Category Archives: The Blues Brothers

Rocks In The Attic #365: Various Artists – ‘The Blues Brothers (O.S.T.)’ (1980)

RITA#365On a family holiday when I was around 14, we drove down to Newquay in Cornwall, and stayed in a Bed & Breakfast on the seafront. On our first day, in fact only twenty minutes after we had arrived, we walked around to the parade of shops next to the B&B. In one of the shops was a wall of second-hand cassettes. I bought this album on tape, together with Toys In The Attic by Aerosmith. Both cassettes became not only the soundtrack to that holiday, but they became first favourites that have never left me.

I love the music of The Blues Brothers just as much as I love the film itself. There’s an unfortunate pigeon-holing that seems to go on though, that resigns both the film and the soundtrack to the camp depths of party entertainment; cheesy music for poor people to sing karaoke to. It isn’t seen as the cultural landmark it should be regarded as, which is a shame. The film did so much for African American music, giving it a much needed shot in the arm. Who knows what would have happened had the film not been released – fewer James Brown records on the streets might have meant there wouldn’t have been as much sampling of Funky Drummer when hip-hop hit. That Clyde Stubblefield groove might have been taken up by the drum patterns of some non-funky white drummers instead. What a horrible thing to imagine.

What a rhythm section – Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn on bass, Steve Cropper on guitar (Steve ‘The Colonel’ Cropper as he’s referred to in the film, although I’ve never seen that nickname anywhere else) – both from Booker T. & The M.G.s – and Willie Hall, from the Bar-Kays, on drums. The brass section, from TV’s Saturday Night Live, are also fantastic although it’s a shame the Memphis Horns weren’t part of the band. I guess it might have been a little too Memphis, had that been the case, and while I would have loved it, the SNL horns were an integral part of the band from its earliest days as a John Belushi / Dan Aykroyd skit on Saturday Night Live.

Where else can you hear Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and James Brown singing on the same record? Even if you take these guys out, the songs performed by just the Blues Brothers band are worth the price of admission alone. I could listen to a song like She Caught The Katy all day, preferably while driving around in an old police cruiser. Just fix the cigarette lighter.

Hit: Everybody Needs Somebody To Love

Hidden Gem: She Caught The Katy

Rocks In The Attic #291: The Blues Brothers – ‘Briefcase Full Of Blues’ (1978)

RITA#291It’s a real shame that the Blues Brothers are never taken seriously. To many people they’re a cheap gimmick act from the world of karaoke and hen nights; a look you can pull off with a cheap suit, a pair of sunglasses and a dusty fedora trilby. It also helps if you’re tall and skinny, and have a like-minded fat friend – or vice versa.

They’re more than that though. I don’t think Dan Aykroyd was a million miles away when he claimed that the Blues Brothers were probably the third best revue band in the world (behind James Brown’s and Tina Turner’s bands respectively). The experience is definitely there – the rhythm section from the Stax house band combined with the horn section from Saturday Night Live. Throw a couple of actors in there who obviously have a deep love of blues, rhythm & blues and soul, and you have something that may be imitated often, but never bettered.

Aykroyd himself is probably as much to blame as anybody else for watering down the Blues Brothers’ legacy in more recent years, reprising the act on stage with James Belushi and John Goodman – and I don’t even want to think about that awful film sequel.

My favourite part of this live album (and its follow-up, 1980’s Made In America) is Dan Aykroyd’s motor-mouth introduction. On this album, he squeezes around 300 words into a frantic minute of Otis Redding’s I Can’t Turn You Loose – hitting his mark with perfection at the end of his speech.

Hit: Soul Man

Hidden Gem: Opening / I Can’t Turn You Loose

Rocks In The Attic #133: The Honeydrippers – ‘The Honeydrippers: Volume One’ (1984)

Rocks In The Attic #133: The Honeydrippers - ‘The Honeydrippers: Volume One’ (1984)Imagine a band with Robert Plant on vocals, and Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Nile Rodgers all on guitar. That’s who The Honeydrippers are. Put together in the early ‘80s by Atlantic Records president Ahmet Ertegün, this is a very short (17 minutes) collection of five ‘50s R&B covers.

