Bill Wyman played bass for The Rolling Stones for thirty years. His presence – however low key – was integral enough to the band’s image; they’ve never officially replaced him nearly 20 years after his departure. Of course, the aging band probably wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea of taking on a new financial partner, but the point is Wyman’s legacy as a legendary rock and roller is secure. Given his rather unassuming persona as a Rolling Stone, it’s fitting that his post-Stones work doesn’t likewise draw attention to itself. Wyman’s Rhythm Kings’ first four studio albums have been reissued together under the simple title Collector’s Edition Box Set.
The fairly large core group of musicians that make up the Rhythm Kings are: Wyman on bass and vocals, drummer Graham Broad, guitarist Andy Fairweather-Low, organist/vocalist Georgie Fame, guitarist Albert Lee, and pianist Geraint Watkins. Beverley Skeete contributes a fair number of vocals. A whole slew of guest musicians drop in for appearances, including some very well known names such as Eric Clapton and George Harrison. The style is not really rock, but more like pre-rock rhythm and blues. Some of it could almost qualify as jump blues. Everyone plays super professionally and I don’t doubt that it was a blast for all involved. But it is lacking in passion and excitement overall. There is a generic feel to each of the albums that keeps the music from ever being especially interesting.
Struttin’ Our Stuff was originally released in 1997. Half the album consists of Wyman originals. It includes a cover of the Stones’ “Melody.” Among the highlights are a Paul Carrack-led cover of “Tobacco Road” (with Peter Frampton on guitar) and a cool reworking of CCR’s “Green River.” Anyway the Wind Blows was their follow-up, with a good cover of J.J. Cale’s title tune, released in 1999. Beverley Skeete sounds fine on a run through of Classics IV’s “Spooky.” Clapton contributes lead work to “Gee Baby Ain’t I Good to You.” 2000 saw the release of Groovin’, again with Skeete proving a highlight with her take on the Young Rascals’ “Groovin’.” Rounding out the set is 2001’s Double Bill, which is a double-disc album. George Harrison guests on “Love Letters,” adding his distinctive slide guitar.
The five discs are each in their own cardboard sleeve. Along with a booklet, they are tightly stuffed into a flimsy outer box. The liner notes by Bud Scoppa provide a moderate amount of prospective to the history of the Rhythm Kings, but his writing style is annoying and hyperbolic. Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings is a group that is destined to be remembered as a very minor footnote in the annals of rock history. There are no overlooked gems here and its quite likely that a good number of Stones fans won’t even care for Wyman’s style of music.