Paul Anka - Rock Swings

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Paul Anka - Rock Swings

Postby Tom C » Tue Jul 26, 2005 8:39 am

Paul Anka, that most longevitous of all crooners, has a new CD out called “Rock Swings” in which he covers 14 “rock” tracks ranging from Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to Clapton’s “Tears In Heaven” in big band crooner style. If you have no idea what this could possibly sound like, you can peep clips here: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/de ... 4?v=glance or here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/stor ... Id=4755657


First let me begin by saying this album is 0% a cappella, and some might argue as far from a cappella as you can get with many of the tracks featuring large orchestras and a variety of instruments. What, you might be asking, could this contribute to the RARB board?

There has been a lot of discussion regarding originality in writing and arranging, and how much artistry is really involved in transcribing note-for-note a song for voices. I don’t really want to discuss that a whole lot here, other than to say that this CD is a masterful example of re-imagining songs and creative arranging, and I think would be very edifying for someone arranging for a cappella. Here tunes, many from the cannon of hard or alternative rock, are completely reborn: as swinging jazz standards, heartfelt melancholy ballads, big band classics, etc. It is a powerful example of the ability of a skilled arranger to completely change the tone, focus and meaning of a song.

My personal favorites are Van Halen’s “Jump” as well as Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun”. All of these pieces have both a sense of humor and wonder wrapped into them, humor at hearing Paul Anka sing Van Halen, but also wonder at where the song has gone. I particularly like “Jump” for its chorus and complete cheese repetition of the word jump by the band. Plus I think it lends itself to swing easily (think of those great 80’s synth harmonies!) “Black Hole Sun” I think is artistically the strongest, pared down to a single piano part and Anka’s vocals. The arranging here is simply fantastic with truly rich harmonies and a certain haunting quality that the original tried in its surrealism to convey, but just didn’t quite get there. Anka’s voice is also tinged with regret, giving what I originally considered asinine lyrics meaning to ponder over.

So, anyway, I think this album is worth a lesson as a didactic devise for all you budding arrangers and producers. While you may not want to transform “Brown Eyed Girl” or some other a cappella classic into a Frank Sinatra-style number, it clearly illustrates the successes that are capable when one takes risks in creative arranging. Of course you won’t have three top professional arrangers/producers at your beck and call, but it certainly opened up a world of possibilities for me.
Thomas Czerwinski
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http://www.rarb.org/people/tom-czerwinski.html
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Re: Paul Anka - Rock Swings

Postby cmasone » Tue Jul 26, 2005 11:33 am

Tom C wrote:
There has been a lot of discussion regarding originality in writing and arranging, and how much artistry is really involved in transcribing note-for-note a song for voices. I don’t really want to discuss that a whole lot here, other than to say that this CD is a masterful example of re-imagining songs and creative arranging, and I think would be very edifying for someone arranging for a cappella.


I couldn't agree more:-)

there's also an album called "Cutting Their Own Groove" by a group called Big Daddy that reinvents a wide variety of songs (Ice, Ice Baby to Nothing Compares 2 U to Welcome to the Jungle) in a variety of different styles, often with hilarious results. It's a bit more in the vein of parody, I think, but not as far as someone like Weird Al goes.

Anyway, interesting ways to cover other folks' music. I like. Yes.

-Chris
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Postby vkolko » Thu Aug 04, 2005 5:30 pm

Tom -

Based on your review, I went and sought out the track list. After finding two of my favorite songs ("Wonderwall" and "Everybody Hurts") on the list, I bought it immediately and now I'm listening to it for the first time. I LOVE this album! Thanks for the recommendation!

Val
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