“I always thought artists like Fred Astaire were very cool. Writers like Harold Arlen, Cole Porter, all of those guys - I just thought the songs were magical. And then, as I got to be a songwriter I thought it’s beautiful, the way they made those songs.” – Paul McCartney
(Photographer: Mary McCartney)
On Feb. 7th, Paul McCartney is releasing his first new disc in five years, Kisses on the Bottom. The disc takes its name from a lyric in the Fats Waller song “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” and McCartney’s cover of this song serves as the lead-off track on his new disc. This new disc is predominately comprised of little-heard cover songs and Paul’s approach to this disc is similar to his 1999 disc Run Devil Run on which he covered 50’s rock and roll songs and wrote some originals in the style of that era. The fourteen tracks on Kisses on the Bottom offer a glimpse into “the songs which inspired the songs”; twelve songs are Tin Pin Alley era covers and Macca wrote two new originals that fit perfectly with the music of that era. The impetus for this release is that Paul believes it is about time “the songs me and John based quite a few of our things on” received the recognition they deserve.
On Kisses on the Bottom, McCartney is backed by Diana Krall and her band and orchestral accompaniments are added to some songs courtesy of the London Symphony Orchestra. All of the songs have a soft jazz flair that is accentuated by Tommy LiPuma’s open-sounding and organic production. This disc marks the first time that Paul performed exclusively in the vocal booth without any instruments and his warm and lo-key vocals set the emotional tone for each song. Macca described this album as “very tender, very intimate…an album you listen to at home after work, with a glass of wine or a cup of tea.”
Songs range from the bouncy jazz of “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” and “My Very Good Friend the Milkmen” to the orchestral “Bye Bye Blackbird” to smoky jazz torch songs ( Irving Berlin’s “Always” and “Home (When Shadows Fall)”). Macca stays true to the original versions of the twelve cover tunes and the stellar production brings out the piano, brushed drums and open bass notes. For the two originals, Eric Clapton adds some blues riffs and an understated solo to “My Valentine” and Stevie Wonder plays soulful harmonica on “Only Our Hearts”.
While I prefer McCartney’s rock numbers (and am waiting impatiently for more of the Wings’ reissues), kudos to Macca for pulling off such a stylistic leap without it sounding dated or “retro”.