Great Rock Albums of 1979: Blues Brothers- Briefcase Full of Blues

This album taught me a valuable lesson: Never judge an album until you’ve heard it all the way through. I first saw the Blues Brothers on the old Saturday Night Live show and seeing that the band was fronted by Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi, I expected it to be some kind of satirical take on music. After all, Gilda Radner introduced us to punk rock star Candy Slice on the show. As a result, I was somewhat disappointed at first when the music didn’t have me rolling on the floor with laughter.

That changed one night in early 1979. I was at the roller rink, skating hard in an attempt to ignore all the disco being played when “Soul Man” came blasting out of the speakers. My first thought was, “This song is good” and then I recognised the voice of John Belushi as Jake Blues. The song immediately went to number one in my mind and a week later, I got to hear the album “Briefcase Full of Blues” in it’s entirety. I was hooked!

The other thing that made me a bit wary of this album was that it was a blues album. I remember John Belushi saying in an interview that he had been getting tired of rock and roll and that was why he turned to the blues. Back then, I was way too naive to realise that rock music came out of the blues.  This album taught me different and I’m forever grateful for it. “Briefcase Full of Blues” is a bonefide classic album with some great tracks other than “Soul Man.” “Rubber Biscuit,” Messin’ With the Kid” and “Hey Bartender” all do it for me. What helps make this album so good is the fact that Ackroyd and Belushi were able to round up some of the best studio musicians that were around at the time, including Paul Schaffer, who most people know from the David Letterman Show.

Track Listing:

1. Opening: I Can’t Turn You Loose

2. Hey Bartender

3. Messin’ With the Kid

4. (I Got Everything I Need) Almost

5. Rubber Biscuit

6. Shot Gun

7. Groove Me

8. I Don’t Know

9. Soul Man

10. B- Movie Boxcar Blues

11. Flip Flop and Fly

12. Closing: I Can’t Turn You Loose

Jake Blues (John Belushi)- lead vocals

Elwood Blues(Dan Ackroyd)- backing vocals, lead vocals on “Rubber Biscuit,” harmonica

Matt “Guitar” Murphy- lead guitar

Steve “The Colonel” Cr0pper- lead guitar

Donald “Duck” Dunn- bass

Paul “The Shiv” Schaffer- keyboards

Steve “Getdwa” Jordan- drums

Lou “Blue Lou” Marini- alto and tenor saxophones

Tom “Triple Scale” Scott- alto and tenor saxophones

Tom “Bones” Malone- tenor and baritone saxophones, trombone, trumpet

Alan “Mr Fabulous” Rubin- Trumpet

This album opened my eyes to the wonderful world of the blues and forced me to appreciate its influence on rock. It also showed me that even people who have a reputation for being funny, can be serious singers too. A great album that helped me to see there are more types of good music out on the horizon.

Next post: Blondie- Parallel Lines

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6 Responses to “Great Rock Albums of 1979: Blues Brothers- Briefcase Full of Blues”

  1. A fine classic with great musicians. Aykroyd is awesome on the harp. It’s a digitally remastered CD from the original master tapes. Not completely blues, but a great recording. This album (1978) pre-dated the movie and the soundtrack album (1980). Sometimes it seems more like a stage show than a live, band gig.

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  2. This originally came out while I was in college and we loved it. The movie came out and we loved that too. This album caused various friends and I to seek out and listen to real blues music. Now many years later, I have a fairly large collection of blues. But even after all this time, I still love this album! In my humble opinion, the Blues Brothers are the best thing to have ever come out of Saturday Night Live!

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    • Ackroyd and Belushi had some really great characters on the old Saturday Night Live. I loved Belushi’s Samarai character, but the Blues Brothers were tops. They did introduce a lot of young people like me to the blues.

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  3. Great write-up. I remember feeling the same way the first time I saw them on SNL. I don’t think I was disappointed that it wasn’t some kind of parody but it took a couple of years for me to really appreciate how great the music was (I was only 12 when they first appeared on SNL, and even though I had been drumming for 4 years by then I still had a lot to learn). One of the things that gets overlooked about them is that “blues” is only one aspect of their sound. They helped expose me to soul, R&B, funk & reggae as well, with a cool rock n’ roll attitude that made it more palatable to me while I was still too young to appreciate the original recordings.

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    • I think you’re spot on with the types of music that gets overlooked in their sound. Like you said in your post, they had a major impact on music at the time that today isn’t fully appreciated.

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