As a standalone album, it’s pretty poor. It suffers from a mid-‘80s production, which takes away any of the smoky ‘50s atmosphere they were aiming for, and replaces it with a crystal-clear sound reminiscent of throwback records of the time. It might have gone down a little better if it had been released a year later, in the wake of the ‘50s nostalgia stemming from 1985’s Back To The Future, but other than a very successful single (Sea Of Love), it seems to have faded into history.

For a Zeppelin fan, it’s a nice little curio – Plant and Page reunited on record for the first time since the death of John Bonham, with Page’s fellow Yardbird Jeff Beck thrown in for good measure. Rounding out the ‘supergroup’ is Nile Rodgers on guitar (and production duties) and Blues Brother Paul Shaffer on keys.

It’s a shame this project was never repeated. I’d have been interested to hear volumes two, three and four. Although maybe they wouldn’t have given the fourth one a title.

Hit: Sea Of Love

Hidden Gem: Rockin’ At Midnight

Rocks In The Attic #29: The Bar-Kays – ‘Soul Finger’ (1967)

Rocks In The Attic #29: The Bar-Kays - ‘Soul Finger’ (1967)Thanks to my Dad, I have this in my collection – an original version of The Bar-Kays’ debut on Volt Records – Stax’s sister label – with the cover held together with a couple of strategically placed pieces of sellotape.

Soul Finger is a great soul record, drawing comparisons to label-mates Booker T. & The M.G.’s, mainly as they’re both organ-driven instrumental groups. The Bar-Keys are a little less organ-heavy compared to the earlier group, but with a brassier sound due to their compliment of saxophone and trumpet.

The band was cut down in its prime as a result of being picked up by Otis Redding as his backing band. Four of the six original members died in the same 1967 plane crash that took his life (only the trumpeter survived the crash, and the bass player was on another flight). The Bar-Kays were then repopulated with replacements, and went on to back many other Stax artists – most notably playing on Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul album – and released records all the way into the 1980s.

The Blues Brothers play a great version of the song Soul Finger, as the opening to their Made In America live LP. It’s fitting that Cropper and Dunn play that version, as the M.G.’s were instrumental (no pun intended) in cultivating The Bar-Kays through the ranks at Stax / Volt.

Soul Finger and one of The Bar-Kays’ later songs, Too Hot To Stop, also feature on the soundtrack to 2007’s Superbad.

Hit: Soul Finger

Hidden Gem: Pearl High

Rocks In The Attic #12: Sam & Dave – ‘Star-Collection’ (1974)

Stax, without a doubt, has to be my favourite record label. And Sam & Dave are my favourite Stax artists – although depending on what mood I’m in, it could be Otis or Booker T & The MGs.

This album, a collection of their singles, is a German release – and from what I can see on the internet, it has the tracklisting as 1969’s The Best Of Sam & Dave, although the songs are presented in order.

I think that that album – the 1969 collection – is what Jake and Elwood are listening to in the Bluesmobile, on an 8-track cartridge, when they first get pulled over by the police in The Blues Brothers (1982). It’s a shame Sam & Dave didn’t feature in that film – it would have been fitting for them to have been backed by Cropper and Dunn, from the Stax backing band – but they had just given up touring the previous year on New Year’s Eve, 1981 and never spoke to each other again.

The vast majority of the songs here are written by Isaac Hayes, and his Stax writing partner David Porter – just a few years before Hayes became a household name in his own right. I have the DVD of them performing on the Stax / Volt tour of Europe back in 1967, and it’s clear that they were the hardest-working act on the label, leaving a puddle of sweat on the stage, only for Otis to add to it during his headlining slot.

Hit: Soul Man

Hidden Gem: You Don’t Know Like I Know