Bill Wyman & The Rhythm Kings
Any Way the Wind Blows
The first thing I thought of when I picked this up was “Please don’t be another Stone Alone .” I think I actually paid good money for one of this guy’s first solo attempts. I ended up giving it to the Salvation Army about ten years ago. The last time I looked through the Salvation Army record racks, it was still there. I haven’t paid any attention to any of his work since.
It’s kinda hard to imagine what some ex-Stones member will come up with. Most of their solo efforts have been pure crap. Come to think of it, most of the Rolling Stones stuff during the last twenty years has been crap. They haven’t really moved me since “Honky Tonk Women.” I sorta liked about half of Some Girls , but they totally lost me after that. My view of them in the last 20 years has been pretty much they tour, they fill their pockets and satisfy Mick’s need to tear his shirt off and pout in front of a bunch of people, they rest for a year or two, they do it again. Kinda like shampoo directions. Lather, rinse. repeat.
The Stones have gotten so far away from the Chicago Blues that made them what they were that I no longer find them the least bit relevant. Mick Jagger has become a parody of himself. They are all too old to keep doing the Rolling Stones thing. However, I can certainly understand why they do. They generally rake in over a hundred million a tour. They’ll probably still be pulling down 50 million when they are rolling around in wheelchairs. I can imagine them one day be selling souvenir Depends with the famous Lips and tongue logo on them alongside the T-shirts.
There have been a few decent releases among their solo efforts. I kinda liked Keith Richards’ X-Pensive Winos. It was cool in the way that they were all able to switch around their instruments and carry on without missing a beat. Keith was able to challenge Ivan Neville to a point that Ivan was at his very best while he was in this group. Keith should drop Mick and hook up with Ivan again. Charlie Watts has also done some jazz stuff that is worthy of respect.
This release is actually quite good. To paraphrase Captain Beefheart, Wyman is not lifting any ego barbells here. Bill doesn’t sing, and he doesn’t try to do all original material. He does his duty on bass and arranging, and leaves the vocals to mostly Georgie Fame and Beverly Skeete. Mike Sanchez and Geoff Grange handle three of the sixteen tracks. Paul Carrack handles one. Carrack’s rendering of Willie Dixon’s “Too Late” is one of the better pieces of work he has done in years.
The material is mostly tried-and-true standards written by some of the better songwriters of the last 40 years. The title track, J.J. Cale’s “Any Way the Wind Blows,” Buddy Buie and J.R. Cobb’s “Spooky,” Dan Hicks’ “Walking One and Only,” J.B. Lenoir’s “Mojo Boogie,” and Mose Allison’s “Days Like This” are my favorites. Wyman penned five of the songs, and they actually blend in pretty well with the other material. He stuck his songs right in the middle of these others, and they don’t deviate from the feel of the album as a whole. In my mind, this is a pretty good testament to their strength.
The release has a mostly laid-back jazz/blues/smoky-club feel. This group might end up being unfairly accused of jumping on the Swing bandwagon. But so what if they were? Wyman is utilizing his knowledge and strengths to their fullest, and deferring the rest to his very competent compadres. There’s always room on any wagon for a few more knowledgeable and competent workers. I was very pleasantly surprised. http://www.stickyfingers.co.uk
Velvel Records, 740 Broadway, New York, NY 10003; http://www.velvel.com/