The power of an arrangement: Randy Newman vs. The Blues Brothers

OK, “Randy Newman vs. The Blues Brothers” is a little deceptive, because actually I adore both these versions of this song. But I wanted to highlight how much the arrangement changes the character of the song.

Exhibit A: Randy Newman singing his song “Guilty,” from his 1974 album Good Old Boys. Pay particular attention to the dissonant strings in the first verse, and how they make this song sound so plaintive and despairing.

And now here’s John Belushi singing this same song with The Blues Brothers. In this live performance, it’s introduced with humor. And without those dissonant strings, it’s been transformed, at least for me, from a somewhat eerie wail of despair to a jaded, last-drink-of-the-night blues song.

Again, I dig both of these. But listening to the Newman version this morning I was really struck by the difference.

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