Pop music sure has changed since Paul Anka last helped rule the airways (as composer or performer) with such mainstays as "My Way, "Diana, "She's A Lady, and "Puppy Love.
Decades later, Anka's own notes explain the Rock Swings! concept: "We all embraced the idea: to find songs from a diverse group of musicians, from Nirvana and Van Halen, to Lionel Richie and The Pet Shop Boys, and reinvent them in an entirely unique way: Swing! The result, a unique sound with great musical content.
Rock Swings! indeed, when cast in these orchestral overviews anchored by rhythm session aces Vinnie Colaiuta (drums) and Mike Valerio (bass) and earnestly fronted by an experienced, genuine singer who helped rule one of pop music's golden eras. When the brass section introduces the opening "It's My Life (Bon Jovi) by quoting "The Best is Yet to Come, it foreshadows the fun that Anka and musicians have tumbling through this survey of two pop decades.
This singer has rarely sounded better, soaring through the love note to Ella Fitzgerald nestled in "True (Spandau Ballet) and pouring himself into the climaxes of "Wonderwall (Oasis) and "Eye of the Tiger (Survivor), where he exchanges hot wallops from the brass. Cool as Fred Astaire, Anka magically glidesno bootstomps or stumblesthrough the grunge swamps of "Blackhole Sun (Soundgarden) and "Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana).
Anka may be the star singing up in front of the orchestra, but arrangers Randy Kerber, Patrick Williams, and John Clayton contribute powerfully swinging, warm, and good-humored charts that hoist and keep him there. In total, Rock Swings! becomes far more than Anka breathing new life into old songsthese "old songs seem to breath new life into the singer, too. As an album, this is good. As a career move, this is great.
It's My Life; True; Eye of the Tiger; Everybody Hurts; Wonderwall; Blackhole Sun; It's a Sin;
Jump; Smells Like Teen Spirit; Hello; Eyes Without a Face; Lovecats; The Way You Make Me
Feel; Tears in Heaven.
Paul Anka: vocals; Randy Kerber: piano; Mike Lang: piano; Mike Valerio: bass; Vinnie
Colaiuta: drums; Luis Conte: percussion; Larry Koonse: guitar; Dean Parks: guitar; plus
other instruments and orchestra.
All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.
WE NEED YOUR HELP
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.