Music to Tribe’s ears

January 4, 2013

You knew Nick Swisher was introduced as an Indian today. You did not know he introduced a CD in late 2011. No, you did not know that. Quit pretending you knew that. If you’re a real Cleveland fan you knew his wife Joanna Garcia is an actress. You knew he starred in baseball, football, and basketball at Parkersburg High School in West Virginia. You knew he went to Ohio State on a baseball scholarship. You knew his father Steve played catcher for nine seasons for the Cubs, Cardinals, and Padres. You thought you knew that the Indians couldn’t sign a player like Nick Swisher.

But you did not know he put out a music CD.

He did, though, back in October 2011. It’s called “Believe”, which is the name of the title track written former New York Yankee Bernie Williams. It also features San Francisco Giants pitcher Barry Zito on guitar. No Ben Broussard, though.

Oh, one other thing you didn’t know — this is a kid’s record. Yep, Nick Swisher sings with a choir of children ages 8-13, and all proceeds go to his Swish’s Wishes Foundation, which helps children in need. So we can’t even make fun of Nick Swisher for making a CD. Well, that, and because it’s not half-bad. Swisher sings cover songs of Beatles (“With a Little help From My Friends”), Rolling Stones (“Jumpin’ Jack Flash”), Sly and the Family Stone (“Everyday People”) and other’s, with a rendition of “Hang on Sloopy” thrown in. 

Sure, “Believe” isn’t even reason #1,784 that the Indians signed him, because they didn’t know it either. But it might be a Top 10 reason why Cleveland will love Nick Swisher. Swisher stared down a big chance to embarrass himself and acquitted himself on a CD that actually serves as a fun sing-a-long for kids. Nick Swisher, you are indeed Swishalicious!

Here’s a track-by-track analysis of “Believe” …

1) HEROES (David Bowie)

Swisher’s vocals would be a highlight on any Thursday karaoke night. The kid’s choir is smooth. When Swisher starts talking in between the kids singing “We can be heroes” toward the end, well, it makes everyone want to be a hero.

VERDICT: Line-drive single.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “I, I will be king.”

2) I WON’T BACK DOWN (Tom Petty)

Not being able to sing never really hurt Tom Petty’s career. Swisher does well on this song, but his earnestness doesn’t pay off as much as Petty’s nasal voice does in the original. The kids choir compares well to Tom Petty and The Heartbreaker’s harmonies. 

VERDICT: Double off the wall.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “Gonna stand my ground, and I won’t back down.”

3) WHERE THE GREEN GRASS GROWS (Tim McGraw)

Swisher does well singing with the kids choir. The rest sounds like 90% reading, 10% singing. This version made me realize Tim McGraw is a pretty damn good singer.

VERDICT: Groundout to second.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “I’m gonna live where the green grass grows.”

4) LEAN ON ME (Bill Withers)

Swisher’s best effort on the CD. He gives the lyrics the perfect emotional heft and lets the kids choir do its thing on the chorus. 

VERDICT: Home run.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “Lean on me, when you’re not strong/And I’ll be your friend/I’ll help you carry on.”

5) A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS (The Beatles)

Swisher shows almost as much range on this song as he does in the outfield. Sure, The Beatles wrote perfect pop songs so the template is there, but their songs can easily screwed up. Swisher shows he’s coachable, sounds great with the kids choir, and even walks off holding a high note. 

VERDICT: Double down the line.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “Would you believe in a love at first sight.”

6) EVERYDAY PEOPLE (Sly and the Family Stone)

Swisher’s shows he’s a team player by giving the kids choir the spotlight on this one. He’s merely a supporting player here. Maybe it’s his designated-hitter day as the kids take the field. He starts and finishes the song with aplomb, but this is the kids’ starring vehicle.

VERDICT: Triple.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “You love me you hate me/You know me and then/You can’t figure out the bag I’m in.”

7) PROUD MARY (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

Here it sounds like Swisher is having the most fun, growling out the famous “rolling on the river” chorus. His band gets some extended action on center stage in a perfectly acceptable version  of CCR’s famous song.

VERDICT: Two-hop single to left.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “Left a good job in the city.”

8) TAKE ME HOME, COUNTRY ROADS (John Denver)

This song is certainly on the CD due to Swisher’s West Virginia roots. But it also exposes his lack of vocal chops. Even the kids choir can’t mask him on this one. This is where Eric Wedge would say Swisher is a grinder.

VERDICT: Pop out to short left.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON (for Swisher’s All-Star Break plans): “Country Roads, take me home/To the place I belong/West Virginia, mountain momma/Take me home, country roads.”

9) JOY TO THE WORLD (Three Dog Night)

Swisher screams this one as if he’s just downed three shots of whiskey. He’s not great in it, but the music and kids choir make this very danceable. 

VERDICT: Base on balls.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “I’m a high life flyer and a rainbow rider/A straight shootin’ son of a gun.”

10) HANG ON SLOOPY (The McCoys)

Better versions are heard nightly at frat parties in Columbus, just before everyone passes out. Still, here’s hoping this version gets played at some Indians games this season.

VERDICT: Fly out to the warning track.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “O-H-I-O”

11) JUMPIN’ JACK FLASH (Rolling Stones)

This is the song Swisher tries to most closely match his singing with the original, which is perfect because Mick Jagger is as much a singer as he is a baseball player.

VERDICT: Hot smash single up the middle.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “But it’s all right now, in fact, it’s a gas!”

12) BELIEVE (Bernie Williams)

Not a bad song for a couple of baseball players. The kids choir really makes this one.

VERDICT: Single up the middle.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: ”All things are possible if you believe.” (I.e., What if?)