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Paul Anka - Rock Swings

Review: Jack Foley

DAVE Grohl, legendary rocker and Foo Fighters supremo, gave classic crooner, Paul Anka, the following recommendation when he heard him....

"Holy shit! That's Teen Spirit! And I thought it was fucking amazing. I thought it was so great. It was such an interesting arrangement. It's pretty classic."

Not bad, huh? Wanna know more? Anka is a classic singer, more akin to the Rat Pack/Dean Martin style of crooning rather than the hard rock/grunge style of Grohl.

But with his latest studio album, Rock Swings, he takes modern rock classics, such as Smells Like Teen Spirit, Wonderwall and Blackhole Sun, and reinterprets them in the style of the big band sound.

The result has to be heard to be believed. It's different, occasionally funny, but almost always classy in the way that a Rat Pack member would have been sure to deliver it.

Take, for instance, Anka's take on the melancholy REM classic, Everybody Hurts, which puts a completely different perspective on the track. It's beguiling and enchanting in a different sort of way, but equally reflective and poignant.

This is in stark contrast to his spin on Oasis' Wonderwall, which feels positively upbeat when compared to the Gallaghers' version. It encapsulates the big band sound very well and dazzles with a brass section midway through that goes some way to displaying Anka's creative vision.

Soundgarden's seminal Black Hole Sun, meanwhile, sounds positively romantic when given the big band treatment, complete with tinkling pianos, big brass sections and Anka's deep, classy vocals. It strips the track completely of its dark roots.

While the Pet Shop Boys' synth-heavy, pop classic, It's A Sin, gets a similarly classic makeover that demands to be heard.

Anka, to his credit, doesn't merely copy the tracks, but puts a completely different interpretation on things, so that part of the pleasure when listening is trying to guess what he's about to deliver.

It's little wonder that Dave Grohl exclaimed in the way that he did, given the way that Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit unfolds - for if ever there was an unlikely track to be given the big band treatment, then this was probably it.

In Anka's capable hands, however, it becomes a happy go-luucky, almost breezy affair, that replaces the menace of the original with an altogether more vibrant style.

Amazingly, however, it doesn't tarnish the memory of the original but puts a different, even fun, slant on it - proving that music doesn't have to be constrained by genre; merely imagination.

Rock Swings is, therefore, a wildly imaginative big band joyride through some of the unlikeliest rock tracks of the year.

The cynics may raise their eyes and dismiss the idea behind it as folly, but give it a listen and you're sure to be hooked.

Find out more about Paul Anka...

Track listing:
1. It's My Life
2. True
3. Eye Of The Tiger
4. Everybody Hurts
5. Wonderwall
6. Black Hole Sun
7. It's A Sin
8. Jump
9. Smells Like Teen Spirit
10. Hello
11. Eyes Without A Face
12. The Lovecats
13. The Way You Make Me Feel
14. Tears In Heaven

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