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Review: Paul McCartney’s role as “Crooner” for new CD, “Kisses on the Bottom”, takes some getting used to

Paul McCartney plays the role of “crooner” in the style of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett on his new CD, “Kisses on the Bottom“. However, the vocal style he utilizes to sing these classic songs like “It’s Only A Paper Moon” and “Home (When Shadows Fall)” is at a different vocal range than what Beatles/McCartney fans are used to.

It almost sounds like Macca is pretending to perform as if he was another character– Macca the “jazz singer”. Very similar to the higher-pitched, whispery voice that he sang “Honey Pie” with on The Beatles’ White Album, this style works well on the humorous, light-hearted songs “My Very Good Friend the Milkman” and “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter”, but not so much on the more serious standards on the first half of the CD.

On the second half of the CD, McCartney’s voice returns more to the deeper singing voice that we are all used to on songs like “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” and “Get Yourself Another Fool” which are quite enjoyable. The jazzy musical arrangements are led by Diana Krall and her band and produced by Tommy LiPuma.

Of course, as one would expect, Paul shines on the songs that he wrote himself, especially “My Valentine”. The included 6-page interview in the CD booklet reveals the interesting story about how “My Valentine” came about. McCartney wrote the song on a piano in the foyer of a hotel while on vacation in Morocco with then-girlfriend, Nancy Shevell. The inspiration came from a simple conversation about the rainy weather to which Shevell urged: “It doesn’t matter, we can still have a good time.”

Watch Paul McCartney sing “My Valentine” on the 2012 GRAMMYS:

The CD booklet is presented in a classy style featuring photographs from the special “Kisses on the Bottom” photo shoot taken by Paul’s daughter, Mary McCartney. Shots of the iconic Capitol Records tower are also included. Half of the album was recorded at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles, and the other half at Avatar Studios in New York, with orchestral arrangements recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios in London.

Kudos to Paul for following his creative heart and exploring the “jazzy” side of himself. We’ve seen McCartney go through different incarnations throughout his 50-year career including roles as the Fireman, the classical composer and now the jazz crooner. If you’re open to hearing another side of Paul, as well as another side of his voice, then give “Kisses on the Bottom” a try. I always have found that learning about The Beatles and solo Beatles’ music has led me to explore many other music genres and artists, and this CD is no exception.

–Trina Yannicos

Note: “Kisses on the Bottom” is available in the standard CD format with 14 tracks; as a digital download; in vinyl format; or the Deluxe CD with two bonus tracks plus access to a download of the Capitol Studios show (available via paulmccartney.com), plus longer liner notes and expanded packaging featuring three postcards. This review was based on the standard CD.

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Listen to Paul McCartney’s new song, My Valentine, from his new album of standards

On February 7, Paul McCartney will be releasing a brand new album of standards he grew up listening to in his childhood—plus two brand new McCartney compositions.  The album is called ‘Kisses on the Bottom‘ and will be released on Hear Music/Concord Records.

Paul McCartney in the studio; courtesy Hear Music/Concord Records

The album was recorded at the legendary Capitol Studios in Los Angeles, New York and London throughout 2011.  It also features guest musicians Eric Clapton and Stevie Wonder, respectively, on the original compositions ‘My Valentine’ and ‘Only Our Hearts’.

[You can listen to Paul’s new song, My Valentine, at this link on Soundcloud.com. Paul wrote the song for his new bride, Nancy Shevell, and the song was played for the first dance at their wedding on October 9, 2011].

This is the album McCartney has been thinking about making for more than 20 years – and probably the last thing his fans are expecting. “In the end it was ‘Look, if I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it,” he says.
In short, Paul believes it is about time “the songs me and John based quite a few of our things on” received the recognition they deserve. Moreover, the record also features a couple of new original McCartney compositions in the spirit of those classics.

“When I kind of got into songwriting, I realized how well structured these songs were and I think I took a lot of my lessons from them,” Paul explains. “I always thought artists like Fred Astaire were very cool. Writers like Harold Arlen, Cole Porter, all of those guys – I just thought the songs were magical.  And then, as I got to be a songwriter I thought it’s beautiful, the way they made those songs.”

Paul enlisted the help of of Grammy Award-winning producer Tommy LiPuma and Diana Krall and her band—who delivered ultra-high quality musicianship and were completely in tune with Paul’s restraint and feel for the music. In the studio, the recording of this album was also a new challenge for Paul who, for the first time ever, performed exclusively in the vocal booth without no instrument – no guitar, no bass, no piano – which led to a vocal performance like no other in his career.

He adds, “It was very spontaneous, kind of organic, which then reminded me of the way we’d work with The Beatles. We’d bring a song in, kick it around, when we found a way to do it we’d say ‘Okay, let’s do a take now’ and by the time everyone kind of had an idea of what they were doing, we’d learnt the song. So that’s what we did, we did the take live in the studio.”

“It was important for me to keep away from the more obvious song choices so, many of the classic standards will be unfamiliar to some people.  I hope they are in for a pleasant surprise.”

[Source: Official Press Release]

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