Although it’s been decades now since the Blues Brothers Band played together in its original and most popular form (with the death of John Belushi, a.k.a. “Joliet Jake” Blues, in 1982), the Blues Brothers legacy has carried on through a variety of mediums
that have included a movie sequel, reunion concerts, a musical, an official Blues Brother Revue stage show about which we told you a few years back, and several recordings, including this recent offering featuring original members Steve “The Colonel” Cropper (guitar) and Lou “Blue Lou” Marini (sax), original band leader Paul “The Shiv” Shaffer (piano), a number of other former members, and recognizable friends of the band such as guitarist Matt “Guitar” Murphy, Eddie Floyd, and Dr. John “The Nite Tripper”, with Marini commenting about the album: “We really wanted to honor our history and to include some of our favorite musicians that we’ve worked with and loved over the years.”
A mostly live studio recording that captures everyone playing together (on largely first or second takes), The Last Shade of Blue Before Black (Severn Records) offers a variety of horn-filled tracks in the tradition of the Blues Brothers, including solid and timeless renditions of such blues classics as Jimmy Reed’s “Baby, What You Want Me to Do”, “I Got My Mojo Working” (Muddy Waters), and Willie Dixon’s “Don’t Go No Further” mixed with the modern sound and lyrics of songs like the swaying “21st Century Baby” (“she’s always bringing me the blues”) written and sung by Rob “The Honeydripper” Paparozzi, soul numbers like Dan Penn, Rick Hall and Oscar Franks’ “You Left the Water Running” and Floyd and Cropper’s “On a Saturday Night”, and funky tracks like “Itch and Scratch”, Floyd’s “Don’t Forget About James Brown”, and Brown’s “Sex Machine”, the latter song featuring Shaffer on vocals and piano.
Floyd, Marini, Bobby “Sweet Soul” Harden, Tommy “Pipes” McDonnell, Joe Morton, and pianist Rusty “Cloudmeister” Cloud each also get a turn or two on lead vocals throughout the program — sometimes on the same song, as, for example, on an “I Got My Mojo Working” that has Paparozzi, Harden, Morton, and McDonnell all trading vocals, or a “Don’t Forget About James Brown” that features both Floyd and McDonnell on lead — with other especially notable vocal performances coming from Harden on “You Left the Water Running”, Cloud on a harmonica-laced “Blues in My Feet” that starts on a clever conversation about his ailments (“oh man, I got asthma…asthma feet touch the ground, they hurt like hell!”) but carries enough punch that you could easily see a modern blues-rocker like Albert Castiglia delivering, Floyd on the swaying “On a Saturday Night”, and Marini on the jazzy, Mose Allison-like closing title track.
Dr. John is on both mic and piano for his “Qualified” and Joe Louis Walker guests on vocals for a killer “Don’t Go No Further” that features some great solos from Murphy, McDonnell and Steve Howard on guitar, harmonica and trumpet, respectively, with Paparozzi on chromatic harp.
This constant rotation of vocalists and diverse song selection make The Last Shade of Blue Before Black an extremely entertaining program that will both impress longtime Blues Brothers fans as well as help the band to earn a whole generation of new ones. While they’re clearly continuing to have fun, the Original Blues Brothers Band delivers some seriously good music here!