McCartney’s ‘Kisses’ bottoms out

Carl J. Bachus | Collegio Reporter

Sir Paul McCartney has returned with a selection of neglected American standards on his 16th solo studio effort, “Kisses on the Bottom.” The collection was produced by Tommy LiPuma of Barbra Streisand and Miles Davis fame and features 12 classics from the 1920s to the 1950s, along with two original tracks penned by McCartney himself.
The album plays like a house band at Sunday brunch, with jazzy renditions of numbers like “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” and “Bye Bye Blackbird.” The album’s soft-pop overtones recall those of Tony Bennett and the late Etta James. At first listen, the album is a pretty straightforward jazz collection. You might find songs blending together musically since almost every track is laden with a heavy piano instrumental, performed by Diana Krall.
The production was quite dull the first time through, but the beauty within it surfaces during the second listen. The real showcase isn’t McCartney’s vocals — it’s the instrumental backing. McCartney’s band adds a heavy melodrama to each track, resulting in a richer listening experience, especially on tracks like “Get Yourself Another Fool” and “Only Our Hearts,” an original composition featuring a harmonica solo by Stevie Wonder. In fact, his original songs stand out as the most memorable tracks. The first single “My Valentine,” which features Eric Clapton on guitar, plays like a somber yet breezy love letter to easy-listening tracks that frequent AM radio.
McCartney has always been considered adult contemporary, but “Kisses” marks his first foray into jazz. It is not difficult to tell that the album was made purely for easy listening, which it accomplished nicely. However, the album struggles to differentiate itself from McCartney’s previous catalog.
The album is to be commended for its subtly dramatic instrumentals and McCartney’s flaws-and-all vocal showcase. But as a standalone album, it stands out as an oddity that tries too hard to be “Paul McCartney’s first jazz album” when it’s just a generic-sounding jazz album from an artist who isn’t comfortable in the genre. It’s a fun listen, but “Valentine” will probably be the only track worth revisiting.

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