Paul McCartney, "Kisses on the Bottom," (Hear Music)
Paul McCartney paints such a fun picture of holiday "singsongs" at his childhood home, with the rugs rolled back and his dad on piano, that it's a shock his first album of standards is a stone-cold drag.
Sir Paul talked about wanting to make such a disc before he got too old and, for much of the time here, it sounds like he is too late. The delicate high registers required on songs like "Home (When Shadows Fall)" and "The Glory of Love" are largely beyond him now at age 69. He sounds frail, even elderly.
His accompaniment, led by Diana Krall, is first-rate but steers him toward slow songs that sap the project of any sense of fun.
Even the album title is unfortunate. "Kisses on the Bottom" is a lyric from "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter," but in this context seems like a silly double entendre.
The exceptions here are stunning, and quite illustrative.
The two best songs are brand new, and the only songs McCartney wrote himself. "My Valentine" is a love song to his new wife Nancy written on a Moroccan vacation. Album closer "Only Our Hearts" features a lush Johnny Mandel arrangement and a Stevie Wonder harmonica solo. More importantly, they are written for McCartney's voice today, and he's comfortable and confident singing them.
If he had no more new material, it would have been fun to hear McCartney dip into his catalogue and revisit period pieces like "Honey Pie."
Paul McCartney's weakness on this disc is not trusting Paul McCartney more.
CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: A highlight of "My Valentine" is the lovely acoustic guitar from Eric Clapton.