Album review: Paul McCartney – Kisses on the Bottom

After a 3 year break Sir Paul McCartney has returned to the studio and released his latest album, Kisses on the Bottom, consisting primarily of standards from the 1930’s and 40’s.

Working with jazz producer Tommy LiPuma and Diana Krall (wife of Paul’s erstwhile writing partner Elvis Costello) they put together an album consisting of 12 standards and two originals. While the album was recorded over the course of 2011 it has been in the pipeline for years.

Speaking at a recent press conference at London’s Hempel Hotel, Paul said “Every time I came to make this album someone else would make one. I’d think ‘now is the time’ and then Robbie Williams came out with one, sort of big band hall stuff, so I thought ‘I can’t do it now cos it’s going to look like I’m jumping on his bandwagon’. And then that dust settled down, then Rod Stewart comes out with one, so I’d think ‘oops, can’t do it now!’ And just when I thought it was okay to go back into the water Rod releases his next one!”

The album title has caused a lot of debate amongst fans, however it has a completely innocent explanation: It’s a line from the albums opening song; Fats Waller’s I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter. The song opens with the lines, “I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter and make believe it came from you / I’m gonna write words oh so sweet / They’re gonna knock me off of my feet / A lot of kisses on the bottom, I’ll be glad I got ’em.”

The album contains 14 songs, only two of which are self penned by Paul. The rest of the album consists of songs that Paul remembers from his youth. While other people who have recorded albums in the genre have selected the big, well known songs from the Great American Songbook, Paul decided to choose lesser known tracks.

Although much of the album could have been recorded with big, loud, Broadway-like vocals, Paul made the conscious decision to try to emulate the quiet and gentle vocal styles of one of his musical icons: Fred Astaire. Speaking at the press conference Paul said, “Musically, his vocal style is very interesting. Everybody thought he was lazy except the songwriters. He had this voice I wanted to try to get near. It’s like a little voice. I tried that. That became a big part of the signature of this album.”

The first McCartney original song on the album is the delicate My Valentine. Written for his wife Nancy Shevell, he performed the song for her at their wedding reception. The track consists of two juxtaposing sections: the first is the descending minor chord pattern for the chorus, and the second is the major, uplifting verses. Also featured is Eric Clapton on acoustic guitar, adding soft little licks and an understated solo.

The second McCartney original is the luscious Only Our Hearts, featuring Stevie Wonder who plays a soulful trademark harmonica solo. While the song fits the style of the album, it would not seem out of place on any other McCartney album. It is also the first time Paul has worked with Stevie since the recoding of their 1982 megahit Ebony and Ivory.

The concept of the album is very reminiscent of Paul’s 1999 rock and roll album Run Devil Run, in which he selected many songs from his youth including All Shook Up and No Other Baby, and then wrote 3 in that style.

While Kisses on the Bottom is the polar opposite to Run Devil Run, and may not be to everyone’s tastes, it is still a successful venture into the standards genre of music. The music may not be instantly appealing but it does grow on you after multiple listening. The hard work and craftsmanship is undeniable, and there was obviously a lot of love put into the album. Only time will tell if Paul’s foray into this all but forgotten style will be able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the music from which it draws its inspiration, but so far the reviews have been very favourable, and to quote one of the songs from the album: “You’ve got to accentuate the positive / Eliminate the negative / Latch on to the affirmative / But don’t mess with mister inbetween”.

Kisses on the Bottom

I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter
Home (When Shadows Fall)
It’s Only a Paper Moon
More I Cannot Wish You
The Glory of Love
We Three (My Echo, My Shadow and Me)
Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive
My Valentine
My Very Good Friend the Milkman
Bye Bye Blackbird
Get Yourself Another Fool
The Inch Worm
Only Our Hearts

Bonus Tracks

Baby’s Request
My One and Only Love

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2 thoughts on “Album review: Paul McCartney – Kisses on the Bottom

  1. Adriana says:

    I agree with you, this is not the Paul’s regular album, but still is one Paul’s album. Meaning is good quality music and he make his work very carefully, choose a great producer and a great band, performed with high standard. I hope like you say it will be accepted by audience and specially for Paul’ fans (I’m one of they…)

  2. maccafan says:

    I look at this no different than his Fireman albums, it’s a side project until he releases his next official album!

    I absolutely love what I’ve heard so far!!

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