Record review: Robbie Williams – Swings Both Ways (2013 LP)

Eyebrows were raised in 2006 when Robbie Williams split from his long-term song-writing partner Guy Chambers and uncharacteristically started rapping on his polarising Rudebox album. Since then his career has been somewhat unsteady, with a Take That reunion and a Greatest Hits release showing no real musical progression by a man who has sold over 70 million albums world-wide and still packs out stadiums across the globe. Swings Both Ways could be seen as another sideways step, given it’s a return to a genre he first visited with 2001’s Swing When You’re Winning, but Williams seems so naturally suited to this sort of stuff that it should only be seen as another ace move by the 39 year-old. The quality of writing is undoubtedly improved by the return of Chambers, and big name contributors like Lily Allen, Michael Bublé, Kelly Clarkson and tour buddy Olly Murs make this a smooth and varied collection originals and covers. Renditions of Cab Calloway’s ‘Minnie The Moocher’ and 1930s classic ‘Dream A Little Dream of Me’ sit well next to the Williams/Chambers-penned ‘Shine My Shoes’ and ‘Snowblind’, and a Rufus Wainwright collaboration on the cheekily-suggestive title track. The inclusion of crooning muppet Bublé certainly wasn’t a good move, but will no doubt help the album find an audience in the North American market. He has built almost his entire career on his endlessly boyish charm and ability to endure, and Williams will no doubt nail the Christmas market with this release. (Universal)

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