Paul McCartney – Kisses on The Bottom (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
EVERY once in a while an established artist gets to pay tribute to the songs that inspired them and it’s often an interesting listen. Paul McCartney’s Kisses On The Bottom is exactly that – as well as an album of constant surprises.
With the help of Grammy Award-winning producer Tommy LiPuma and Diana Krall and her band – as well as guest appearances from Eric Clapton and Stevie Wonder – McCartney takes fans on a deeply personal journey through classic American compositions that, in some cases, he first heard his father perform on piano at home.
Billed as authentic and daring a musical statement that he could make, this is, by his own admission, an album that McCartney has been thinking about making for more than 20 years – and probably the last thing his fans are expecting.
“In the end it was ‘look, if I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it’,” he says, before adding: ““It was important for me to keep away from the more obvious song choices so, many of the classic standards will be unfamiliar to some people. I hope they are in for a pleasant surprise.”
The standards in question hark back to the era when Fred Astaire transfixed film fans with his dancing, and writers like Harold Arlen and Cole Porter were in their prime. They’re songs that are bathed in a classic romanticism and a cinematic memory that, while surprising, also bear a certain familiarity.
Highlights include It’s Only A Paper Moon, which has an extremely playful quality as well as some delightful whistling from McCartney (likewise, on My Very Good Friend The Milkman); Glory of Love, which oozes old school romance, and Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive, which McCartney delivers in a style that Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack would have been proud of (or even latter day Harry Connick Jr and Jamie Cullum!).
But the real treats, arguably, for McCartney’s legion of fans are the two original compositions that seek to emulate the style of the classics complete with additional help from Eric Clapton and Stevie Wonder.
Clapton’s subtle but typically brilliant acoustic backing to My Valentine is a genuine treat and a classic meeting of two legends, while Wonder’s harmonica adds a grand finale to the album on Only Our Hearts that retains the classic sensibility. They’re great, if under-stated, cameos that embellish proceedings.
Elsewhere, Bye Bye Blackbird is gracefully delivered in genuine crooner style… McCartney’s softer vocals set against subtle cymbal percussion and a strong piano and string arrangement for a classy jazz vibe.
And Get Yourself Another Fool making the most of some bluesy guitar backing that comes straight out of old slow hand’s delivery.
The Inch Worm, meanwhile, demonstrates McCartney’s desire to please himself if no one else with a standard that can only have come from his childhood inspirations. In doing so, however, he brings back memories of past tracks such as The Frog Song… so perhaps not that much of a surprise. And no matter how odd the selection, it’s beautifully delivered complete with more strings and a great guitar solo.
All in all, this collection of standards taken from the Great American Songbook is an unexpected but welcome treat from an artist who sounds forever young even as he approaches his 70th year. Fans who may initially have questioned the idea behind the LP will no doubt be singing its praises very soon.
Download picks: It’s Only A Paper Moon, Glory of Love, My Valentine, Bye Bye Blackbird, The Inch Worm, My Very Good Friend The Milkman, Get Yourself Another View