Critics generally approach with suspicion any musical project released by a performer who is first known as an actor or comedian. The prospect of a weak-voiced entertainer satisfying a vain itch and receiving a major label contract with no vocal creds is viewed by many as an insult to every talented young artist hauling his or her guitar to a small club, waiting for a break based on the merits. And the tepid results over the past two decades issued by performers ranging from Eddie Murphy to Don Johnson to Bruce Willis -- notable only for the producers with whom these singers teamed -- have only buttressed this perception.
So for most folks it will be a pleasant surprise to find out that Wayne Brady can sing. Really. In addition to showing off his vocal skills on the various television shows on which he's appeared, he proved himself a solid vocalist on the excellent track "Don't Stop" from All-4-One lead Jamie Jones' 2005 solo album. And while he's no Luther, Brady is certainly credible on his debut album, A Long Time Coming.
These types of projects are typically producer-driven, and Jones' hands are clearly all over A Long Time Coming. All-4-One was ridiculed by some for their pop-oriented, often lightweight albums, but there was no denying their sense of melody. And that sensibility is there aplenty on Brady's disc, beginning with the enjoyable lead single, "Ordinary." Jones and his production team, the Heavyweights, have brought together a series of accessible adult contemporary songs that, even if not inspiring, certainly go down easy.
A Long Time Coming is at its best when it takes a sentimental - even nostalgic - tone, such as on the pretty ballad "Make Heaven Wait" (about the loss of a loved one) or the fun, upbeat 80s tribute "Back In the Day" (basically "We Didn't Start the Fire" viewed from the sunny side of the street). And while I've never been a fan of the women-as-fruit line of songs, "Sweetest Berry" is a nice piece of ear candy. Similarly, "Beautiful Ugly" and the organ-drenched 60s-style number "I Ain't Moving" are unmitigatingly catchy.
The disc only really suffers on its well worn cover songs, including the Beatles' "Can't Buy Me Love," Stevie's "All I Do," and Sam Cooke's seminal "A Change Is Gonna Come," a monumental song that has been recorded by at least a dozen other artists in the last couple of years alone. Neither the production nor Brady's unassuming vocal performance are distinct enough to take these tracks beyond listenable filler.
A Long Time Coming is clearly aimed at the "adult and sexy" crowd of over 30s and, depending on what these listeners are looking for, it succeeds. Brady is generally a convincing singer and the album is a step above an artist "vanity project." There's nothing experimental or even particularly envelope-pushing about the disc; but for folks looking for music that is melodic and easy to digest, they'll find a lot to like with A Long Time Coming. And for that crowd, the disc is RECOMMENDED.
By Chris Rizik