Brian Wilson (album)

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Brian Wilson
Studio album by Brian Wilson
Released July 12, 1988 (1988-07-12)
Recorded April 1987–May 1988
Genre Pop
Length 37:20
Label Sire/Reprise/Warner Bros. Records 25669
Producer Brian Wilson, Russ Titelman, Jeff Lynne, Lenny Waronker, Andy Paley
Brian Wilson chronology
Brian Wilson
I Just Wasn't Made for These Times
Singles from Brian Wilson
  1. "Love and Mercy"
    Released: July 1, 1988 (1988-07-01) 27814
  2. "Night Time"
    Released: 1988 7-27787-DJ
  3. "Melt Away"
    Released: January 19, 1989 (1989-01-19) 27694

Brian Wilson is the eponymous debut solo album by Brian Wilson released in July 1988 on Sire Records.

It was voted the thirty-second best album of 1988 by NME,[1] and as part of its acclaim, garnered the nickname "Pet Sounds '88" among some critics.[2] Brian Wilson has since been reissued on several different formats with bonus tracks, and has been cited by some as a standout in Wilson's solo oeuvre.[3]


During the 1980s, Wilson was under controversial around-the-clock medical care by his therapist Dr. Eugene Landy after spending several years participating in little-to-no work with the Beach Boys. Although he made sporadic contributions to the band's then-recent lackluster output, it was unforeseeable for some time that Wilson would ever work as a seriously productive musician or composer ever again.[3] Despite these odds, Wilson was signed to a multi-album solo recording contract with Sire Records in early 1987 after label president Seymour Stein saw Wilson perform an a cappella version of "On Broadway" while inducting Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The initial single released that April, "Let's Go To Heaven In My Car", was a collaborative effort with record producer Gary Usher, and was included in the soundtrack for Police Academy 4, although not commercially successful.

Stein imposed one condition on Wilson for the recording of his approaching solo album: that he would be allowed to appoint his own co-producer to help him stay organized and on-task.[4] The condition was agreed upon, and Stein called up multi-instrumentalist record producer Andy Paley, a devout Brian Wilson fan whom had previously gained some success and notoriety producing artists ranging from Madonna to Jonathan Richman. Wilson proceeded to record a full album of new material working mainly with Paley and a few other guest musicians.


According to Paley, "My job was to kick him in the ass and get him going…It was difficult because he was medicated, and that slowed him down a bit. He was also in mid-career and didn’t have anything to prove anymore."[4] Similar to Wilson's previous collaborators Tony Asher or Van Dyke Parks, some of the tracks' rough outlines sprang largely out of conversations about whatever was on their mind at the time.

The recording sessions, mainly supervised by veteran producers like Russ Titelman and Lenny Waronker, were said to be contentious. Wilson's collaborators reportedly clashed with Landy and his medical staff. As Paley expounds: "The guy was saying something like, 'Brian, don’t you think the lyrics would be better if Alexandra fixed them?' And Brian said, 'No, I like them the way they are.' Then the guy’s like, 'Well, what did you tell me last night when I said you could have that milkshake if you switched the lyrics?' And then Brian said, 'Oh, okay. The new lyrics are better than the old ones.'"[4] Landy made repeated attempts to modify lyrics and arrangements by interrupting sessions, sometimes confiscating master tapes to assert his control. According to Paley "Anything good we got out of those sessions was done totally on stolen time…Landy was always checking in, phoning in directions, basically never wanting to give Brian any breathing room. It was a hassle and many times heartbreaking because we’d do something good, finally, and then Landy would swoop in and dive-bomb it."[4]

"Melt Away" bears sonic similarities to the earlier Beach Boys work "God Only Knows", carrying on the quintessential orchestral pop textures Wilson had begun being known for with albums such as Today! and Pet Sounds.

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Certain portions and ideas of Brian Wilson harken back to Wilson's earlier work with the Beach Boys. The song "Baby Let Your Hair Grow Long" is a spiritual sequel to "Caroline, No". The album's eight-minute-long closing suite, "Rio Grande", was purposely developed as a continuation to the modular recording experiments Wilson had begun with tracks such as "Good Vibrations" and "Cool, Cool Water", and bears Americana traits similar to Wilson's aborted Smile project.

At times when Landy wasn't around, Wilson was reported to have worked with "amazing speed and precision, often dreaming up and singing complex, multipart vocal arrangements while standing alone at the microphone",[4] and after several months, Brian Wilson was complete and ready for release.


