By Patrick Prince
Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings
Collector’s Edition Box Set
Proper Records (PRPABXO 01)
Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings have been playing a diverse set of 20th-century roots music for nearly two decades now. And Proper Records recently released this five-disc box set of the first four studio albums of the Rhythm Kings (“Struttin’ Our Stuff,” “Anyway the Wind Blows,” “Groovin’,” and the double album “Double Bill”) to honor the band’s longevity. It is a solid representation of an exceptional and versatile lineup of musicians, who often invite all-star guests to appear on many of the studio tracks.
The problem is that some of the standards covered on these studio releases — like, say, “Tobacco Road,” Groovin’” or “I Put a Spell on You” — can already be heard perfected by any good bar band on any day of the week in a town like Austin, Texas. And then there are the songs that can never be as uniquely captured on record as the original artist. Take the song “Green River.” The Rhythm Kings open up their debut album “Struttin’ Our Stuff” with the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic. But why bother?
No Rhythm Kings album is a masterpiece, but there are certainly moments of brilliance throughout each one. Of course, it only helps to have the likes of Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Mark Knopfler, Peter Frampton, Chris Rea, Gary Brooker, Mick Taylor and so on drop by and share their skill sets. However, it is the performances of mainstay artists that strengthen the tunes, like the powerful grace of Beverley Skeete’s voice and dexterity of guitarists Terry Taylor and Martin Taylor. And out of all the timeless music Rhythm Kings cover, the songs penned by Wyman himself — songs pessimistically named “Bad To Be Alone,” “Love’s Down the Drain” and “Hole In The Wall” — are among the best of the bunch.