Kisses On The Bottom
Hear Music, 2012
REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/06/2012
So what do you do when you are one of the most famous songwriters of modern music, are about to turn 70, just got married for the third time, and can just record an album whenever you please and release it to a guaranteed audience? Why not record a collection of standards?
Paul McCartney, who actually wrote several songs that could be considered standards, decided to do just that with the cheekily named Kisses On The Bottom. For a man who has done so much in his career, and spanned several genres, this quiet, nostalgic reflection of the music of his upbringing is an interesting addition to his catalog, even if it is not the best. These wistful looks back are not new to McCartney fans, since reflections of his father’s music hall repertoire are clearly evident in numerous songs from his half-century career in music. “When I’m Sixty Four,” “Honey Pie,” “You Gave Me the Answer,” and “Baby’s Request” just note a few examples of this proclivity. Similarly, Run Devil Run, released in 1999 with ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly numbers, was an album that came from a nearly identical “back to my roots” motivation. Like that venture, which had three McCartney originals, Kisses On The Bottom only contains two.
As for the material, some are pretty typical fare for a standards collection. "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter" and "Always" are offered with as much ease as some lesser known songs like "Inch Worm," and utilizes much of Sir Paul’s impressive higher register vocal range that he has always been able to effortlessly reach. The McCartney originals, "My Valentine" and "Only Our Hearts," sit incredibly well next to the other songs, especially "Only Our Hearts," which is a delightful song and arguably the best on the album. It is apparent he took pains to make these songs special. Eric Clapton contributes some beautiful acoustic guitar on "My Valentine," and 30 years after "Ebony And Ivory" (is that a standard yet?), Stevie Wonder collaborates again with McCartney on "Only Our Hearts." The harmonica solo Wonder adds is distinctively his own, but it is striking because it is so set apart from the rest of the album's mellow jazz band approach.
This album is great for that wind-down-and-relax part of the day or for bedtime. That's because McCartney offers a pleasant collection of old songs, however the bulk of the songs come at a very slow tempo. Only a couple rise to the moderato speed. The addition of Diana Krall and her band as a backing ensemble adds to this feel. I have been a Krall fan for years, and thought it was great when I found out that she was on the album, but this album is really more true to her form than to anything we are used to from McCartney. Its production is consistently tight – a nice slow jazz, with beautiful piano fills and solos, brushes on the drums, and sometimes an orchestra. It's almost as if this is a Diana Krall album and she somehow scored the greatest coup in music history in getting Paul McCartney sing as a guest lead singer! In fact, the press for the album notes that McCartney only sang and did no instrumentation whatsoever. It's the first time fans have heard that on a McCartney album.
Overall, Kisses On The Bottom holds together well with a consistency that is really unmatched in much of McCartney’s more recent pop catalog, which have had a more thrown together and homemade feel. This departure for McCartney is a pleasant interlude, but fans will be hopeful that this 70-year-old icon from the ‘60s will have more rock in him before riding off into the sunset.