Review: Bill Wyman – Back To Basics


billwyman-backtobasicsOriginal Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman turns 80 years old next year. I’m tempted to leave the review at that, because those words look so shocking written down. Somehow there seems like a world of difference between 70 and 80 years old when it comes to keeping the rock & roll flame burning.

On the other hand, it’s awfully inspiring to consider that this near-octogenarian has just released his first solo album in 33 years. Of course, Wyman has kept busy in the intervening years with a lot of projects, most notably in the band Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings.

Featuring other experienced rockers like Gary Brooker and Georgie Fame, the Rhythm Kings released six albums between 1998 and 2005, delivering a rootsy take on old rhythm & blues and country & western classics. This new album doesn’t stray too far from that approach, except the songs are all written by Wyman, obviously giving it a more personal and intimate impact.

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That’s not to say that Wyman was looking to reveal any deep dark personal truths. Most of the lyrics are structured on casual, sometimes clever and sometimes meaningless wordplay:

It’s not the bird,

It’s not the feather.

It’s not the grass,

It’s not the heather.

It’s not the wind,

It’s not the weather,

It’s love, love, love.

Musically, the album is a collection of mostly uptempo bluesy shuffles, sometimes enlivened by horns and backup vocals. I hate to say it, but Wyman’s thin and growly vocals really do sound like grampa giving this rock & roll singing a go. Even if you didn’t know this guy was almost 80 you would say the same thing, I think.

The upside is that it’s an album of simple recordings, all impeccably and professionally played. Wyman’s unique bass playing style is on display here – no pyrotechnics or speed runs, but an uncanny way of finding the punch where it is needed. That alone may be worth the price of admission for any students of the bass.

For everyone else, this might be a good one to play in the background at family gatherings when grampa starts acting up after one too many rum and cokes. It’ll help settle him down a bit.

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