Rock Swings

Rock Swings

3.5 4
by Paul Anka

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If one venerable singer was meant to transform rock and pop classics into swinging big-band numbers and saloon-song ballads, it was the Paul Anka. Himself a pop star from his teenage years to middle age, when he gracefully made the transition to adult mainstream, Anka understands both sides of the musical fence. Taking signature tunes from the disparate likes of…  See more details below


If one venerable singer was meant to transform rock and pop classics into swinging big-band numbers and saloon-song ballads, it was the Paul Anka. Himself a pop star from his teenage years to middle age, when he gracefully made the transition to adult mainstream, Anka understands both sides of the musical fence. Taking signature tunes from the disparate likes of R.E.M. ("Everybody Hurts,") Oasis ("Wonderwall"), Soundgarden ("Blackhole Sun"), and Nirvana ("Smells Like Teen Spirit"), as well as Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, and others, Anka digs in and finds the inner Sinatra at their core. The result is surprisingly effective and often completely winning. Anka, in exceptional voice, never condescends to the material; he connects with the emotional heart of the lyrics and then tweaks them all with the rhythmic verve of an earlier generation. Rock swings? In this veteran singer's hands, it surely does.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - John Bush
Having written a fair number of them, Paul Anka recognizes a contemporary standard when he hears one, even if it doesn't conform to the historical model as it's existed from the days of Tin Pan Alley to Broadway. And so his songbook of chestnuts plucked from the '80s and '90s rock canon, Rock Swings, fares much better than its closest contemporary, Pat Boone's novelty In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy. First of all, there's the material -- a compelling selection of standards that reveals a close inspection and an inspired reimagining of the pop and alternative artists of the period (perhaps not by Anka himself). The disc does commit a few errors by resorting to novelty selections (Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" and Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit"), but the big surprise here is that most of the songs slip into the standards bag with an uncanny ease (Pet Shop Boys' "It's a Sin," Billy Idol's "Eyes Without a Face," Lionel Richie's "Hello"). No matter how far the stretch, Anka and his inspired primary arranger, Randy Kerber, make these songs work in a swing context; in fact, it takes only a single listen to confirm that the narrator of even Van Halen's "Jump" is at heart quite the ring-a-ding swinger -- casual, cynical, knowing. There are other inspired choices here, tender ballads like R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts" or Spandau Ballet's "True," and, astonishingly, the nihilist anthem "Blackhole Sun" by Soundgarden. Most of Chris Cornell's lyrics -- "Hang my head, drown my fear/ Till you all just disappear" -- could easily have found a home on Sinatra's Only the Lonely (although at least one line -- "Call my name through the cream/ And I'll hear you scream again" -- wouldn't have had a prayer). Anka only missteps when he tries to wring meaning from lyrics that require some emotion to carry them; on "Smells Like Teen Spirit," the prime offender, Anka slips into novelty territory when he injects a forceful "Yeah!" immediately after delivering Nirvana's classic lines "A mulatto, an albino/ A mosquito, my libido," as though he can confirm Kurt Cobain's words as a home truth.

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Paul Anka   Primary Artist
Patrick Williams   Leader
Bruce Dukov   Violin
Marilyn Baker   Viola
Jim Atkinson   French Horn
Mari Tsumura   Violin
Bryant Byers   Trombone
Darius Campo   Violin
John Clayton   Leader
Vinnie Colaiuta   Drums
Luis Conte   Percussion
Larry Corbett   Cello
Sal Cracchiolo   Trumpet
Jon Crosse   Leader,Tenor Saxophone
Ernest Ehrhardt   Cello
Charles Everett   Violin
Armen Garabedian   Violin
Berj Garabedian   Violin
Pamela Goldsmith   Viola
Gary Grant   Trumpet
Dan Higgins   Alto Saxophone,Reed Flute
Greg Huckins   Alto Saxophone,Reed Flute
Patricia Johnson   Violin
Peter Kent   Violin
Randy Kerber   Piano,Conductor,Leader
Miran Kojian   Violin
Larry Koonse   Guitar
Michael Lang   Piano
Bill Liston   Clarinet,Tenor Saxophone,Reed Flute
Warren Luening   Trumpet
Andy Martin   Trombone
Miguel Martinez   Cello
Bob McChesney   Trombone
Jorge Moraga   Viola
Simon Oswell   Viola
Dean Parks   Guitar
Joel Peskin   Reeds,Bass Clarinet,Baritone Saxophone
Emil Richards   Vibes
Anatoly Rosinsky   Violin
Harry Shirinian   Viola
Haim Shtrum   Violin
Kurt Snyder   French Horn
Brad Warnaar   French Horn
Shari Zippert   Violin
Gayle Levant   Harp
Andrew Shulman   Cello
James V. Ross   Viola
William Frank "Bill" Reichenbach   Trombone
Charlie Davis   Trumpet
Tiffiany Yi Hu   Violin
Jennifer Munday   Violin
Larry Hall   Trumpet
Becky Bunnell   Violin
Steve Richards   Cello
Alex Iles   Trombone
Steven Holtman   Trombone
Vanessa Freebairn-Smith   Cello
Mario de León   Violin

Technical Credits

Paul Anka   Executive Producer
Jon Bon Jovi   Composer
Billy Idol   Composer
Michael Jackson   Composer
Lionel Richie   Composer
David Lee Roth   Composer
Richie Sambora   Composer
Steve Stevens   Composer
Frank Sullivan   Composer
Patrick Williams   Arranger
Jim Peterik   Composer
Peter Buck   Composer
Eric Clapton   Composer
John Clayton   Arranger
Kurt Cobain   Composer
Chris Cornell   Composer
Dave Grohl   Composer
Will Jennings   Composer
Gary Kemp   Composer
Randy Kerber   Arranger
Chris Lowe   Composer
Mike Mills   Composer
Krist Novoselic   Composer
Schmitt   Engineer
Robert Smith   Composer
Michael Stipe   Composer
Neil Tennant   Composer
Eddie Van Halen   Composer
Alex Van Halen   Composer
Noel Gallagher   Composer
Bill Berry   Composer
Brad Dechter   Orchestration
Steve Genewick   Digital Editing
Max Martin   Composer
Alex Christensen   Producer
Michael Anthony   Composer
Steffen Häfelinger   Vocal Editing

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Rock Swings 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'll admit, I'm not part of a generation that is instantly familiar with Anka's work. Perhaps if I was I wouldn't have found this album quite so hard to grasp. Frankly I felt the whole thing was a novelty, a very valiant attempt, but just too strange for me to listen to more than twice. My brain just can't handle Lionel Richie's "Hello" sounding so astoundingly similar to Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit". As far as I was concerned these songs didn't live on the same street, let alone live next to each other on an album. I applaud Anka for challenging us to see these songs as similar entities, but the result just doesn't work. It sounds like parody, not the original stylings of a pop legend.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I wish I could have given this one NO stars. This is the absolute worst album I have ever heard! It's a complete waste of perfectly good sound waves. I thought the rendition of "Eye of the Tiger" was horrid, but it was fabulous compared to his version of "Wonderwall". In short, avoid this one like the plague.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This album was fantastic. The favorite songs of our time, sung by the always scrumtrelescent Mr. Paul Anka. If I could give this CD 6 stars, I most certainly would. What a man!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've been a fan of this collection of music by the singers/bands that first made these songs famous over the years. I've always enjoyed Pau Anka but have never owned an album of his. This is the first one I've bought and I've been in love with it ever since. He sings these songs with so much respect and understanding of lyrics that he delivers a whole new reason to love this music. Bravo Paul! This album SWINGS and your voice ROCKS!!