o anyway, I'm stuck at work, nothing to do, totally bored, so I'm writing this review live. I'm listening to this album right now for the first time through as I type this. Seems to be about as much attention as this asinine concept (old fart making "hip" rock n' roll songs sound old and unhip) deserves.
Paul Anka, for those who don't know, is best known for a string of wildly popular soggy teen-schlock hits in the 1950s, stuff like "Put Your Head On My Shoulder" and other Muzak fodder. He later moved on from teen idol status, watering down his sound even further for the adult-contemporary market. Rock Swings seems to be an attempt to shift a few units based on novelty value alone. It consists of exactly what the title implies: big band swing versions of well-known rock hits.
Anyway, we're up to track three now, and it's... very crisply mic'ed. Other than that, fairly undistinguished. He's doing "Eye of the Tiger" right now, which is just as amusing as you might imagine it not to be. At first I thought the song selection held some promise, as the first track is "It's My Life." Talk Talk seemed like a promisingly weird place to kick things off. Alas, it's the Bon Jovi song. Booo-ring.
I think he's changing the lyrics. It's certainly plausible to think that Bon Jovi might namecheck Sinatra, the whole Jersey-guy thing and all, but did Spandau Ballet really sing about Ella Fitzgerald?
You will probably not be surprised to learn that R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts" translates quite naturally to the world of easy listening, slipping effortlessly into the elevator like a finely pedicured foot into a suede bedroom slipper.
"Wonderwall." Cute. Been done. Does Anka really think that no one will remember the Mike Flowers Pops? (Thank you!) Granted, Flowers' rendition had more of a fuax-exotic calypso vibe (if memory serves), whereas Anka gives it a straight big band reading, but really, it's the same bad joke, just a priest and a rabbi walking into a different bar.
"Black Hole Sun" is charmingly surreal, but this is getting old fast.
It's difficult to discern exactly whom Anka imagines his audience for this misbegotten project to be. If it's people who love big-band swing, wouldn't they rather just hear the classics? And if it's younger rock fans looking for a kitschy joke, sorry, but this sort of "irony" was finished as soon as Tony Bennett got his Grammy. It could be suggested that Anka is attempting to establish a few new standards, hoping that pap like "Eyes Without a Face" will join the canon of big band favourites, but really, who's ever gonna want to hear this godawful rendition of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" again? (If you're wondering, by the way, that one's not even funny enough for a single listen.) And if that's the case, why turn "The Lovecats" into a ballad? The original provides a pretty clear template for a credible swing tune, but Anka chooses to turn away from it completely. On the other hand, perhaps the joke is on me for even considering this nonsense seriously.
Okay, that's enough, I'm not going to waste any more of my life listening to this shit. I am not ashamed to admit that I finished this review without even listening to the whole album; I think I get the point. Even within the microgenre of "funny" versions of rock songs, this stinks. The Moog Cookbook is much funnier just for the weirdness factor, and Pat Boone in a Metal Mood has loonier song selection and a far less competent (and therefore more amusing) backing band. That makes Rock Swings a second-rate incarnation of a second-rate idea. Ugh.
Reviewed by: Bjorn Randolph
Reviewed on: 2005-07-12