Music Monday – Swing When You’re Winning

There tends to be a theme when it comes to the albums I listen to whilst painting. They all have songs I can sing along to, well, mostly they do, anyway.

‘Swing When You’re Winning’ is no different and I do enjoy a bit of ‘crooning!’

Robbie Williams - Swing When You're Winning

Whether you like him or not, you have to admit that this album showed a different side to Robbie Williams. One that introduced his voice to a wider audience and, I think, gave him greater credibility as a vocalist. There’s nowhere to hide with these classic songs. Songs that rely on the singer to bring the emotion and tell a story with a clarity of voice, just like the original artists, Sinatra, Martin, Cole, Crosby, Davies Jr., and many more.

The album’s opener, ‘I Will Talk and Hollywood Will Listen,’ though, also cemented Williams as writer, along with Guy Chambers who co-wrote the track, the only one on here not penned by someone else, someone already secure in the annuls of history. It has that classic, big band feel, full of dramatic moments and it sets the scene for the rest of the album. When I first heard the album, I never realised that this was a new song, it fitted seamlessly in with the rest, having that ‘Rat Pack’ feel of the 50s. I think it’s the vocal timing, which Sinatra was so good at, that really stands out on the track. The pauses between the words dramatize the lyrics, giving much more emotion to the song than one normally finds on a conventional ‘Robbie’ album.

Robbie manages to pull off a rendition of each song that remains true to the original but contains enough of his own style and character to make them unique. Mack the knife, Straighten Up and Fly Right, Mr. Bojangles, One For My Baby, and Have you Met Miss Jones? are, for me the main highlights and ones that I love to join in on – I actually think I can pull off a fair rendition all things considered, like I have a god awful singing voice!

Main highlights, yes, but there’s one song, one song that makes the hairs rise, one song that fills the room with charged emotion, and that’s ‘It Was a Very Good Year.’ The unlikely duo of Williams and Sinatra creates a moving and intense masterpiece of lyricism. It’s a melancholy song that, even when I’m singing along at volume, could easily bring a tear to my eye, just as it almost did to Robbie when he performed it at The Royal Albert.

…They (The Sinatra Estate) liked what we were doing and asked if I’d Like to sing with Sinatra.

I was so overwhelmed, I cried. It’s a dream come true for me

I just hope Frank likes it.

Robbie Williams

A few tracks bring in Robbie’s sense of humour and some nice interplay with guest vocalists. ‘Things’ has Jane Horrocks giving him a barracking in the outro, an entertaining exchange of opinions. ‘Me and My Shadow’ features Jonathan Wilkes, and the banter through the song is a play on Frank and Sammy’s original, it works and lightens the mood of the album, though I’d put them on the weaker side of the album’s tracks.

Let’s make one thing clear, though. The style of music isn’t mainstream anymore or even when it was released. It’s ‘Swing,’ ‘Big Band’, ‘Easy Listening,’ call it what you will, and in this day and age that’s not going to win over a big, lasting audience. Though the album did hit the top spot here in the UK and ‘Somethin’ Stupid,’ a duet with Nicole Kidman, became Robbie’s fifth number 1, it lacks the commercial impact and memorability that keeps many songs and albums in the limelight these days and ‘Swing When Your Winning’ faded from view.

It will never go down as a ‘classic’ album. I would imagine that few would bring it to mind when creating a top 100, or even 1,000 – it’s that kind of album. It’s a shame, because it’s a highly polished production of covers that are performed with meaning and a sympathy to the originals. I love it, it’s my favourite Robbie album, though in my opinion his studio albums took on a downward spiral after this and I stopped buying them after Escapology. He did go on to record another, similar album, called ‘Swings Both Ways’ that features an equal mix of covers and original material. I haven’t yet heard it in its entirety, so I can’t say how it compares to this one, other than it too hit the top of the charts and then, simply, just disappeared from memory.

Swing When You’re Winning

released 2001

Track Listing

  1. I will talk and Hollywood will listen
  2. Mack the knife
  3. Somethin’ stupid
  4. Do nothin’ till you hear from me
  5. It was a very good year
  6. Straighten up and fly right
  7. Well, did you evah
  8. Mr. Bojangles
  9. One for my baby
  10. Things
  11. Ain’t that a kick in the head
  12. They can’t take that away from me
  13. Have you met miss Jones?
  14. Me and my shadow
  15. Beyond the Sea
  16. ‘Outtakes’ (hidden track)

6 thoughts on “Music Monday – Swing When You’re Winning

  1. I’ve heard of this bloke but I think only one or two of his songs got played here in the US. That is cool that he revisited an older (some would say classic) genre as well. I’m envious of those jowls he’s got too. If only I could get and stay in that kind of shape 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yeah, he tried to break into the US market but didn’t make it. He even relocated over there but ended up coming home to the UK.
      He’s a bit of a nut sometimes and has a bit of an ego, but I like him, mostly, and when he sings songs like those featured on this album it really shows how talented he is.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Robbie has done a couple of songs I like, even if one of the videos is a micky take of Kiss, but haven’t listened to all of his stuff, and have never heard this album, so would be hard to comment on it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Never heard of this album? That sums up what I said about it. People remember his other stuff, like Angels and No Regrets, as they’re mainstream singles. The songs on this album are great but just didn’t stick, despite the album going to number 1 – probably because it has his name on it!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. On the plus side, Justin, I have actually heard of Robbie Williams! But there my knowledge ends and I’m not an “easy listening” music sort of person (I’m pretty sure my wife only puts on Smooth Radio in the car when we’re travelling to the caravan to wind me up)! But it’s nice that it’s an album you can sing along to and enjoy! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Always like a sing-along, John, especially when there’s no one around to hear me!😉

      Liked by 1 person

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