Bill Wyman...that "dragging, booming bass player" was for three decades one half of the rhythm section of the "world's greatest rock and roll band", The Rolling Stones. His technique was never overdone, always understated and unpredictable....letting each note reach it's full potential. Bill is still unpredictable, as you will learn reading this account of a recent performance with his Rhythm Kings.
Let The Good Times Roll
A fitting opening number if there ever was one! Brotha Ray Charles would have needed his glasses on to tell Gary Brooker's voice from his own here! Bill Wyman has had an admiration for Gary Brooker since the Brooker/Trower Paramounts days, before Procol Harum was formed. When Wyman decided to form another band (Willie and The Poorboys, a predecessor of The Rhythm Kings) in 1985, he asked Brooker and other various talented friends to join in. They have let the music bond their friendship and shape their performance as the Rhythm Kings. So for me...."T'was Tea-time at the Rock and Roll Circus" on June 7, 2000! The theater was well laid out, with a bar and plenty of smoking areas for those of us who still "Got Nasty Habits"...and yes, they even served tea in the lobby before the show and at intermission! Capacity of the theater, which had great acoustics, was about 1500. The house was full, right up to the lovely opera house side boxes.....a nice touch!
Georgie Fame delivered the vocals on this composition which had a Zap Comics feel. Sax men Nick Payn and Frank Mead looked like nostalgic throwbacks from Gene Krupa or Kay Kyser's 1930's and 40's bands. They were jitterbugging as they blew their solos from the rear and it left me with the feeling that maybe George Burns or Jack Benny's radio broadcast was the next scheduled act that night. I kept envisioning Mr. Natural trucking across the stage, index finger waving in the air, to this easy going swing type number. Georgie is a cornerstone of the band and is easily the most outspoken of the group. Brooker was a close second in the band member commentary department. It made me chuckle to recall Bobby Sherman performing Georgie Fame's "Yeh, Yea" on the 1960's TV teen show "Shindig" in a Squaresville, ever so clean, Disney type arrangement of Fame's tune. That was the coolest that clean-cut all American Sherman ever looked to me! Most Americans would know Georgie from his "Ballad Of Bonnie and Clyde" but a major part of Fame's talent stems from his arrangements which draw heavily from the old Swing/Jazz/Blues school.
Gary Brooker took the lead vocals here...this was the first of two songs in the set that had a Carl Perkins sound to it. The tune "Honey Don't" came to mind when I heard their version. Yodeling cowboy "Wylie & The Wild West Show" also do this tune in traditional Western Swing. Can avid fisherman Gary yodel? I don't think so. If he did, would they call him the "Wrangler-Angler"?
On second thought, maybe the yodeling isn't such a good idea. It might scare away the fish!
This choice from a former Rolling Stone and the founder of Procol Harum was a surprise. A lightweight song in comparison to their own bodies of work. They released it as a single, and it is also the title track of their newest CD, which is number one in the Jazz/Blues category at the moment. Mazeltov, Bill! May it sell a million, but I must admit that I was never a Young Rascals fan... and this number does not sway me toward the band or the tune at all.
As soon as Bill informed the crowd that this tune was penned by Mick and "Keif", the audience cheered. (By the way...the Stones version is completely different.) Judging from fan reaction....this song was the "top favorite" of the night for them as well as for me. Georgie Fame and Beverly Skeete addressed the song (and each other) by sharing the vocals as if they were rehearsing dialogue for a cheesy Soap Opera. I just adored it!
Jump Jive & Wail
A Louis Prima classic. Albert Lee took the vocals on this exciting BeBop swing compostion. Lots of fun and very well accepted by the audience! It seems Brian Sezter likes this piece too...it is included on one of his last CD's and even Wyman admits their musical tastes coincides.
Lead Me To The Water
"A Reggae born Gospel tune" is how Gary Brooker described the roots of his song. He remarked that he "can't get anything in B flat...everything is in E for the guitar...we stick to more than three chords a song!"
Anyway The Wind Blows
This JJ Cale tune is one of the bands strongest performances.
An easy going arrangement, taken from their second CD of the same title.
It is definitely a "put the top down on that Cadillac convertible and cruise the desert" ditty!
I Put A Spell On You
Beverly Skeete credited Nina Simone as the originator of this all time great...I recall the later Screamin' Jay Hawkins version....but then, I'm an American. "You all right?" she asked the audience...."I was, until Bill told me I still had the price tag on my shirt....now I'm feeling all self conscious!" Wickedly powerful, Bev! Scathingly brilliant!