Two singles from the album, "Love And Mercy" (#40 Mainstream Rock) and "Melt Away," sold poorly. They were backed with "He Couldn't Get His Poor Old Body to Move" and "Being With the One You Love", both tracks which were not included on the album. A third, "Night Time," was released for promotional use only. Although the Beach Boys' #1 hit "Kokomo" may have stolen some of the album's attention, Wilson's restricted promotion of the album, which was overseen and controlled by his controversial psychologist Eugene Landy, was more likely the reason for the limited sales.[according to whom?] Initially, Landy and his girlfriend, Alexandra Morgan, even had their names included on some of the songs on Brian Wilson, but once he was successfully removed from Wilson's life in 1991, the credits were later revised to reflect their lack of involvement in Wilson's songs.

No music videos were produced for Brian Wilson. However, Sire Records did release a promotional disc with an interview of Brian Wilson intertwined with various tracks from the album. Additionally, Sire released a limited edition CD with a leather-bound jacket.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars[5]
Robert Christgau (B−)[6]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[7]
The Guardian (Positive)[8]

Brian Wilson was released in July 1988 to favorable reviews, and reached a respectable #54 on American 200 LP charts. Its completion came as a shock to many.[3] David Fricke wrote for Rolling Stone: "Brian Wilson is a stunning reminder of what pop's been missing all these years. It is also the best Beach Boys long player since 1970's Sunflower, although Wilson is the only Beach Boy on it. The songs are full of sunshine choirboy harmonies and sing-along hooks, while the rich, expansive arrangements echo the orchestral radiance of Wilson's spiritual mentor, Phil Spector."[7]

Reflecting on the album's release years later, Richie Unterberger referred to the album's use of the Yamaha DX7 digital synthesizer as a detracting element, elaborating, "While he retained his gift for catchy melodies and dense, symphonic production, there was a forced stiffness to both the songwriting and execution. Much of the blame for the album's mixed success can be laid upon its sterile, synthesizer-laden arrangements and echoing percussion, which epitomized some of the less attractive aspects of late-1980s production."[5] Biographer Peter Ames Carlin would later note that the "Rio Grande" suite "succeeded at giving Brian Wilson the forward-looking perspective of a legitimate comeback. Brian had finally delivered on his oft-given promise to “really stretch out and blow some minds” with his sheer ambition. When the needle finally lifted at the end of side two, it was easy to imagine that he really might be back on his journey to the distant frontier."[4]


In 2000, Sire re-released the album through Rhino/Atlantic Records with non-album single tracks, non-album b-sides, demos, instrumentals, and interview clips. On its 25th anniversary in 2013, Friday Music Records reissued the album on blue 180g vinyl.[9]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Brian Wilson, except where noted. 

Side A
No. Title Length
1. "Love And Mercy"   2:52
2. "Walkin' The Line" (B. Wilson/Nick Laird-Clowes) 2:37
3. "Melt Away"   2:58
4. "Baby Let Your Hair Grow Long"   3:15
5. "Little Children"   1:48
6. "One For The Boys"   1:47
7. "There's So Many"   2:46
Side B
No. Title Length
1. "Night Time" (B. Wilson/Andy Paley) 3:34
2. "Let It Shine" (B. Wilson/Jeff Lynne) 3:57
3. "Meet Me In My Dreams Tonight" (B. Wilson/A. Paley/Andy Dean) 3:05
4. "Rio Grande" (B. Wilson/A. Paley) 8:12
  • On the original release, Eugene Landy was given a co-writer's credit on tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 and 8. Landy's wife Alexandra Morgan was also co-credited on tracks 1, 7, and 8. Those credits were removed on the 2000 rerelease.


Additional musicians



  1. ^ "Albums and Tracks of the Year". NME. 
  2. ^ Carlin, Peter Ames (2007). Catch a wave : the rise, fall & redemption of the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson. Emmaus, Pa.: Rodale. p. 262. ISBN 1594867496. 
  3. ^ a b c Leaf, David. "Brian Wilson 2000 liner notes". Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Carlin, Peter Ames (2007). Catch a wave : the rise, fall & redemption of the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson. Emmaus, Pa.: Rodale. ISBN 1594867496. 
  5. ^ a b Unterberger, Richie. "Review: Brian Wilson". Macrovision Corporation. Retrieved 3 February 2010. 
  6. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Review: Brian Wilson (Sire, 1988)". Retrieved 3 February 2010. 
  7. ^ a b Fricke, David (July 14, 1988). "Review: Brian Wilson - Brian Wilson". Jann Wenner. Retrieved 27 June 2011. 
  8. ^ Denselow, Robin. "Review: Brian Wilson: Brian Wilson (Sire WX157)". The Guardian (Guardian Media Group) (July 15, 1988): 25. 
  9. ^