The cover of Wayne Brady's new album, "A Long Time Coming".

The cover of Wayne Brady

Of course you know who Wayne Brady is. Whether you watched him on the improv show “Whose Line is It Anyway?”, were a fan of his talk/variety show, caught him as the host of “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” or checked him out in an unforgettable “Chappelle’s Show” sketch (which is where I got the title of this review from…I’m not being vulgar just for the sake of vulgarity), you’re aware of the dude, and you might also know that the guy can carry a tune. He’s utilized his singing chops in every assignment he’s had.What you may not have known (until now, anyway), is that Wayne Brady has put out an album. And unlike fellow actors-turned-musicians like Don Johnson and Bruce Willis, Brady’s debut, Long Time Coming, is GOOD. I don’t say this sarcastically or facetiously, and I am not drunk or on drugs (today). If you are a fan of smooth, grown-folks style soul music, you will find plenty to enjoy here.I would never have given a solitary thought to picking this album up if not for glancing at a Billboard magazine one day and noticing the name Wayne Brady loitering near the bottom of the R&B singles charts. “Nah, it can’t be,” I said initially. A little more research revealed that he had an album on the way, so my curiosity got the better of me and I checked YouTube and then iMeem for the song. After I hit paydirt on the latter site, expecting a cheesy pop song or a show tune/standard, my ears were blessed with the easygoing, smooth sound of first single Ordinary. After debating whether to spring for the whole album, I parted with my money just a couple of days later. I figured if it sucked it would just gain a place among the many other crappy albums in my collection.

WRONG!!!

Long Time Coming is a solid R&B album-not pop, not show tunes-y, it’s contemporary R&B for grown folks. It’s an easy listen from beginning to end, and Wayne shows off some pretty solid chops here. Even though a couple of songs sound a bit recycled (and three are covers), this is a strong record, and believe it or not, one of the better R&B albums released this year (hmmm…why do they all seem to be coming out at the end of the year?).

Brady definitely has at least one foot in the past. The nostalgic Back in the Day is a fun jaunt through the Eighties, and much better than any song with a chorus that starts “Thundercats, Thundercats, Thundercats, hooooo!!!!” has a right to be, while I Ain’t Movin’ has a Motown flair to it, complete with an overcaffeinated spoken section in the middle. As I mentioned earlier, Brady also covers three songs on this album: a slow-jam take on The Beatles’ Can’t Buy Me Love sounds way too similar to the version BLACKstreet did about a decade ago, but he reshuffles Stevie Wonder’s All I Do into a fun, jazzy number, and…well…it would be almost impossible for anyone to ruin Sam Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come anyway (unless, like, Michael Bolton did it), and Brady’s version is the most impressive vocal on the album-even if it can’t hold a candle to the original.

The emotional Make Heaven Wait borrows a little too strongly from two 2001 R&B songs (Luther’s “Can Heaven Wait” and MJ’s “Heaven Can Wait”), with the same theme of missing a lover who has gone too soon, but it’s still a pleasant song. The womenfolk will definitely appreciate songs like Sweetest Berry and All Naturally, a slow jam on which Brady fawns over his woman for looking beautiful without a stitch of makeup on, and You and Me deserves to be an anthem for divorced parents everywhere. Much like Babyface’s recent “Not Going Nowhere”, Brady sings this song to his kid, reassuring her that the family will still be OK even if Mommy and Daddy aren’t together anymore.

If you need proof that you don’t need big name production to make a good album (actually, it might be the opposite these days), look no further than this album. The majority of Long Time Coming is produced by a team called The Heavyweights (a team that features All-4-One member Jamie Jones) and they stick to a sympathetic production style that’s contemporary sounding without being trendy. No guest rappers, no club bangers, and almost no Auto-Tune. This album has sort of a timeless quality to it, like it could have been a hit in the Eighties, Nineties or today.

I’m glad I left my preconceived notions at the door when I picked this album up, because I was very pleasantly surprised by its’ quality. If you’re an R&B fan and your friends laugh at you when they see the words “Wayne Brady” in your CD collection or in your iTunes library, just play the music. The quality of it will shut them up in a hurry.