Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Paul McCartney 32: Kisses On The Bottom

This late into his career, whenever Paul McCartney puts out a new album, the jokes write themselves. More so than with Ringo, who admits to recording with “anyone who rings his doorbell”, explaining why he’s been just as prolific as Paul since the turn of the century. But this time Ringo can say he had the idea of doing a standards album first. Paul’s well aware of that precedence, which probably has something to do with why he waited 42 years to do his own.
Let’s get this out of the way now: the title is stupid, and we don’t care that Kisses On The Bottom comes from the lyrics of one of the songs he’s covering. He’s not fooling anyone, and it should be no surprise that the Cute Beatle is a dirty old man.
The album at least tries to avoid the obvious song choices, especially since Rod Stewart attempted to corner the market with five CDs and counting of music from the pre-rock era. Maybe Paul was intimidated singing through vintage mikes, as unfortunately his hushed delivery sounds too much like Rod sometimes. He sings much of the album like he’s trying not to wake slumbering guests.
Luckily, arranger Diana Krall’s encyclopedic knowledge of the material, along with a sympathetic combo backing him, makes it worth more than a few spins. “Home (When Shadows Fall)” and “More I Cannot Wish You” are truly lovely. “Always” and “Bye Bye Blackbird”—the latter with a wonderfully lush intro that shames Ringo’s version—are given gorgeous treatments worthy of Sinatra records. “My Very Good Friend The Milkman” is silly without being too sugary, and “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive” is sung at full voice, so it works too. (“Get Yourself Another Fool” isn’t as effective, and it’s surprising that he says he hadn’t heard it before. We suspect the suggestion came from Diana’s husband Elvis Costello, who does a great version of it cribbed from a Sam Cooke album.) “Inch Worm” was previously foisted on Mark Hopkin; here we’re reminded that this nearly 70-year-old man has a daughter in grade school.
He does depart from the trend by adding some songs of his own. Eric Clapton’s guitar is thankfully pulled back on “My Valentine”, overtly inspired by Paul’s third wife. Stevie Wonder returns on harmonica to color “Only Our Hearts”, a sneaky little gem of a song that closes the album. (This age of iTunes bonus tracks and Target exclusives provides two more tracks, one being a remake of his own “Baby’s Request”, the saloon song that closes Back To The Egg.)
Kisses On The Bottom is a vanity project, fitting with his current work mode of creating when he can, touring when it fits his custody agreement, and recording albums with a good balance of no fuss and high quality. It’s not likely to stand out on any ten best list, nor will it oust the top of anyone’s all-time favorite McCartney albums. (But it’s certain to get more plays than Ocean’s Kingdom, his ballet score from the previous fall.)

Paul McCartney Kisses On The Bottom (2012)—3

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