Kisses on the Bottom by Paul McCartney (Hear Music, 2012. 56 minutes)
Sir Paul McCartney (MBE, Hon Ram, FRCM) is an English musician, singer-songwriter, and composer. He is well-known for his work with The Beatles (1960-1970) and is widely considered the most successful musician and composer alive. He has sixty gold records; his song “Yesterday” has been covered by more than two thousand artists; and has thirty-one number one singles on the Billboard top 100. He is one of the wealthiest people in the UK, with an estimated wealth of £475 million.
An Icon Is Born
Sir Paul McCartney is an icon who is turning seventy this year. From Beatles days of old to his work with Wings and even some of his solo albums, he’s been through quite a bit musically, and has perhaps seen a downward trend in quality over the years. Truthfully, McCartney hasn’t really seemed himself without the collaboration of his counterpart, John Lennon. In recent years, one could say McCartney has been on the upswing starting with solo album Memory Almost Full.
All his musical adventures (and some misadventures) have led him down the path to do what he does on his latest record, Kisses on the Bottom—cover standard jazz tunes.
To be honest, I have a bias with McCartney. I think he, along with Lennon, transformed the entire musical culture of the world, and effectively created the musical landscape we live in today. So, I love Kisses on the Bottom overall. Paul McCartney, in addition to covering all the classic tunes, wrote two of his own. My favorite track on the album is one that he wrote for his new wife, “My Valentine”. McCartney managed to write a tune that already sounds classic, and his performance of it at the 2012 Grammy Awards proves it, in my opinion. Paul’s friend, Eric Clapton, makes a guest appearance on the track, adding a beautifully done, yet brief, classical guitar solo.
It’s Only A Paper Moon
Just as I thought the album might be close to perfect, I listened to the track “It’s Only A Paper Moon”. He messes with the rhythm of the title line “it’s only a paper moon” and that just rubs me the wrong way. Call me a purist, but even Paul might want to steer clear of messing with a well-known melody that has been established for several decades. Otherwise, the track is well done, even though he altered it. I’ll include a clip of both below.
The 1940s Are Back!
The track, “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” begins to expose the elderly McCartney’s voice. There are some cracks beginning to emerge in his voice, but he manages to emulate Fats Waller’s somewhat whiney voice incredibly well. He’s almost seventy, and to do what he’s done vocally on this track is a feat for a twenty-year-old, let alone an aging man.
What Kisses on the Bottom is Really About
The album title, Kisses on the Bottom is a joke. The reference comes from a Fats Waller song, “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter”, which is also the opening track to the album. The lyric is,
“A lot of kisses on the bottom, I’ll be glad I got ‘em”
The lyric refers to the ending line of a letter where the lover writes a few X’s and O’s. It is not a reference to McCartney kissing someone’s bottom, as the name of the album would lead you to believe. This intentional pun by McCartney is an attempt to use his dry British wit throughout his songwriting. McCartney covers the song with incredible jazz intelligence, classiness, and style. He manipulates his voice in a jazz manner, one that would make the 1940’s proud.
The Test of Time
Paul McCartney will stand the test of time. He has had his highs (Ram and Memory Almost Full) and his lows (McCartney II). His most recent album, Kisses on the Bottom, is assuredly one of his highs. I sincerely recommend the album to you, as it brings the past back with great style and remembrance.
Verdict: 4 out of 5