Great artists, no matter their particular specialty or genre, usually find their way to great music, whether by accident or Darwinian musical design. Frank’s favourite piece was Daphnis et Chloé by Ravel, Jimi Hendrix listened to mostly classical music and purchased Handel’s house in London, and Paul Anka, while busy being a pop icon and composer of Top 40 hits, wrote the swinging theme for the Tonight Show and channeled his inner Frank and Ella.
2005’s Rock Swings is an album of real quality from Paul Anka, who is in spectacular, swinging voice. Unlike like some of the classical/pop crossover disasters, this rock/jazz crossover might have seemed an easier fit. But, in truth, rock rhythms have far more to do with classical music (strong beats on 1 and 3) than jazz (strong beats on 2 and 4 — hence the ‘swing’). No matter, though, as the fourteen songs have been superbly arranged by Patrick Williams, Randy Kerber, and John Clayton. Not everything works to jazz’ advantage. Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ is so brilliant as a rock anthem that Anka and the all star band have a hard time getting up as high as Eddie and his gang (as for finding connections to great music, Eddie named his son Wolfgang, after his favourite composer). And, the most maligned, brilliant rock ballad ‘Hello’ sounds even more poignant with Lionel Richie than Anka. Yet, both songs still work as arranged here.
With the rest of the tracks, you’ll get super songs, superbly arranged and sung by a master. The master loves this music and it shows. Listen to Anka’s heartbreaking performance of Clapton’s ‘Tears in Heaven’ (research the song if you don’t know the story, then listen — I dare you!).
Spandau Ballet’s ‘True’ sounds like the Goth Guys were reincarnated as Neal Hefti. Cute! And the alternative/Grunge stuff sounds great (Black Hole Sun). My favourite? Bon Jovi’s wonderful ‘It’s My Life’. Who knew such standard stadium rock song could be morphed into a jazz ‘standard’? Here, the incredible LA session musicians shine. It’s as if Frank or Bublé are on stage, with all Frank’s phrasing and none of Bublé’s smarm.
You like great jazz? Great jazz singers? Stage bands? Get this album.
I dislike the term ‘Swing’ as interpreted by the mainstream media. It sounds like all the music played like the Brian Setzer Orchestra - lots of ‘swing’ rhythm without the sophisticated (and advanced) harmonic changes that make this album ‘so sexy’ (a term my wife uses). This is Frank and Ella’s swinging, not the wannabes. High praise for a ‘pop idol’.
The recording is studio demo quality. As such, it’ll be heard at great length in the upcoming Toronto and Denver audio shows. Get ready to ‘really’ swing!
“Eye of the Tiger” (original version by Survivor)
“Jump” (original version by Van Halen)
“Everybody Hurts” (original version by R.E.M.)
“Wonderwall” (original version by Oasis)
“Black Hole Sun” (original version by Soundgarden)
“It’s My Life” (original version by Bon Jovi)
“It’s a Sin” (original version by Pet Shop Boys)
“True” (original version by Spandau Ballet)
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” (original version by Nirvana)
“Hello” (original version by Lionel Richie)
“Eyes Without a Face” (original version by Billy Idol)
“Lovecats” (original version by The Cure)
“The Way You Make Me Feel” (original version by Michael Jackson)
“Tears in Heaven” (original version by Eric Clapton)
Verve Music Group
Playing time: 58:14
Purchase at our affiliate, Amazon.