Sound SHOCK: The Haunting Music of Alan Parker’s ANGEL HEART



Sound SHOCK discusses the haunting conceptual soundtrack album for ANGEL HEART.

I am obsessed with Alan Parker’s 1987 film ANGEL HEART.

The look of it. The feel of it.

The sound of it.

In case you have yet to absorb this one, here’s the skinny…

New York, 1955. A grimy, suffocating post-war metropolis whose labyrinthine streets and dirty back- alleys skid row gumshoe Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) reluctantly calls home. Angel’s life is a nickel and dime world of cheap crooks, cheating husbands and insurance scams; a patchwork of pick up snoop jobs that barely sustain his livelihood…. that is until he meets the mysterious Louis Cyphre (Robert De Niro).

A suave, sophisticated and dangerous presence, the finely tailored (and sharply manicured) Cyphre commissions the down but not quite out Angel to locate a once famous, now forgotten crooner named Johnny Favorite. Seems this ever-so-slightly sinister gentleman gave the MIA Favorite some kind of career boost before the war and now he wants to collect on the debt.

Without a flicker of hesitation, Angel accepts the high paying job and, as the ensuing, Harlem and New Orleans bound trails toward Favorite run both hot and cold (and often, very wet and red) he soon finds himself knee deep in a melting pot of bloody murder, taboo sex, Satanism, voodoo rites and human sacrifice. As he sinks deeper and deeper into an emotional (and increasingly likely), supernatural, quagmire, Angel begins to seriously question his sanity and, ultimately, his very identity.

An eerie, dream-like impression of William Hjortsberg’s more hard-boiled pulp novel “Falling Angel”, ANGEL HEART moves like a bloody mist through the mind and stains the senses deep red. And while Rourke’s performance is at the core of its voodoo, along with unforgettable supporting work from DeNiro and Bonet, it’s Trevor Jones’ chilling, ambient score that gels it all together and cuts the deepest.

ANGEL HEART’s music is a meltdown of deep drones, disconnected whispers, Courtney Pine’s dissonant saxophone stings and fragmented haunting 1930’s crooner tunes (specifically Glen Gray’s big band chestnut “Girl of My Dreams”) that continually wash over Parker’s hypnotic, obsessive images from the minute the film fades into its shocking, opening gutter/murder scene to Angel’s final credit crawl elevator descent.


That soundtrack album was released in 1987 from Island Records and it’s a marvel in and of itself. It takes the Jones/Pine music and uses it as an aural haze, weaving in key bits of dialogue as well as some of the dirty jazz and swamp blues music from the picture, including Brownie McGhee’s beautiful “Rainy Day”; blues legend McGhee plays the doomed “Toots Sweet” in the film and sings this rambling track, moments before he meets his unfortunate, member-removing demise…

Listening to this 37 minute masterpiece of a cinematic concept album is like having a dream about watching the film, which is a dream of reading the book. It’s like the residues of an all night bender…

And it MUST be listened to at night…after hours…in the dark…

Considering that incredible album is now out of print, we’ll help you along and provide it in its entirety below. Like the film it supports, the album is a finely orchestrated nightmare in which the listeners perceptions of where the truth truly lies becomes as profoundly skewed as the final fate of poor old Harry Angel…er, Johnny Favorite, um…Harry…Johnny…Harry….