Brian Wilson

Rio Grande

Song Review by

The closing song on Brian Wilson's 1988 self-titled solo album, this mini-medley answered a lot of questions, and in a strange way, revenged the spirit of the long-lost (and uncompleted) Smile project of 1966. The suite begins with a quirky, multiple keyboard orgy that serves as an overture, encapsulating several of the themes that were to come. The first section proper is a simple, bluegrass/country piece that defines the sense of Americana that is the central theme of the piece. The tempo gracefully moves into a section which utilizes the "big, big river," and it's interesting to see how similar this is to Dennis Wilson's "River Song" from 1978. Pounding tribal drums move the song to a more American Indian motif, complete with drone-laden vocals, before the thunderstorm sound effects are incorporated to illustrate the power of the universe, while Wilson returns to his more trademark musical motifs and a sense of pop is introduced. At this point there is yet another section, which is entitled "Nigh Bloomin' Jasmine," and this snippet is eerily similar to some of Wilson's Smile-period experiments. The song then returns to the grandeur of the "Big River" section for the final, powerful section. At the conclusion, you realize that Wilson had returned to not just making fine records, but art as well.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Brian Wilson 1988 Rhino / Warner Bros. 8:15
No Image 1996 [Bootleg] 8:11
Playback: The Brian Wilson Anthology 2017 Rhino 8:12