A Stone Alone: The Solo Anthology 1974 - 2002

Bill Wyman

I have always felt bad that Bill Wyman, the Rolling Stones’ original bassist, left the band for so many disparaging reasons that unless I hear it straight from him, I will not fully understand the reason. Be that as it may, and as much as I am still a "Mick and the boys" fan, I was curious to see how Wyman’s solo career would develop. I am old enough to have been around to follow the impetus of and subsequent formation of such a career, and began to wonder if there would ever be a collection of songs that transcended the "greatest hits" moniker so many bands use, producing only one or two hits and filling the rest with B-sides. With A Stone Alone - The Solo Anthology 1974-2002, I am pleased to say that isn’t the case, especially since Wyman has never had a real "hit" in the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (the Grammy guys) sense, yet had "sense" enough to call this a “solo” anthology. That made it easy going in having no expectations other than to enjoy the ear candy from this 40-song set covering the years 1974 to 2002, including tracks with the Rhythm Kings.

One thing I’ve noticed about Wyman’s solo career and, perhaps that is why he’s never actually produced a real hit, is that he sometimes abandoned his rock roots for arrangements to accommodate the era of his songs. Songs like "Peanut Butter Time" (1976) are fun but have tones of dance. "Come Back Suzanne" (1982), playing off the new wave theme of the early 80s, only worked for groups like those on the Fast Times At Ridgemont High soundtrack. It might be debated that versatility is the sign of a true musician, but Kiss would never put out a Teletubbies-style song that would alienate the true fan. Unfortunately for Wyman, his repertoire consists of some songs I would never imagine being remade, like "If You Want To Be Happy." I like consistency and this collection is a bit inconsistent.

Then there’s the hook-up with Willie & the Poor Boys and the Rhythm Kings where Wyman is back doing Wyman’s thing: playing bass. If someone is going to be a solo act, I prefer that to involve the vocal aspect as well. I like Wyman’s voice, so I wish there was more of him. That being said, there are some gems I really dug and thanks to one of the greatest technological advances ever made — the CD skip button — I am able to move through to those favorite songs, which include:

  • "What A Blow" (1974) — True rock with a head trip riff, and a classic psychedelic lick (my personal style of choice).
  • "I'll Pull You Through" (1974) — Reminiscent of Ringo Starr. There is a similar style to Ringo on many of the songs, with his familiar paradiddle beats surrounding poppy and catchy phrasing.
  • "This Strange Effect" (1992) — Ephemeral with the feeling of John Lennon’s "Woman" and ""Beautiful Boy."

A Stone Alone - The Solo Anthology 1974-2002 might offer enough variety for everyone from the rock and pop fan to the bar room denim and leather king, but for me it plays a bit too scattered.

~ Dave Shelton

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