When Bill Wyman left his post as bassist for the Rolling Stones in 1993 after thirty years, it wasn’t a departure from the musical world. He’s been recording and touring with his band the Rhythm Kings since then, but now is releasing a new solo album; the first UK release under his own name in thirty three years! Back To Basics is aptly named, as it is totally stripped back, while touching on the easy-going feeling that the Rhythm Kings give off. Its strength is in its unashamed simplicity.
A large part of this comes from the fact that Wyman’s vocals are just so chilled. The opening track What & How & If & When & Why, for example, is an instrumentally upbeat blues-rock track with a brass section and recurring guitar, but the delivery of the lyrics subdues the overall tone. It’s a raspy, half talking, half singing kind of delivery that feels intimate and very honest; there’s nothing pretentious going on here.
Every track is fluid, instrumentally, and adds various extras to develop its own character. We get some call and response with a female vocalist in Seventeen, flamenco style Spanish guitar in November and some sultry blues harmonica and melancholy organ in the closer I Got Time, which ends the album on a bit of a downer.
As a whole, though, everything is really cohesive, and Wyman sounds totally at home with the songwriting and delivery. The lyrics are simple, and can be easily comprehended. It’s nice to be able to hear every single word without having to even concentrate, and the themes are relatable “We had it all when we were together/We had it all, thought it was forever” (from Running Back To You). Although it’s an enjoyable listen top to bottom, Stuff (Can’t Get Enough) is definitely a stand out track for me. The rhythm of the vocals in the chorus over straight instrumental backing is a contagious and playful combination that is sure to follow you around for the rest of the day.
Back To Basics isn’t a novel release that breaks into new territory, but if it were, the album would be falsely named. It is a record that reflects the extensive musical career of a man who has nothing to prove. This is not a release aimed at boosting Bill Wyman’s profile, it’s an expression of one of the man’s passions that is still burning bright.