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Paul Anka: Rock Swings

Paul Anka

When word began circulating about 63-year-old teen idol turned MOR crooner Anka’s intent to put his Vegas stamp on various contemporary rock hits, I’ll confess I anticipated a grievous musical misjudgment along the lines of Pat Boone’s delusional foray into heavy metal. How delightfully surprising, then, to discover that Anka’s risky experiment reaps generally admirable results. When Rock Swings is good, it’s very good-most notably on introspective ballads like Spandau Ballet’s “True,” the Pet Shop Boys’ “It’s a Sin” and Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven,” but also on uptempo treatments of Bon Jovi’s joyously self-affirming “It’s My Life” and a Glenn Miller-esque, call-and-response reworking of Van Halen’s “Jump.” But even when it’s bad-as on a breezy “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that sounds more like “Come Fly With Me” than a moody Kurt Cobain exercise in grungy disconsolation and a watered-down “The Way You Make Me Feel” lacking the urgent hunger of the Michael Jackson original-it’s tolerable.

Credit for the disc’s rather addictive appeal can be divided evenly between the album’s trio of arrangers-Patrick Williams, Randy Kerber and John Clayton-who alternate between the brassy robustness of Nelson Riddle or Billy May and the cozy sophistication of Henry Mancini, and the singer himself, whose cockiness (this is a guy who could sell opera at the Grand Ol’ Opry) has defined his every professional move since the long-ago “Diana” days. Indeed, so brazenly assured is Rock Swings that I can almost forgive Anka’s “You’re Havin’ My Baby?” Almost.

Originally Published