The Return of The Return of Bruno

Let’s face it, people: the Blues Brothers sucked. At the end of the day, their legacy is a single rather enjoyable film in which they’re consistently outshone by the music legends they’ve surrounded themselves with. The whole schtick was ultimately a platform for Belushi and Aykroyd to live out their teenaged fantasy of being the ass end of the Stax-Volt Revue.

Perhaps that’s a little harsh. Sure, they weren’t the second coming of Sam and Dave, but at least they had the good sense to hire a helluva back-up band. The same can’t be said for Bruce Willis.

A little background: Bruce, his ego in full bloom from the success of Moonlighting, decides that acting isn’t enough for him, he wants to be a singer. But wait, wait ... he needs a cool alter-ego too! Enter Bruno Radolini. Bruno’s a 60’s journeyman rock singer who’s had several brushes with greatness but never quite made it. Why he never made it would become apparent later.

Somehow, Bruce’s agent convinces both Motown and HBO that this is a good idea, and an album plus companion TV rockumentary are unleashed upon the unsuspecting public. The resulting album, The Return of Bruno is released and enjoys modest chart success, peaking at #14 on Billboard 200 and producing a #5 hit with “Respect Yourself.” The second time out though, America wouldn’t be so charitable - Bruce’s sophomore release If It Don't Kill You, It Just Makes You Stronger, effectively killed off Bruno for good (although he does make a few live appearances at Planet Hollywood openings).

It’s easy to see why listeners didn’t go for a second helping. The Return of Bruno is a pretty strong argument for a unilateral ban on singing TV stars - as if William Shatner’s The Transformed Man wasn’t enough. But whereas Shatner’s debut has endless kitsch appeal, this is just a bore. Willis’ thin, Seagram’s-and-cigarettes growl is only slightly better than his anemic pop-blues settings. The covers here ("Under the Boardwalk," "Respect Yourself”) will only have you longing for the originals and his own originals will have you longing for the subtle songwriting pen of Don Johnson.

Not bad enough to be good, not good enough to actually be good - The Return of Bruno is best left gathering dust in the cut-out bin of your local record shop.

Bruno Radolini - Jackpot (Bruno's Bop) (live)
Bruno Radolini - Down In Hollywood (live)


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