Today I’m going to review the new Paul McCartney album, Kisses on the Bottom (I’ll explain later), which was released today (this review was written on 7th February).
The album is McCartney’s 15th studio solo album. The idea behind the album was for McCartney to revisit songs from his youth. The album is mainly covers of old jazz songs, McCartney only contributing vocals for most songs, enlisting the help of Diana Krall and jazz producer Tommy LiPuma. The album was published by McCartney’s own company, MPL.
If you want to know my vague opinion on the album, here it is: I adore it.
This album is something very special for me, and I didn’t know it would be until I listened to it. It made me remember my early years spent running around my grandparents’ house with most of these songs playing on an old record player. I had forgotten these memories long ago, incidental memories at that. Sadly, those grandparents passed away recently enough, and I’m still physically & mentally dealing with their passing.
The song selection by McCartney is amazing, featuring such classics as “It’s Only A Paper Moon” (Ella Fitzgerald) and “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive” (Johnny Mercer). The music is superb, either faithfully replicating it in the case of “Home (when shadows fall)” or changing the sound of the music while still retaining all the charm (It’s Only A Paper Moon, for example).
The production is superb, although maybe a little too good. It’s all a little too perfect for me. I would have preferred that it maybe kept the charming genuine feel of the original music, but that could just be me. I like the sound of just the air crackling in the background on those old standards. (You can hear a similar effect in a bonus track on the deluxe edition of the album, “My One and Only Love”)
McCartney’s main contribution to the album is vocals. His voice isn’t as perfect as it was (I doubt he could do his Little Richard impression now), he now sounds the elder statesman of music he is. And it suits this album perfectly. The motivation for the album is delivered through McCartney’s rough, older voice. I found it actually suited songs better than the original artists’ did. Sam Cooke’s version of the song (not the original but the most popular version, I’ve found) is an example of this: Cooke’s voice (he is the King of Soul), I feel, overpowers the song, and the soft music is lost underneath it. McCartney’s voice matches the music well, even letting the music swell over his voice at times.
There are three McCartney originals on the album: My Valentine, Only Our Hearts and Baby’s Request, the last of those being a deluxe album exclusive.
My Valentine was the big single of the album, being used in all the advertising. My Valentine wouldn’t stick out on a Beatles album. This is probably my favourite of the McCartney originals, mainly because of the wonderful Latin guitar from Eric Clapton and wonderful orchestration one has come to expect from him. Looking further into the lyrics one can see it as a love letter to his late-wife Linda, but looking further one can see it as a letter to the women he’s lost, mainly Linda and his mother, Mary, who died when Paul was 14.
Only Our Hearts is the second single from Kisses on the Bottom. It features Stevie Wonder on harmonica. Only Our Hearts seems to be a love letter to his current wife, Nancy Shevell.
“I wish that my heart was strong
I’d be letting it beat, much faster
At the thought of you holding me near
I wish that my heart, wish that my heart was strong”
These lines have two meanings, in my opinion. The obvious being that McCartney feels he’s too old for his younger bride, thinking that he wont be enough for her and that he wishes he could be stronger. I have a few problems with this theory, the main being that the age difference isn’t that substantial (17 or 18 years depending on what report you read), especially when you compare that to the age gap between McCartney and his previous wife, Heather Mills, who was born in 1968, aka the year The Beatles (The White Album) was released. Speaking of The Beatles, he’s a fucking Beatle! He has his choice of women of any age forever, and I don’t think he’d be too worried about a younger woman.
The second meaning is that McCartney is worried that he doesn’t have enough room in his heart for his new love. Support for this theory (on the album) lies in My Valentine, a letter to his late-mother and first wife.
Kisses on the Bottom is an incredible trip down memory lane, and a very apt album for a man of McCartney’s age and stature to record. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but that comes with the territory, that territory being McCartney and nostalgia. What? Everybody loves some smooth jazz!… right?
This album had a deep impact on me. It awakened memories that I didn’t know I had, and it made me cry to think of the people I’ve lost. Not because I was sad, but because it filled me with joy to remember, and that’s the impact of McCartney
If I had to give it a score, I’d give it 4/5 stars. It loses a star because of the production process. It sounds a little bit too clean for me, but it being produced too well isn’t the worst problem you could have.
Robert O’Sullivan (CircleGuy)