This week saw the release of Bill Wyman’s solo album, Back to Basics.
“So what?”, you may ask yourself, but given most artists put out a record every couple of years, with Bill it has been 33 years since the ex-Rolling Stone bass player released his last UK solo CD.
It was only when archiving old demos last year he realised he had around 60 songs he’d never released so set to work putting together this album. He chose three songs that needed reworking and then got to work writing new songs before heading into his studio to record them.
The opening track ‘What & How & If & When & Why’ is catchy from the outset and proves itself to be Blockheads-esque. With strutting beat and almost spoken lyric, the intelligence behind the track is hidden behind its apparent simplicity revealing itself only after repeated listens.
By the time ‘I Lost My Ring’ and ‘Love, Love’ Love’ have passed the album should have you in its grasp. The laissez-faire approach to singing, the perfectly clear vocal, the oozing of cool, from this founder of British classic rock cannot be denied. The styles, instrumentation, songs themselves don’t sound like any one band or genre. As a huge Rolling Stones fan I’m surprisingly pleased to report that it doesn’t sound anything like that band. For influences, it is more clearly linked to the likes of Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, and JJ Cale. Not often do so many styles and genres mix so cleanly and work so well in a single disc.
That may be down to the heritage of Wyman himself given his work in The Stones, The Rhythm Kings and elsewhere, but also in part to the musicians joining Bill for this album. This includes long time collaborator and guitarist Terry Taylor, Guy Fletcher (of Mark Knopfler fame), Graham Broad and Robbie McIntosh. Or it may be in the production (co-production credit goes to Andy Wright who has worked with Jeff Beck, Eurythmics, Simply Red).
On one hand this album is very much Back to Basics, yet don’t let it fool you. It holds a rhythmic muscularity, an infectious groove whilst all the while maintaining an autobiographical lyric and melody. This is an album that warrants repeated play, and as evidenced right from track one but throughout, it only truly reveals itself after many re-listens.