Baby Work Out
A Jackie Wilson masterpiece, featuring Bev again...and did she ever give the crowd a "Workout"!
This lady is not only a very talented singer, she has tremendous vocal and stage presence!
Walkin' One & Only
Best described as Western Swing laced with a Skiffle beat, this song featured Georgie Fame soundin' smooth on the lead vocals. This tune was composed by San Francisco scene pioneer Dan Hicks, who specializes in nostalgic swing/folk sounds. It was first released on his album "Strikin' It Rich" in 1971 and is one of Wyman's personal favorites. You would need to be an afficionado well versed in Big Band, Swing, Country, Jazz, Blues and Rock to have any hope of being accurate when writing an account of the Rhythm Kings. I have worked in all these music formats during my radio career...but not all at once! Most Americans would never understand BBC Radio 2's mixed bag weekend format! This tune was my third favorite of the evening. I thought the live version was much better than the track on "Anyway The Wind Blows."
"You may wonder why we're all sitting down tonight....it's out of respect for you...we reserve our energy for our fingertips," quipped Wyman. Albert Lee kept hinting at something...nudging Gary..."tell them about the wedding in the Bahamas." He never did...so we'll never know what that inside joke was all about. Gary had some fun playing Jerry Lee Lewis style on the keyboards....he really was "Ready, Willin' and Able to Rock and Roll" that night!
I Got A Woman
This performance was enhanced by avid audience participation requested by Gary in the middle of the tune, as he kept on doin' that Ray Charles thang.
Gary should call Steve Winwood and Ray and do a "battle of the blues" tribute to Mr. Charles on CD!
As soon as I heard that familiar guitar riff, I knew the train was about to transport us into one of Elvis Presely's earliest hit records from the birth of Rockabilly....Gary Brooker and Georgie Fame shared vocals and had great fun with this classic.
I'll Be Satisfied
Another tune made famous by "Mr. Excitement", Jackie Wilson. This time Gary Brooker sang a soulful lead vocal giving this all time favorite standard some spirit and punch.
Tear It Up
Johnny Burnette's tune (redone later by his son Rocky) was served up with a Carl Perkins feel. Albert Lee's vocals were featured and the audience had a raucous reaction to this rocker.
It seemed to be their last tune of the evening...or was it?
Encore! ! !
Hello Little Boy
When the band came back onstage, instead of going to the stool set up for her to do background vocals, Janice Hoyt came up front to belt out the vocals on a tune made popular by "Miss Rhythm" herself...Ruth Brown...well, Tweeedly Dee!
Hole In The Wall
This obscure Texas Swing tune had a Betty Boop soundtrack effect when it debuted in the '30's. As a Blues/Country crossover, it's been covered by many artists in many styles, from Red Norvo to the Bar-Kays.....even to Billy Idol! The band took a swingin' rockabilly approach to it.
"Slip off your shoes...you got nothin' to lose" was easy going down, and well received.
Whiter Shade Of Pale
Gary jokingly hammered out the first few notes of The Rolling Stones "Satisfaction." This was the first hint of any Stones music at all and obviously Bill had no intention of playing it or any of his former band's hits. Bill then told Gary...."For that, you're punished! You have to play all alone!" And he did. The crowd reaction was intense as he played the opening chords of "Whiter Shade Of Pale." Brooker, who was Procol Harum's founder and "Commander", performed this solo extremely well. It was the only instance all evening where any band member's prior hit was included in the show, and it was evidence of the respect that Wyman has for Brooker's place in rock history.
...The Rhyhtm Kings...
Georgie Fame, Graham Broad (European Tour Drummer), Keeley Coburn, Gary Brooker, Terry (Tex) Taylor, Martin Taylor, Albert Lee
Nick Payn, Janice Hoyt, Bill Wyman, Beverly Skeete, Frank Mead
Henry Spinetti was the UK tour drummer (not shown in this photo). Keeley Coburn was not on the UK tour.
For the best Steinberger in the UK...
or rather Hamburger...(ok both)....
You can use my coupon and take a
virtual trip with me to Bill Wyman's
restaurant in London...Sticky Fingers!
Just press on the coupon image to link!
Bill Wyman's official website is only a Stones throw away
Click on his name..."tell me sweetie, now what's my name"...
The footnotes for this review can be found here!
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