When Sir Paul McCartney announced that his new album would be called “Kisses on the Bottom,” it seemed fair to assume that Macca had finally gone full-on helter-skelter insane.
For an unassailable legend and largely uncontroversial personality, it’s ironic that McCartney’s solo work is so polarizing. Left to his own creative devices, the ex-Beatle never lost his flair for inescapable hooks and adventurous song structures, but his weakness for mawkish sentimentality and too-clever-by-half whimsy has often resulted in records that lack ballast. And McCartney is at his most cringe-inducing when he’s being “cute.”
Thus it comes as something of a shock to report that McCartney’s new collection of mostly covers from the Great American Songbook rather works.
For his adventure in vocal jazz, McCartney has wisely chosen Diana Krall’s band to back him. On tracks such as “Home (When Shadows Fall),” it provides a warm, spacious bed for McCartney’s subtle vocal. Poignantly, there’s a hint of gravel in the voice of the eternally youthful McCartney, but it’s a touch that lends gravity to his performance. Throughout the album, he sounds startlingly at ease with the idiom, crooning like Chet Baker on “Get Yourself Another Fool” and swinging like Sinatra on “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive.”
So comfortable and energized does McCartney sound that the question is not why he decided to make a vocal jazz record, but why he hasn’t done it before. Like Nick Lowe’s recent series of wry twilight musings, “Kisses on the Bottom” proves to be an affecting exercise in insinuating nostalgia.
“Home (When Shadows Fall),” “Get Yourself Another Fool,” “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive”