooner Glen Gray's "Girl of My Dreams" serves as the Johnny Favorite tune that bedevils Harry Angel as the story unfolds on screen. The finest songs on this album, however, belong to vocalist Lilian Boutte and veteran blues guitarist Brownie McGhee respectively on "The Right Key, but the Wrong Keyhole" and "Rainy Rainy Day," which were both performed in the movie itself. Boutte has been accurately described as equal parts Bessie Smith, Aretha Franklin, and Mahalia Jackson, while McGhee needs no introduction. Unfortunately, the liner notes do not make mention of of the backing musicians on either of these cuts, which is a pity because they are both first-rate - "Rainy Rainy Day" especially since it stands as a highlight in the later part of Brownie's illustrious career.


1. Harry Angel
-Kingdom Mission
-Introducing Mr. Cyphre


-Harlem Chase


2. Honeyman Blues - Bessie Smith
3. Nightmare
-Secret Love
4. Girl of My Dreams - Glen Gray & the Casa Loma Orchestra
5. "I Got This Thing About Chickens"
6. The Right Key, but the Wrong Keyhole - Lilian Boutte
7. Rainy Rainy Day - Brownie McGhee
8. Looking for Johnny

-I Am an Atheist

-Frightened Eyes Never Lie

9. Soul on Fire - LaVern Baker
10. Bloodmare
-Dog Tags
11. Johnny Favorite


  1. Wow, thanks! There's a brilliant blues musician called Ian Siegal and he looks the spitting image of mickey in this film.

  2. Great great movie. awesome record. thanks so much - you rock!

  3. Vinyl rip

    MP3 @ 320 kbps










  4. Thanks for the review. I think this is the best thing Mickey Rourke did, apart from (arguably) The Wrestler. It's a atmospheric, haunting film and the soundtrack is brilliant. My only gripe is that the vinyl was more complete than the CD. The CD leaves out the vocal version of Girl of My Dreams and replaces it with a sax version. And it doesn't include Soul on Fire. Both things detract from it. I'm trying to put it together but coulnd't find Glen Gray's version. I guess Perry Como's comes closest but it's not the real thing.

  5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hce32X6TXoA

    this is Glen Grays version which you can pull via a converter and add to your soundtrack

  6. Thanks much. Enjoying the music now.

  7. Love this movie well done Alan Parker, even the cat in the opening credits is good!...and talking of cats the eyes of Charlotte Rampling and just her general manner is spellbinding.

  8. I came across your wonderful review of the movie and its soundtrack yesterday. Thank you so much for the care and attention which you put into what you wrote.

    Ever since I first saw it nearly thrity years ago I have regarded Angel Heart as a great work of art, a film of Shakespearean depth and power. Back then I recorded the sounttrack onto cassette and for a long time I listened to it almost every day.

    And two days ago I was able to introduce it to my daughter and - not having seen it for a while - I was amazed at how strongly it gripped me. And - looking for a new version of the soundtrack - I came across your wonderful review and was so glad to find someone saying so many of the things I had been thinking.

    So thanks once again.

    1. The film and soundtrack did effect me too. I bought the soundtrack (cassette) in 88 or 89 when I was a junior in high school. Probably one of the best soundtracks ever produced. I watched the movie over and over. I loved it with one caveat: the sex scene was not necessary and Lisa Bonet, although perhaps added value to ticket sales and pre box office hoopla, was really poor casting. I grew up in New Orleans and women there particularly rural as the character was still don't speak the way Lisa Bonet speaks. Besides that, a true classic and never mentioned in the pantheon of classic film noir.

  9. And what song is playing in the scene when Harry Angel is chasing Toot Sweet's car? This song had never appeared in original soundtrack. And it's a mistery for me, this track is simply amazing. Maybe you know this song and artist?

    1. I'll have to go back and watch the movie for the umpteenth time and pay close attention during that scene. Watch this space.

  10. Thank you very much!
    Song appears just before woodoo dancing scene

  11. i found out what is it. It's Zu Zu Mamou by Dr John

    1. Well done research. I was going to look into it over this past weekend, but you beat me to the punch. Thanks.

  12. I found the soundtrack in mint condition in a charity shop, for a few pounds today! The book and the film were great, so this was a very welcome surprise.