A very pleasurable set of less-than-common covers from the still-rocking knight.
Patrick Humphries 2012-01-26
You are the world’s most successful songwriter; you have written the most-covered song in the history of popular music; and changed the world by the age of 24: you are Paul McCartney. So if you want to record an album of neglected dishes from the great banquet of American popular music, you are fully entitled to do so.
There is much pleasure to be gained from Kisses on the Bottom: the jazzy piano of Diana Krall, for one. There’s some sensitive acoustic playing, and the lush arrangements help to swell familiar titles such as It’s Only a Paper Moon, The Glory of Love and Bye Bye Blackbird.
An equal bonus, because all he’s chosen to do is sing, is that there’s a vulnerability to McCartney’s vocals here, a sensitivity in his handling of these all-time classics. Get Yourself Another Fool and Irving Berlin’s Always remind you just what a good singer the rocking knight can be. And after years of personal and professional earnestness, he sounds like he’s having fun.
To his credit, McCartney hasn’t gone for an obvious selection of tracks – it’s doubtful that Frank Loesser’s The Inch Worm would make it onto many desert islands. Ironically, though, it is this one track (with its glutinous children’s choir) which represents the album’s low point.
Of course there’s a history here which transcends these songs; this, after all, is an album from a man whose band effectively blew this style of popular music right out of the water half a century ago. But Paul’s music-loving dad Jim would have known these songs, and while thrashing through Hamburg all-nighters or lunchtimes at the Cavern, The Beatles often found room for songs from this showbiz pantheon.
Cynics may cast a jaundiced eye over Kisses on the Bottom – only two new songs out of 14? (Although My Valentine stands as a breathtakingly good McCartney original.) And hasn’t Rod Stewart taken a scythe through the Great American Songbook? But what McCartney accomplishes here, in the best possible sense, is an album ideally made for Easy Listening.