Review: Music That Bears Witness to Brian Wilson’s Wanderings

Brian Wilson/Long Promised Road/Lakeshore Records
3.5 out of Five Stars

Videos by American Songwriter

First, there’s the obvious. As a soundtrack for the upcoming documentary about Brian Wilson, Long Promised Road offers all one would expect—an ample supply of the music Wilson and the Beach Boys are best known for, chock full of the innocence, exuberance, and immediate appeal that made Wilson one of the world’s most beloved pop icons. So too, considering the fact that this film is, in fact—with all due respect to Monty Python—the true life of Brian, the music accompaniment affirms that authenticity.

While several of the songs stem from an earlier unfinished project with producer and co-writer Andy Paley, it’s also notable to find Jim James, an obvious admirer, contributing to at least one entry, a seemingly autobiographical offering convincingly titled “Right Where I Belong.” Like many of the other tracks on the album, it’s expressly revealing, or at least that’s what it would have listeners believe. Yet there’s something rather disarming and slightly despondent about the tone and temperament of many of these songs. “It’s Not Easy Being Me,” “I’m Broke” and, not surprisingly, a live version of “In My Room” allude to the anguish and insecurity that’s tempered Wilson’s emotions from early on in his career, and followed him as he’s evolved into the man child he’s perceived to be. 

Not surprisingly, he embraces that persona throughout, and as a result, much of the material shared here would have found an easy fit within the Beach Boys classic catalog at practically any point in their trajectory. “Slightly American Music” goes so far as to reference “I Get Around,” expanding its reach by namedropping Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Hank Williams, thus accurately insinuating that Wilson’s place in the pantheon of true legends is indeed a given. Likewise, a remake of “Long Promised Road,” written by his brother Carl and co-composed with Jack Rieley, reinforces the notion that the Beach Boys legacy will always live on.

It’s an appropriate assumption of course, and if Wilson feels obliged to assert his standing, then it’s certainly hard to argue. This is his bio flick after all. As a result, Long Promised Road is simply a celebration, not only of the magic of the music but the complicated genius and solitary soul who managed to make it all possible.

Photo by Pamela Littky / Decca Records

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