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EW sizes up solo projects by famous '60s bassists

EW sizes up solo projects by famous ’60s bassists — We take a closer look at new releases by former members of the Who, the Rolling Stones, and the Grateful Dead

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Rock & roll bass players have long toiled in the shadows while the flashy frontmen get all the glory. But recent solo projects — not to mention some older, odder ventures — by three wellknown ’60s bassists suggest they want more. Whether they deserve it is an altogether different question. EW sizes up these sidemen’s many sides.

JOHN ENTWISTLE

Side Project So Who’s the Bass Player? The Ox Anthology The late bassist for rock titans the Who was a busy solo act, as proven by this 38-track, two-disc set drawn from nine albums spanning 1971 to 2000.

Side Effect ”Big Johnny Twinkle,” as the liner notes call him, sings nearly every song in a surprisingly strong voice. But after two discs of this schlocky ’50s pastiche pop and lumbering sludge-rock, you’ll beg for Pete Townshend’s god-awful 1993 concept album, Psychoderelict.

Unrelated Side Note Entwistle was also a pack rat. In 2003, Sotheby’s auctioned off 180 basses and guitars, a stash of his own artwork, plus 29 fiberglass casts of fish the bass player had caught. The final tally? Over 1 million pounds.

BILL WYMAN

Side Project Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings, Just for a Thrill The ex-Rolling Stones bass player gathers a bunch of aging Brit musos (like Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler) for an album of well-worn blues and R&B covers.

Side Effect It seems impossible, but Wyman has become an even duller bassist in his post-Stones career. This atrocity of a record is earnest and reverential, yet still manages to strip the soul from the originals. We dare you to listen to the whole thing.

Unrelated Side Note Since 1989, the ”Stone Alone” has owned and operated Sticky Fingers, a memorabilia-stuffed burger joint in London with a tacky TGIF vibe.

PHIL LESH

Side Project Searching for the Sound: My Life With the Grateful Dead Hippie rock icon and former Grateful Dead bassist unloads four decades of musical (and psychedelic) exploration into a 338-page autobiography.

Side Effect Jerry was the leader, but Lesh’s book makes a good case that his free-associating bass riffs — and no-nonsense business sense — were just as important to the Dead’s long strange trip. Beyond an annoying tendency to show off his polysyllabic vocabulary, Lesh’s tome is a lively read, with just the right mix of dirt, drugs, and diligent tour diaries.

Unrelated Side Note A composition major in college, Lesh once conducted the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra.