“P.S. I Love You.” “And I Love Her.” “Here, There, And Everywhere.” “Yesterday.” “My Love.”
For almost 50 years, Paul McCartney has written — along with John Lennon and as a solo artist — a raft of love songs that have become standards. In fact “Yesterday” may be one of the most covered and broadcasted songs ever written.
Now McCartney, on his new album Kisses On The Bottom, has recorded 12 standards along with two new songs — one of which, “My Valentine,” could very well become a new standard. The suggestive title of the album is a line from one of the songs on the disc, Fats Wallers’ “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter:” “… a lot of kisses on the bottom/I’ll be glad I got ‘em.”
The songwriting team of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, in addition to being part of a rocking band and having a classic psychedelic phase, came out of the tradition of well-written popular music that Paul celebrates on Kisses On The Bottom. The Beatles covered “Till There Was You” from The Music Man on their second album and John said that one of his inspirations for “Please Please Me” was “the words to a Bing Crosby song that went ’please lend a little ear to my pleas.’”
In an interview in the CD booklet that comes with the deluxe edition of Kisses On The Bottom (which also includes information for downloading four songs that McCartney performed live at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles — where most of his new album was recorded — a few days before the album was released), Paul says “For years I’ve been wanting to do some of the old songs that my parent’s generation used to sing at New Year.” And, like the early Beatles trying to be unique by covering obscure B-sides, for this album McCartney and his partners in the studio “… looked for songs that were a little more unusual, that sometimes people might never have heard.”
Capitol Studios is a hallowed place for those who appreciate the fine art of popular singing from the 1950s and 1960s. It’s where Frank Sinatra recorded what many consider to be his best work in the late 50s and it’s where Nat King Cole also recorded some of his hits. You can hear all of this as soon as McCartney’s album begins: the beginning of the first song could be from a Nat King Cole recording and the strings on the second song could be mistaken for a classic Nelson Riddle arrangement for Sinatra. In fact, Paul was offered — and of course accepted — the use of the microphone used by Nat King Cole.
Kisses On The Bottom was produced by Tommy LiPuma (who also produced a few of Michael Franks’ terrific albums in the 1970s like The Art Of Tea and Sleeping Gypsy). Musical support for Paul is provided by Diana Krall on piano, along with her band, and guest appearances by Eric Clapton (whose guitar solo on “My Valentine” is reminiscent of George Harrison’s solo on “And I Love Her”), and Stevie Wonder. And McCartney, one of the greatest rock singers of his or any other generation (for example: “Long Tall Sally” and “I’m Down”), croons his way through these tunes. There’s a gentleness in his delivery and a real appreciation for these songs and the people who wrote them.
Kisses On The Bottom is far from the big-band, over-the-top affairs that have of late characterized journeys by pop and rock stars into the American songbook. This disc is a delight
NEXT MONTH: The Germans Have A Word For It — Leonard Cohen.