October 23, 2011
Back in the 1990s, Bill Wyman did the unthinkable and left the Rolling Stones — the consensus greatest rock ’n’ roll band of all time — and went on to form a group of his own that equaled his previous band in terms of chops, while actually surpassing the Stones in sheer versatility.
What’s more, Wyman has managed to keep Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings going strong for a decade and a half and counting, with an ever-shifting lineup of fellow all-star players coming together from all points on the stylistic map and locking together with the precision of a Swiss watch — albeit with a lot more soul. For Wyman, this remarkable accomplishment was the most natural thing in the world. This musicians’ musician just wants to play music, free of all the surrounding nonsense, and so do his talented friends.
Rhythm Kings Collector’s Edition Box Set
This five-disc Collectors’ Edition Box Set, which gathers four studio albums Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings cranked out between their 1998 debut Struttin’ Our Stuff and 2001’s Double Bill, is a revelation, particularly for those who have yet to discover the rich body of work of Wyman’s low-profile/high-revving band.
Given the expansive array of material the Rhythm Kings tackle in these recordings, one even might think of this collection as a pocket history of 20th century roots music, with original material written in the spirit of the old songs serving as the connective tissue. The Wyman box was be released in the U.S. on Proper American Records on October 25, 2011.
It’s this quality that has drawn a jaw-dropping procession of virtuosos to play alongside Wyman in the context of Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings whenever their busy schedules have permitted. Scattered here and there through these 66 tracks are the likes of Eric Clapton, Procol Harum’s Gary Brooker, fellow former Stone Mick Taylor, Mark Knopfler, Peter Frampton, Paul Carrack, Chris Rea, acclaimed jazz guitarist Martin Taylor, master percussionist Ray Cooper and, in some of their final recordings, George Harrison and Nicky Hopkins.
These greats have slipped seamlessly into the sturdy yet willowy framework provided by core members Wyman, drummer Graham Broad (best known for his work with Roger Waters), singer/guitarist Andy Fairweather-Low (Eric Clapton), legendary singer/organist Georgie Fame, renowned roots guitarist Albert Lee, vocalist Beverley Skeete, horn players Frank Mead and Nick Payn, pianist Geraint Watkins and guitarist Terry Taylor, who doubles as Wyman’s primary collaborator on the originals.
As he looks back on the last 20 years of his life and career, the affable, perennially youthful Wyman peppers his conversation with wry laughter as understated as his playing style, onstage demeanor and personality. “In ’91, the Stones had a big business meeting,” he begins. “They were about to sign the contract with Virgin, and I said, ‘I won’t be doing that, ’cause I’m leaving.’ ‘No you’re not,’ they said. ‘You can’t leave.’ ‘Well, I am.’ Bless them, they didn’t believe me for two years; they left the door open until they were ready to go out on the ’94 tour. And in late ’93, Charlie and Mick came ’round and said, ‘Is it definite? Have you left?’ I said, ‘I left two years ago.’”
“So then I thought, maybe I should do some music on the side, but not heavy; I don’t want to have to worry about charts, image and all that crap. It’s not gonna be a career move — I’m just gonna do it for the fun. I got together with my mate and right-hand man Terry Taylor, and I said, ‘Let’s do something.’
We were gonna just do a blues duo and call ourselves the Dirt Boys, and we started to rough up ideas. And then, when we decided to go into the studio just for a couple of days, we thought it might be nice to have a drummer, and, of course, a piano player would be good. So I just phoned up a few mates.”
Full track listing
Disc 1: Struttin' Our Stuff
Disc 2: Anyway The Wind Blows
Disc 3: Groovin'
Disc 4: Double Bill