The iconic former Beatle is back with his newest album, "Kisses on the Bottom". Unexpectedly, it is not new work, save two original songs, but the majority of the album is Paul covering old standards that he listened to as a child. The album is not without impressive credentials, featuring Diana Krall and her band as well as guest spots by Eric Clapton and Stevie Wonder. While it may be the last thing his fans were expecting, according to Paul, the album has been on his mind for some 20 years.
The first song "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter" establishes a jazzy tone, which is more or less what the entire album sounds like. Soft, mellow, cocktail-lounge jazz from a bygone era. Paul's voice is perfectly suited to the understated songs and the first song immediately affirms this. "Home (When Shadows Fall)", "It's Only a Paper Moon", and "More I Cannot Wish You" continue the soft roll of the album.
However, somewhere near the middle, things start feeling a little repetitive with "The Glory of Love", which seems quite slowed down. Then the awkwardly named "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive" takes more of an upbeat feel, but Paul's singing is a bit uneven, as though he's not quite into the verses.
Fortunately, the original composition "My Valentine" is up next to pull the album out of its small rut. Paul utilizes his lower register here, singing slowly and emphatically over a jazzy, acoustic guitar-accentuated backdrop. The song is beautifully short, but quickly brings the album back on track. "My Very Good Friend the Milkman" has a fun musical arrangement with quirky whistles and a muted trumpet, but Paul's vocals are a bit thready in this one.
Three more songs return the mellow vibe and then we get the other original song on the album, "Only Our Hearts". He gets a little more range in this one vs "My Valentine", but the music is a little less interesting, all feathered drums and an understated string section. But the last two songs pull the album together quite nicely.
There is no doubt that Paul McCartney's voice is aging, but with this album, he proves that it can certainly be done gracefully. Staying in a "small voice" and keeping the vaulting high notes to a minimum, he achieves a velvety smooth sound that matches the music perfectly.
"Kisses on the Bottom" is out February 7, 2012 via Hear Music.