Way back in 1963, Paul McCartney sang "A Taste of Honey" on the Beatles' debut album, and "Til There Was You" on their second LP, establishing that his tastes ran far beyond the world of rock & roll and R&B. Over the years, he touched upon pre-rock & roll pop -- writing pastiches like "Honey Pie" with the Beatles and, crucially, snatching up the publishing rights to many of these tunes, thereby building his MPL empire -- but he never devoted a full record to the style until 2012's Kisses on the Bottom, a cheekily titled (pun not only intentional but solicited) collection of songs you know by heart. He's not the first Beatle to sing songs his mother should know: Ringo's first step outside the Fab Four was 1970's Sentimental Journey, a record of standards produced by George Martin. Sentimental Journey may share a tune with Kisses on the Bottom -- Ray Henderson and Mort Dixon's "Bye Bye Blackbird" -- but its splashy, show biz sensibility differs greatly from McCartney's intimate stroll through the past. Macca hired Diana Krall's band as his support, enlisted veteran vocal producer Tommy LiPuma, and then set up shop at Los Angeles' famed Capitol Studios, along with spots in N.Y.C. and London, to cut faithful, loving versions of songs he's always sung. Overachiever that he is, Macca throws in two new originals -- the quite good "My Valentine" and "Only Our Hearts," the former featuring guitar by Eric Clapton, the latter harmonica by Stevie Wonder -- that fit right into the soft-shoe shuffle of the rest of the record, enhancing its casual charm. And since McCartney is no longer quite the vocal powerhouse he used to be -- something the spare setting makes all too clear -- the chief appeal is its leisurely vibe, how McCartney settles into his surroundings, savoring each melody and every witty turn of phrase. As a vocalist, this may not be his natural forte, but he takes great care with the songs, and that palpable love is enough to make Kisses on the Bottom worth a spin or two.
Kisses on the Bottom Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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