Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer Turn Up That Noise!

By Stephen Grimstead

JANUARY 26, 1998: 

Bill Wyman & the Rhythm Kings

Struttin’ Our Stuff

Outside of cutsie-pie pop demigod (and beloved Beatle) Paul “Look at Me” McCartney, the former bass players of famous British Invasion bands haven’t fared so well after leaving their respective ensembles. Two notable exceptions come to mind: the ever-amusing John Entwistle (of the Who) and rock-solid Bill Wyman (of the Rolling Stones). Since leaving the Stones back in 1992 after a tenure of over three decades, Wyman has emerged as the late bloomer of the bunch.

What’s easy to forget is that Wyman was the first lasting Stone to have a separate recording career, beginning back in 1974 with the salaciously titled Monkey Grip. Two more well-received solo efforts followed in 1976 and 1982 (Stone Alone and Bill Wyman, respectively), and Wyman branched out further through his work in film and with his all-star revivalist combo, Willie and the Poorboys.

The post-Stone years have found Wyman relatively inactive musically, concentrating instead on writing and publishing his fascinating autobiography, Stone Alone (he must like that title), and a separate volume of photographs he snapped of artist Marc Chagall titled Chagall’s World. His most recent role has been that of successful restaurateur at the three British locations of Sticky Fingers (I’m not kidding, folks).

As the low man on the Stones’ totem pole, Wyman has always been taken somewhat for granted as an all-around utility man – a situation he’ll probably remedy with the release of his latest project with the Rhythm Kings, Struttin’ Our Stuff. Wyman has assembled an impressive array of musical talent to plunder the past in an affectionate manner, adding resonant assurance and a sense of history to round out the mix.

Bill Wyman: one Stone not so alone
The selections on Struttin’ Our Stuff encompass six originals and six covers, which fit comfortably side by side, even though they vary widely in style. The cover versions show Wyman’s pedigree as a rock musician, ranging from the popular (Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Green River,” the Nashville Teens’ “Tobacco Road,” and the Rolling Stones’ “Melody”) to the downright obscure (Sascha Burland’s “Hole In My Soul” and Willie Mabon’s “I’m Mad,” which features the timeless couplet, “Asked my baby could she stand to see me cry/She said, ‘Yes, I could stand to see you buried alive’”).

Since Wyman’s not much of a vocalist, he’s wisely elected to sing lead on only four of the dozen songs tackled. His croaky voice is actually quite endearing, particularly on the faux-funk “Stuff (Can’t Get Enough).” Other standout vocal performances are provided by former Chaka Khan backup singer Beverly Skeete and the growly Geraint Watkins, with additional cause for celebration in the raucous return of ’60s British legend Georgie Fame. Guest guitarists contributing fretboard firepower include Albert Lee, Peter Frampton, and the ubiquitous Eric Clapton.

The overall sound on Struttin’ Our Stuff reminds one of an Alligator Records modern-blues release – slick, but with a little dirt on the edges just to keep it honest. Wyman has promised at least two other volumes to complete the Rhythm Kings’ trilogy, and one can only hope he’ll continue far past that point. The modern-day Stones may be raking in the big bucks dragging the old dinosaur around the mega-stadium circuit, but there’s no doubt that Bill Wyman is having a hell of a lot more fun with the Rhythm Kings. Struttin’ Our Stuff is that rare recording that lives up to its title, and Bill Wyman gets the Most Valuable Player award for making sure that it does.– David D. Duncan

(Wyman’s CD should hit the shelves sometime in February.)


Straight From The Cyndicate
(Nu Hafi Music)

The CYC is so big, it might not even be a band. “Big band” doesn’t cut it either. While there are eight core members of the improvisational collective that call themselves the Cooper Young Cyndicate, there’s at least that many again who appear on the record, including North Mississippi All-Stars Luther Dickinson and Kelley Hurt and Big Ass Truck bassist Paul Taylor. You could be in the CYC and not even know it. That’s what it’s like.

With that many cooks, one can imagine the motley stew they cook up. Recorded at Rockingchair Studios and the Edge Coffee Shop, Straight From The Cyndicate is a fusion of many materials: from Memphis soul to fresh off-the-Mothership funk, from blunt-burnt hip-hop to improvisational jazz. The latter kicks off the record on a smooth note with the track “Sharks,” which triggers what sounds like a prolonged 67-minute jam, wherever it was recorded. Braced between the south-side rhymes of AK-47 and a relentless rhythm section, Straight is like a free-form hip-hop drum circle that ends in a three-way tie between The Theme From Shaft, Parliament, and G. Love. Along the way, many a deep groove is cut and there are plenty of self-fulfilling shout-outs. “1234,” the best track, has both, with a steel-drum implosion thrown in just to be sure, and you’ll be too busy singing along to notice that “Streneous Tenews” doesn’t mean a damn thing.

Its inherent funkiness notwithstanding, the CYC could have kept the potential bitch-bashin’ anthem “Sludge” without it being missed, but otherwise, Straight is perfectly tailored to the needs of the “party people” it constantly calls to action.– Jim Hanas

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