From left: Chris Mann, Susan Markheim, Paul Anka, Joel McNeely, Ron Fair at Conway Studios in Los Angeles.
Paul Anka visited Conway Studios Monday to hear Chris Mann's new version of his song "My Way" for which he recently revised the lyrics. Tan, dressed in white and only slightly slowed by a boot on injured right ankle, Anka said he was reluctant when asked to modify the lyrics to alter the perspective from and older man to a younger one.
"I felt he was the guy to pull it off," Anka said of Mann. "He's leaving in the core of the song, and people can identify with it. It's not of a particular vintage," Anka says, before explaining why he didn't record it in the late 1960s. "I was old enough to write it, but not old enough to sing it." He also noted that he'd been asked to revise the song's lyrics in the past but declined, although he had approved some parodies.
Also in the room were a crew from "Extra," the arranger Joel McNeely, Mann, his manager Susan Markheim of Front Line and Ron Fair, who is overseeing Mann's debut for his label, Faircraft/Universal Republic.
Mann, a finalist on the second season of "The Voice," expressed nervousness listening to track with Anka seated next to him. "He's heard the best do it," Mann said, referring to Frank Sinatra's signature version from 1969. Anka, 71, quelled Mann's fears saying, "I'm stoked at what you did."
For the song, Fair brought in McNeely, a film composer with some top shelf arranging credits. "I structured it for the orchestra to have three levels of intensity," McNeely said while 10 photographers took turns snapping shots of Anka and Mann in the studio. "We extended the intro, made it a little bit dark. The second verse, it's a little bit up with some changes in the harmonics. For the third part, all constraints are off. We let it rip and there is no over the top on this song. It would be fun to conduct."
The listening session completed, the ever-busy Anka was off to meet with Diana Krall and engineer Al Schmitt, to put the finishing touches on his autobiography, "My Way," coming out in February from St. Martin's Press, and waiting to hear how Leon Russell has interpreted a new composition, "I Really Miss You," for his next album.
McNeely was heading to London to record Seth MacFarlane's second album - he oversaw the big band arrangements on the first one - at Abbey Road and perform at Ronnie Scott's. And Mann continues to polish his debut album for an Oct. 30 release.