Not merely one of the best films of the 1970s, The Long Good Friday was arguably one of the best and most exciting British movies of the twentieth century. Aside from the acting, in which its stars, Bob Hoskins, Eddie Constantine, and Helen Mirren gave stellar performances, the soundtrack by ex-Curved Air keyboardist Francis Monkman was simply superb. As was common practice 45 years ago, the original soundtrack was released in mono, but up until now a commercial stereo version has never been available. All changed with this new virtual stereo version, realized by legendary Hendrix/Soft Machine/King Crimson sound engineer George Chkiantz. In the 1970s a mono soundtrack was considered more than adequate for a movie and as Monkman reflected on that decade in terms of recording: "stereo was not yet taken seriously outside the classical world," certainly not for original soundtracks.
As with Monkman's Curved Air, his intelligent use of keyboards and highly emotionally charged compositions defined the band's sound (check out "It Happened Today" from their debut album Air Conditioning). So it is with this soundtrack. Here Monkman makes excellent use of an orchestra and a clutch of the UK's leading session musicians, some of whom were also in-demand jazz musicians (Stan Sulzmann, Ron Aspery and Ian Hamer). The dramatic "The Long Good Friday -Main Title" (aka "Harold's Theme") is a real hook and once heard is not easily forgotten especially if combined with viewing the film's opening sequence, and segments of it form a leitmotif throughout various ensuing tracks. The main theme is also loyally revisited in the film's end track ("Taken") and once more, in combination with the film credits (not previously included in the OST), keeps the viewer gripped to their seat. "Overture" is a strings-heavy whistle-stop tour through the movie's key movements, culminating in the first of eight often amusing vocal clips by gangster-in-chief Harold Shand (Hoskins) populated throughout CD 1 (also absent on the original OST). "The Scene Is Set" begins with a mood-setting synthesizer and drums-laden score worthy of the opening to some of John Carpenter's memorable self-penned scores for his own movies such as the classic "Assault On Precinct 13" (the original, not the remake) which also employed synthesizer effects. Similarly, "At The Pool," features dreamy synthesizer whilst "Discovery" begins with elegant soprano sax over an orchestral backing, permeated with synthesizer effects and a brief revisiting of the overarching, haunting melody.
"Talking To The Police" is a curiously attractive reggae number with Hoskins voicing the lyrics, quite effectively too, considering he was hardly known for his singing. "Guitar Interludes (Sarabande In B Minor/Guitar Flamenco)" is a straightforward, beautiful execution of two segued pieces performed by ex-Sky guitarist Kevin Peek. Lugubrious strings herald the beginning of the end with "Realization," (spoiler alert) the realization being that protagonist Harold Shand's employees have been killed not as a result of internecine gang warfare or the Mafia but by the IRA in retaliation for their suffering a theft of money perpetrated, unbeknownst to him, by Shand's next in command. "Fury" continues the theme but at a faster, more menacing pace as the film's dénouement rapidly ensues. The close of the film, "Taken," a repeated refrain from the opening main title, depicts Hoskins and Mirren abducted in separate cars, whilst Hoskins, realizing his imminent demise, manages to run through a gamut of emotions from puzzlement to anger to a final wry smile of irony as, at last, the reason for his empire's downfall becomes apparent. For anyone unfamiliar with the film, it's highly recommended, as is this timely reissue of surely one of the most dramatic and memorable soundtracks ever recorded. The twin CD digipak offers new sleeve notes including some very informative ones by Monkman himself and it's useful to compare the juxtaposition of the relatively "dry" mono original with the new enhanced stereo version.
CD 1: The Long Good Friday - Main Title; Overture; "You Need A Million Dollar
Computer"; The Scene Is Set; "Harold, To Keep It All Incognito"; At The Pool;
"Nothing Unusual He Says"; Discovery; "Come On Downstairs"; The Ice
House; "After What Happened This Morning"; Talking To The Police; "For More
Than Ten Years"; Guitar Interludes (Sarabande In B Minor/Guitar Flamenco);
Realization; Fury; "I'll Tell You Something"; Taken; The Long Good Friday -
End Title; "Ladies And Gentlemen I'm Not A Politician".
CD 2: The Long Good Friday - Main Title (Original Mono Recording); Overture
(Original Mono Recording); The Scene Is Set (Original Mono Recording); At
The Pool (Original Mono Recording); Discovery (Original Mono Recording); The
Ice House (Original Mono Recording); Talking To The Police (Original Mono
Recording); Guitar Interludes (Sarabande In B Minor/Guitar Flamenco)
(Original Mono Recording); Realization (Original Mono Recording); Fury
(Original Mono Recording); Taken (Original Mono Recording).
Francis Monkman: keyboards, synthesizer; Ron Aspery, Stan Sulzmann: saxophones;
Ian Hamer: trumpet; Tommy Eyre: piano; Kevin Peek: guitar; Herbie Flowers:
bass guitar; Hal Fisher: drums; Tristram Fry: percussion; Bob Hoskins: vocals
“Talking To The Police”; plus orchestra.
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