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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Record Reviews > Robbie Williams

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Robbie Williams-Swing When Your Winning (Chrysalis UK)

It should be no total surprise that British pop phenomenon Robbie Williams would end up doing an album of all covers (okay, there is one original here, but it is written to be a piece with the other songs chosen). After all, Williams’ old band Take That made their name in Europe with remakes of several 70s hits. On his breakthrough solo album The Ego Has Landed, arguably the best song was a delicately beautiful remake of World Party’s "She’s the One."

What is something of an eye-opener is that Williams would use his third solo platter as a full-bore tribute to the Rat Pack (mostly Frank, but with a little Sammy, Dino, Nat "King" Cole & Bobby Darin tossed in…). The artwork on the album … and the instrumentation is almost fetishistic in its faithfulness to the source materials. But, to his credit, as a singer Williams doesn’t attempt to imitate the Chairman, he does allow his own singing voice and personality to shine through.

It goes without saying that most of these songs are brilliant… that’s the whole point of the album, I suppose. So the question becomes, is there really a reason they should have been remade?

For the most part the recordings are very good, though almost never in the league of their sources. Williams lassoed in a few of his show-biz friends to sing along, which unfortunately gives the album a slight whiff of a novelty.

The duet with actress Nicole Kidman on Frank and Nancy Sinatra’s "Somethin’ Stupid" is just stunning, proving that Kidman’s singing voice in Moulin Rouge was not a doctored fluke. (Williams graciously mixed Kidman’s voice higher in the mix than his own…) Brit actress/comedian Jane Horrocks does fine on a duet of Bobby Darin’s "Things," too.

More problematic is comedian Jon Lovitz being Bing to Williams’ Frank on Cole Porter’s "Well, Did Ya’ Evah?" While Lovitz’s voice is perfectly serviceable (if just a little bit too similar to Williams’) and he acquits himself pretty well, honestly, it’s just hard to take an album that would have Jon Lovitz singing too seriously. Tommy Flanagan sings Cole Porter? Yeah, yeah, that’s the ticket. Maybe he had his wife… Morgan Fairchild… sing back up. Yeah, that’s it!

Otherwise, Swing When You’re Winning is a terrific little album. Hopefully it will get a new generation to seek out the original songs, which are even better. (3/02)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright 2002 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.  Posted March 28, 2002.

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Copyright 2002 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.  Posted March 28, 2002.

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