The Blues Brothers

Made in America

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Like the Grateful Dead or the Minutemen, the Blues Brothers are a band that, regardless of their own quality, ultimately did more harm than good by influencing an endless stream of horrible imitations. This pet project of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd featured top session players and had great taste in song selection, but Jake and Elwood also spawned thousands of terrible white R&B cover bands and made possible the soulless House of Blues franchise. Made in America is easily the band's weakest album; Briefcase Full of Blues has a sincere grit and energy and the Blues Brothers original soundtrack is filled with vibrant guest spots from ringers like Aretha Franklin and James Brown. On this third release, however, after the propulsive opening salvo of "Soul Finger" and "Who's Making Love?," everything slows down and the highlights become thin. "Do You Love Me" is clumsy and "I Ain't Got You" is by the numbers. Most of the famous session players from the first two LPs remain as Jake and Elwood's crack backup band. Bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn and guitarist Steve Cropper from Booker T. & the MG's are still the soul of the Blues Brothers, and Matt "Guitar" Murphy rips out a mean solo once in a while. Of course, this remains musical director Paul Schaffer's baby, so nothing gets too raw. "Who's Making Love?" was the hit single, a rousing version of Johnnie Taylor's 1968 R&B smash that is as good as it gets musically on Made in America. As for the stars of the show, Aykroyd's stage raps are usually hilarious, a deadpan mix of jingoistic politics and junkie hep-talk, but Randy Newman's depressing torch song "Guilty" is harrowing in Belushi's hands, as the theme of self-destruction is all too appropriate for his life at the time. It's eerie to hear the audience cheer him on after a line like, "Got some whiskey from a bar/Got some cocaine from my friends." Made in America was the last official Blues Brothers release before Belushi's 1982 death, but Aykroyd saw fit to resurrect the band 15 years later with Jim Belushi and John Goodman vainly trying to fill the real Jake's big shoes.

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