Blues Brothers – “Briefcase Full of Blues” (1978)

Jake: We’re putting the band back together.
Mr. Fabulous: Forget it. No way.
Elwood: We’re on a mission from God.

Actors want to be musicians (♠), musicians want to be actors (♥). It’s the way of things. Truth be told attaining legitimate cross-over status is difficult, likely more so for the actors who want to be taken seriously as musicians. After all, their primary job is to pretend to be other people, something that does not inspire confidence that you’re legitimately good at something else. But sometimes… sometimes it works. And one of the early examples was the duo of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, who smartly combined the two arts by creating their own musical alter egos, the brothers Jake and Elwood Blues. The Blues Brothers.

Every generation has to discover the movie The Blues Brothers for themselves, and it has retained a solid following (especially among teens and young men) for close to 40 years now. The fictional back story of the brothers is populated by a veritable who’s who of actors and musicians, like a dysfunctional musical with some inspired performances. How they got so many talented artists to participate in that project, I’ll never know.

I ran across a copy of the first Blues Brothers album yesterday, 1978s Briefcase Full of Blues. Belushi and Aykroyd smartly surrounded themselves with a backing band of incredible musicians and performed an all-covers selection of blues classics, ensuring that at least the music and songs would be great and leaving them to do what they do best – perform. And they nail it. Belushi’s excitement is palpable, and Aykroyd’s vocals on “Rubber Biscuit” are hysterical. Frankly you feel like they’re not really acting, instead that they’re playing characters that are in fact elements of their own personalities.

The result is a fun 10-song live blues record with a just a bit of a sense of humor. And man, couldn’t we all use a little more fun in our music from time to time?


(♠) For examples see: Depp, Johnny; Thornton, Billy Bob; and Shatner, William.

(♥) For examples see: Cube, Ice; Bowie, David; and Jagger, Mick (♦).

(♦) My God “Freejack” was awful…