Posts Tagged ‘Rock Swings: On the Wild Side of Swing’

Our Spotlight Team’s examination of the lounge side of the moon concludes with an Englishman who is usually categorized as “blue-eyed soul” (like The Righteous Brothers) but who is actually a much more complicated man (like Shaft).

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Rock Swings: On the Wild Side of Swing released in 2006

Paul Young had several easy-listening hits in the U.K. in the 1980s and one in the U.S., “Every Time You Go Away,” a Hall & Oates cover, in 1985. Looking back, I can hear his expertise as an interpreter of pop and R&B, but in those years I paid no attention to him. I was probably too busy with Duran Duran.

Young has overcome health crises that at times robbed him of his voice. He’s been committed to his music for more than 40 years. (He also built a back-up career as a celebrity chef.) He seems to be the kind of person who lives to try something new, as in 2006 when he followed Paul Anka’s lead and recorded Vegas interpretations of rock songs.

Young has a beautiful voice that has significantly deepened since he was 29 and looked like a stunt double for somebody in Wham! or Spandau Ballet. His voice reminds me of Lou Rawls’, though it’s not as deep and smoky. He sings without trying to sound black; Paul Young is always Paul Young. And unlike Pat Boone, this man is built for a swingin’ set of rock ’n’ roll.

Unfortunately, on Rock Swings: On the Wild Side of Swing, Young can’t decide to love or laugh at these songs. He’s not a Richard Cheeseball, but most of these covers don’t work – for example, Elton John’s “Benny and the Jets,” which is like a marching band crashing a funeral, or Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” which is neither wild nor walkable.

Two songs redeemed this disc…

Pat Boone covered Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” on I’m in a Metal Mood, but he didn’t know what to do with this nightmare on Elm Street. Richard Cheese attacked it on Aperitif for Destruction, but I hit Skip inside the first minute. On Rock Swings, Young captures the horror. It’s an adolescent’s idea of horror – look who wrote it – but he captured it just the same.

(“Enter Sandman” ties “Black Hole Sun” for the most popular number among lounge singers – reinterpreted three times each. Why? The two songs are nothing like each other, except that all the people who originally performed them had terrible hair.)

Young also covers David Bowie’s “The Jean Genie.” He’s the only man in this foursome to try on some Bowie. (Cheese covered “Under Pressure,” but that’s a Queen song written by Bowie.) His cover swings like the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra commuting to work on jungle vines.

…and one song escaped it

I don’t spend much time listening to Eminem. In fact, I don’t spend any time listening to Eminem. “Lose Yourself,” an 800-word essay on becoming a star, was a blank to me.

On his cover of “Lose Yourself,” Young reimagines himself as the rapper, though they’re from radically different generations and cultures. The one man’s voice and the other man’s words had me at hello:

Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
One moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip?

The arrangement is stellar, the kind of thing that Nelson Riddle would’ve whipped up for a Sinatra showstopper. The producer doubles Young’s stunning vocal so that he’s singing back-up for himself, but the producer also dropped words at random from this backing track. Young singing the lead while his duplicate appears and disappears behind him produces a staccato effect that makes it sound as if he’s singing and rapping the lyrics at the same time.

Eminem’s words must have spoken to something in Paul Young’s DNA:

You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime

And when Young gets to the spoken-word part, you can believe it when he says “motherfuckin’.” This is so not Pat Boone observing, “Yeah, we’re runnin’ a little bit hot tonight,” while wandering aimlessly inside Van Halen’s “Panama.”

Young’s Rock Swings doesn’t have anywhere near the overall consistency of Paul Anka’s Rock Swings, but “Lose Yourself” is the brightest, sharpest gem of all the music I’ve been writing about this week.

Eminem’s original is not bad, but he’s no Paul Young.

Thanks for reading along, and I hope you now find yourself ready to engage with compelling Vegas-based content. Go easy on the martinis and don’t be a stranger in the night.