The Wayne Brady album

A Long Time Coming
Wayne Brady, 2008
Peak Records
Running Time:
3.5 out of 5

It’s one of those things that makes perfect sense when you hear it, but still somehow catches you off guard: Wayne Brady recorded an album.

Yes, that Wayne Brady. The man you probably know from countless television shows, including the improv comedy program Whose Line is It Anyway?, his very own talk show The Wayne Brady Show, and his game show Don’t Forget the Lyrics!—not to mention some particularly memorable appearances on Comedy Central’s Chappelle’s Show. Aside from that, his career has tended toward doing some of the more thankless jobs in show business; including numerous voices on cartoon programs and hosting some bargain-basement pop culture documentaries on late-night cable.

Those of us who have followed his career have long been wondering why he’s continued to “slum it,” metaphorically speaking, when he’s clearly so multitalented. On Whose Line and everywhere else, he’s proven that he’s enormously adept as an actor, a comedian, and—yes—a singer (any Whose Line fan remembers his song performances fondly—for his voice as much as his sense of humor).

So a vocal album seems like almost a no-brainer. The question, though, is why now?

Not surprisingly, he’s wanted to do it a long time. In fact, his label’s press release goes to great pains to share his struggles with its creation. “The songs never came, the inspiration never happened,” he says. “Now in hindsight, I think about what my grandmother used to tell me: to just wait and as soon as it’s supposed to happen it will happen. I’m a very impatient person. I didn’t understand that. I love to sing. Why can’t I come up with my own album?”

Appropriately, the album he’s finally created is titled A Long Time Coming, which is both a summary of the work itself and quote from Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come,” a song which he covers on the album (it also happens to be one of its best cuts, with impassioned gospel blues influences, swelling strings, and tinkling piano). It was released September 16th on the Peak label, a label known primarily for contemporary jazz. This actually turns out to be a good fit—A Long Time Coming isn’t a jazz album (it’s decidedly R&B), but it has a lot more adult contemporary to it than it does urban flava. In other words, don’t expect to see a lot of high school students jamming to the sounds of “Ordinary” (the album’s lead single).

Of course, this is part of the record’s charm. Brady’s vast knowledge of pop culture would have been wasted on up-to-the-minute trendy sounds, and the use of (mostly) live instruments instead of programming is a welcome change from what you usually hear on contemporary urban radio. Every song features some memorable instrumentals from guitars, pianos, or orchestras; combined with Brady’s phenomenal vocals (which effortlessly move from bluesy to soulful to contemplative—Brady even pulls off a little bit of rap on a couple of cuts), it makes for a record with a “timeless” sound that could have been recorded anywhere from 1970 on.

Unfortunately, this also works against it somewhat. While most of the arrangements are well done and the musicianship is impeccable, the songs themselves turn out to disappointingly generic. Brady sings declarations of love (“I Ain’t Movin’ ”), paeans to sex (“F.W.B.”—which, by the way, stands for “Friends with Benefits”), angry breakup songs (“Beautiful Ugly”) and inane comparisons between women and fruit (“Sweetest Berry”), all without blinking or deviating at all from the beaten R&B path. (Also typical of the genre, each song is credited to six or more writers—does it really take that many people to come up with a single song? Can anyone explain that?)

There are momentary glimpses of what could have been, though. The aforementioned “A Change is Gonna Come” is three minutes of pure bliss. There’s a cover of the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” that’s pretty fun (even if it pales in comparison to Michael Buble’s inspired swing version). Even “Ordinary” (Brady’s assurance of his love that he’s fine with everyday life with her) is somewhat insightful. The real standout of the album, though, is “Back in the Day,” which boasts the chorus “I’ve loved you since Thundercats / Thundercats / Thundercats / Oh / Back in the day playing music videos / Tried to get a Jheri curl, Mama said no / That’s how long I’ve loved you.” I wouldn’t hesitate to say that 1980’s nostalgia is getting old (all irony intended), but it’s so unexpected in an R&B song that it works—and works well. This is really the only song that shows any of the quirk of Brady’s comedy, and while it’s not laugh-out-loud funny (which is almost certainly a good thing), it possesses a degree of personality that’s somewhat lacking in the rest of the album.

But despite its weaknesses, A Long Time Coming is still an accomplishment of an album, and one that Brady can certainly be proud of. Hopefully it will lead the entertainment business to take greater notice of this talented and versatile artist.

About the author:

A graduate of the University of Nebraska, Luke Harrington currently resides in Tulsa and works in the aerospace industry–but, at any given moment, would probably rather be reviewing movies and music.  In his spare time, he’s off playing blues piano, pretending to be Assistant Editor for, or reviewing the many musical events in Northeastern Oklahoma for Tulsa Today.