Robbie Williams is one of those artists who makes it all sound so effortless, so you can easily forget that an eye-twinkling, polished album of big-band-backed crooning takes some perfecting.

And that's exactly what Williams has done - there's nothing surprising or game-changing about Swings Both Ways, and some might even call it a festive season cash-in, but it doesn't lack for charm.

Williams' baritone is well-suited to this material - cheeky, smooth, a little deeper and smokier when it needs to be - as he proved with Swing When You're Winning, and he knows to decorate the songs with sly winks and humour on top of the cheese layer. It's his way of blending British subversiveness with American syrupiness.

There are some fairly innocuous standards (Puttin' On The Ritz, and not even Lily Allen can save Dream A Little Dream from sounding a bit sugary), but there's some fun originals too. Go Gentle is a surprisingly fatherly message to his young daughter, No One Likes A Fat Pop Star is a skillful parody piece, and his duet with Rufus Wainwright, Swings Both Ways, is a mischievous celebration of double-entendres and camp flirtations. Robbie's got his swing back.





Silly season puff perfected

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- TimeOut