Time has been kind to the original Blues Brothers film. Lambasted by critics, but embraced by SNL fans and R&B lovers. The musical comedy is one that I have never grown tired of, and I played out my original LP and CD to death. The remastered CD brought this music back to life.
It is a testament to the conviction of Jon Landis, and especially to Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi, that they were able to re-immortalize Blues, R&B and Soul legends Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Ray Charles, Cab Calloway and (on film only, unfortunately) John Lee Hooker, by introducing them to people who had no idea who they were, and reminding fans of the past how good these people were, and continued to be.
Aretha Franklin acknowledged she was grateful to them for re-vitalizing her career. It is a worthy testament. Every appearance by these greats is a show-stopping number, and for me a personal favorite of Jake & Elwood is Sweet Home Chicago, a nod to Blues legend Robert Johnson, who influenced so many with his short body of work.
Paul Schaeffer's musical direction is outstanding (He was unable to appear in the film due to his commmitment to Gilda Radner's stage show), and personally I believe he peaked here, becoming a parody of himself as bandleader for David Letterman.
Those who don't 'get' the album should really listen to the roots of what made the Blues Brothers happen - check out the Atlantic Rhythm & Blues CD set, and the Stax Records set to get an understanding of some of the more 'contemporary' influences that drove Ackroyd & Belushi to build the band and even use original Stax musicians Steve Cropper and Donald 'Duck' Dunn at the core of the band's rhythm section.
The Blues Brothers 2000 film may be a letdown to those who saw it, but the original (and its soundtrack) are tributes to hard driving soul and R&B, and one can't help but enjoy the musical journey.