Love it or hate it, there’s one thing about Jon Landis’s 1980s musical comedy movie, The Blues Brothers, that no one can dispute: it was hugely popular and profoundly influential. Starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as a couple of music-mad siblings, it certainly took vintage black rhythm and blues music to a new and younger audience. And though it probably upset the genre’s purist brigade, there was nothing disingenuous about the film, both in terms of the love it showed for blues and soul music, and the respect it gave the artists that brought those sounds to the world.
This excellent 3-CD set is packed with original versions of classic tunes (mainly from the ’50s and early ’60s) that inspired the concept behind The Blues Brothers. Whether you agree with the marketing concept behind this album (promoting authentic black music via a white pastiche act), there’s no denying that it contains some superlative music. It opens with Henry Mancini’s ‘Peter Gun Theme’ and also includes Elvis Presley’s ‘Jailhouse Rock,’ Frankie Laine’s ‘Rawhide,’ Tony Hatch’s ‘Perry Mason Theme’ and Gray U.S. Bonds’ New Orleans, but apart from those tunes, it’s prime grade blues and soul sounds all the way: from John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, and Bo Diddley to B.B. King, Junior Wells, Bobby Bland, and Buddy Guy. There are some significant soul cuts, too, from a pre-Atlantic Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, the Staple Singers, The Dells, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Ike & Tina Turner, Booker T & The MGs, Little Willie John, The Contours, the Isley Brothers, The Impressions and Etta James. They are all legendary names, of course, and when you hear how fresh and exciting this music still sounds, you’re reminded of what an incredibly fertile time the 1950s and early ’60s was for R&B music and how it laid the foundations for what we now know as soul. With a UK retail price of around £10, this collection is well worth picking up.