For it’s time, there was nothing else like The Blues Brothers. In the past, music and comedy had often gone hand and hand, but never had two comedians attacked it with such earnestness and respect as Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi did with their formal “blues band and revue,” The Blues Brothers. The story goes that Aykroyd pitched the idea to Belushi at their local bar hangout and it was off to the races from there. Later, a few skits on Saturday Night Live and a critically acclaimed movie made “The Blues Brothers” a household name. However, before all of that, it was their first album Briefcase Full Of Blues that got the ball rolling.
Briefcase Full Of Blues is a straight Chicago blues album. Horns and drums surround you at every turn and with the exception of “Shot Gun Blues,” all of the tracks are uptempo and quick. It should also be noted that this is a live album, however it sounds exactly like a late ’70s studio record with very slight crowd noise on most tracks. Everything sounds tight and compressed, with the vocals and drums out front, with the guitars and piano mixed more towards the back. There’s also some exceptional harmonica playing by Akyroyd, specifically on the tracks “”B” Movie Box Car Blues” and “Flip, Flop & Fly.”
The one track that doesn’t work is “Groove Me,” which the guys turn into a reggae song about “smoking spliffs” and “scoring green.” It might have been funny at the time, but it just comes across as juvenile and overly corny now. But hey, by most accounts they were all doing blow at the time so maybe they thought it worked. It stands in stark contrast with, in my opinion, the album highlight: “Rubber Biscuit.” Originally recorded by The Chimps in 1956, “Rubber Biscuit” features Aykroyd on main vocals and is chock full of tiny comedy bits that, even some 36 years later, manage to still work.
Played on a Technics SL-D1 with Shure M97xe cartridge into a Fisher Studio Standard Receiver with Realistic MC-1000 speakers
This reissue was pressed onto 180-gram white vinyl. Outside of a few pops and clicks (possibly due to static), the sound was impressive. I did notice some inner groove distortion on Side A during “Shot Gun Blues,” but it didn’t really affect the overall experience. I also noticed some discoloration in the white vinyl with my copy, but it appears to be aesthetic only and does not affect play. Overall I was pleased with the quality of the pressing.
The jacket is heavy weight with a nice glossy front featuring Jake and Elwood in silhouette with Blues Brothers across the top right. It’s an iconic cover meant to give the impression that these are legit blues men. The back cover features the rest of the band with the brothers, as well as a tracklisting at the top. There is a small backstory at the bottom (written by Miami Mitch Blazer) that shows just how committed Aykroyd and Belushi were to the idea. Their names are only mentioned once in the credits as a “very special thanks.” The vinyl is 180-gram and white, though it’s more of an off-white than electric white. The old style Atlantic logo is present on both sides and adds to the charm of the release.
Sadly, no extras were included besides the colored variant. I feel they missed a prime opportunity to add a small booklet fleshing out the backstory a bit, or even including some pictures of the band at the time of recording. No digital download was included.
Outside of the movie, Briefcase Full Of Blues is definitely Aykroyd and Belushi’s best collaborative work. The live setting and frenetic pace of most of the songs capture what it’s like to see a great blues band live in a small dive bar, always wanting them to play just one more song. With a little more attention to detail, Music On Vinyl could have definitely knocked this one out of the park, but as it stands it’s still a worthy addition to any music lover’s shelf.
“Shot Gun Blues,” “Rubber Biscuit” and “Soul Man”
You can find a local store housing the reissue at Music On Vinyl’s website.