Kisses on the Bottom is Paul McCartney‘s first solo album since 2007’s Memory Almost Full. But Macca hasn’t been sitting around doing nothing these last five years. In 2008, he resurrected The Fireman – an electronica side-project with producer, Youth – in order to release the ethereal Electric Arguments, an album that was worthy of McCartney’s moniker alone. In 2009, he was busy promoting The Beatles‘ revolutionary remasters, and in 2010, the newly-launched Paul McCartney Archive Collection. Indeed, if McCartney ever did put his feet up, it was in 2011, the year that he wed American heiress, Nancy Shevell.
It is likely this new-found romance is what roused Paul to finally record Kisses on the Bottom – a cover album of 12 mushy standards (plus two Macca originals). But before we can go and accuse McCartney of getting soft in his old age, it’s worth nothing Paul has wanted to make this album since his twenties. Having bonded with fellow mop top, John Lennon, over 30s pop, a covers project of some sort was always on The Beatles ‘to do’ list: “I never got round to it because we were writing Sgt Pepper [or] The White Album,” McCartney told The Guardian.
Over 40 years later, and Paul has finally “got round to it.” But was it worth the wait?
Despite the potentially cringe-worthy material being handled here, the album manages to keep from corn thanks to the sheer enthusiasm emitting from McCartney, who is obviously elated to be finally making this record. Indeed, the entire thing is an overwhelmingly intimate conversation with Paul, who bravely ventures head first into thus far unexplored vocal territory. The result is incredibly endearing – here, we are overhearing an apparently infallible Beatle intently focusing on his tone and intonation, on hitting the high (and the low) notes, on capturing the vital melodic nuances. Even though McCartney’s pipes have subtly-weathered with age, his at-times imperfect texture only adds to the charming personality of this record.
McCartney’s self-stamped “littler voice” perfectly compliments the brushed drums, swelling electric guitar, bumbling upright bass and classic piano enveloping Kisses on the Bottom. Kudos to Tommy LiPume, too, who has done a wonderful job on the production. A subtle hiss and crackle seems to speckle the whole thing, only adding to that authentically throwback, woozy vibe (though it should be noted this static grows somewhat claustrophobic towards the tail-end of the LP).
That said, it’s not all amour. “It’s Only A Paper Moon” (which Paul revealed was his beloved father’s favorite – a fitting tribute to the man who was responsible for introducing him to these standards in the first place) presents a playful, “I Will”-esque McCartney, while “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” makes for another cheeky, chipper detour. The arithmetical “The Inch Worm” is perhaps the most arresting song on the record. Featuring a kids choir (it could be his most child-friendly track since the infamous Frog Chorus), this rendition is a touch, dare I say it, psychedelic?
The first of the two originals, “My Valentine” (which features Eric Clapton on guitar) confirms McCartney’s chameleonic songwriting skills are as strong as ever, this ominous romance-epic effortlessly mingling among its nostalgic peers. The second Macca original (and album closer), “Only Our Hearts” is jarringly yawn-worthy, further tainted by Stevie Wonder’s overly-enthusiastic harmonica (yikes, I’m gonna get baited for that comment, right?).
It should be noted, Kisses on the Bottom does not rock to Helter Skelter standards, but this halcyon charmer is not supposed to. McCartney recently said he wanted people to listen to this record “at home after work, with a glass of wine or a cup of tea.” So, this coming Valentine’s Day, why don’t you and your partner do just that – who knows, you may actually get some kisses on the bottom of your own!