While many a musician is often asked about the tunes that have influenced their songwriting, it is not a question Paul McCartney ordinarily gets to answer.
Paul offers a glimpse into “the songs which inspired the songs” with the release of those standards he grew up listening to in his childhood—plus two brand new McCartney compositions.
With the help of Grammy Award-winning producer Tommy LiPuma and Diana Krall and her band—as well as guest appearances from Eric Clapton and Stevie Wonder, McCartney’s new album is a deeply personal journey through classic American compositions that, in some cases, a young Paul first heard his father perform on piano at home.
As authentic and daring a musical statement as he could make, this is the album Paul 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.
Paul believed it was about time “the songs me and John based quite a few of our things on” received the recognition they deserve.
“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. 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 LiPuma and 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.
“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.”
The phrase ‘Kisses On The Bottom,’ comes from the album’s opener ‘I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter’. Originally made a big hit by Fats Waller in 1935, the song opens with the lines ‘I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter and make believe it came from you. I’m gonna write words oh so sweet. They’re gonna knock me off of my feet. A lot of kisses on the bottom , I’ll be glad I got ‘em’.
Kisses on the Bottom peaked at number 3 on the UK Albums Chart and number 5 on the US Billboard 200, while also topping Billboard magazine’s Jazz Albums chart.
In addition to the standard release, the album was made available in a “Deluxe” edition, which added the songs “Baby’s Request”—written by McCartney and originally recorded by Wings for their 1979 album Back to the Egg—and another cover, “My One and Only Love“.
In November 2012, an expanded edition of Kisses on the Bottom, subtitled Complete Kisses, was released exclusively on the iTunes store.
The latter release features the fourteen-track album with four bonus tracks, and the complete iTunes Live from Capitol Studios performance.
Paul McCartney : Vocals
Tommy LiPuma : Producer
Diana Krall : Piano, Rhythm arrangement
Karriem Riggins : Drums
Robert Hurst : Bass
John Pizzarelli : Guitar
Al Schmitt : Mixing and recording engineer
Steve Genewick : Additional engineering
Fernando Lodeiro : Assistant engineer
Elliot Scheiner : Additional engineering
Brian Montgomery : Additional engineering
(This is the basis of the studio team unless noted on the individual songs.)
Lead on the floor by Diana Krall, who did all of the arrangements. Her husband, Elvis Costello and Paul are dear friends and even co-wrote for a short period. She is quite frankly the most talented classy woman in music today in my opinion. Her shows and albums are all works of art.
Paul wrote (a nice thank you) “If I Take You Home Tonight” for her and it was recorded appears on her 2015 album, WALLFLOWER.
Tommy LiPuma, RIP, was the man uncharge behind the equipment.
What a great band she picked, Diana’s. These are some of contemporary jazz’s best . They alone make this album good. Listen to it for what it is. Do not expect anything but what it tells you it is, a look back. A look back with great love and greater care to songs that we can never forget. What would a 20 year old Frank Loesser songs sound like today ? Or Irving Berlin today?…
His voice is wonderful, But I wish he had beaten Rod Stewart to the punch. His slight fragility are charming. Rod had four albums of classics, I think. Harry Nilsson was the first. He made in the wonderful 1972’s, “A Little Touch Of Schmilsson In The Night.”
Additional players: Andy Stein – Violin
“I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter” A 1935 popular song with music by Fred E. Ahlert and lyrics by Joe Young. It has been recorded by Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Sarah Vaughan, Don Cherry, Bill Halley and has become a standard of the Great American Songbook.
- Paul is mixed way up under the headphones. It’s so sweet and flows like leaves in a breeze. Rating – 8.5
“Home (When Shadows Fall)” A song written by Harry Clarkson, Geoffrey Clarkson and Peter van Steeden in 1931. It was covered by many artists over years (Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong (twice).
“There’s a track called ‘Home’ that I remember from my dad’s era. It’s funny, when I suggested that one, Diana said, ‘Oh my gosh, I thought I was the only person on earth who knew that song.’ I actually used to do an instrumental version of it, before The Beatles. I liked the chords, so I used to play a little guitar instrumental when me and John were just getting it together. So I had nice memories of that one.”
- He almost talk sings, as these songs are a picture of the time they were written. This album is going to be a crier if he passes before me. Not a song I remembered, but still has that floating down a lazy river feel. Rating – 7.5
“It’s Only A Paper Moon” A 1932 song with music written by Harold Arlen and lyrics by Yip Harburg and Billy Rose. The song was written for an unsuccessful Broadway play called The Great Magoo. Hit recordings by Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and Benny Goodman transformed this song into a jazz and pop standard.
- I tapped along, as this was familiar. Rating – 7
“More I Cannot Wish You” A 1950 song written by Frank Loesser for the Guys And Dolls. “Some of the songs we’ve done on the album are songs that I didn’t know. Like, “More I Cannot Wish You”, is actually from the stage show Guys And Dolls; it didn’t make the film. But I thought it was such a poignant little song. And what totally did my head in is, it’s a guy, the grandfather, singing to a young girl. With me having a young daughter it’s very poignant.”
- This is perfect for Paul, sounding very much of a slow paced McCartney written song. Sounds like it was made to tell the story in the play. Wonder why they cut it from the film? Marlon Brando sang it. Rating- 8.5
“The Glory Of Love” A song written by Billy Hill, recorded by Benny Goodman in 1936, whose version was a number one pop hit. In 1951, R&B vocal group, The Five Keys, had their biggest R&B hit with their version of the song, hitting number one for four weeks.
Mike Mainieri : Vibraphone
John Clayton : Bass
Jeff Hamilton : Drums
Anthony Wilson : Guitar
The second band. With Diana and Paul and the same production team. I will note them with a * next the song title.
- They have slowed up the versions of this song I have heard many times. Rating – 7
“We Three (My Echo, My Shadow And Me)” A 1939 song written by Nelson Cogane, Sammy Mysels and Dick Robertson. It was a hit song in 1940 for both The Ink Spots and Frank Sinatra with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, both versions reaching No. 3 in Billboard.
Not bad. I find that I may have to take a break. Like too much sugar too quick. I’m treating it as an intermission in the show. Rating – 7.5
“Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” A 1944 song written by Harold Arlen and the lyrics by Johnny Mercer. The song was nominated for the “Academy Award for Best Original Song” at the 18th Academy Awards in 1945 after being used in the film Here Come the Waves.
- Paul’s voice is the star here, as this slightly uptempo song swings. There are slight backing vocals by Paul that rounds things nicely. Rating – 8.5
“My Valentine” “I was in Morocco with Nancy, who’s now my wife, and we were having a nice holiday but it was raining rather a lot. I said, “A pity it’s raining” and she said “It doesn’t matter, we can still have a good time.” And I’m like that, too, I don’t mind at all.
So there was an old piano, slightly out of tune, in the foyer of the hotel. And there was this lovely Irish guy who knew so much old stuff, like Beautiful Dreamer, If You Were The Only Girl In The World … Again, stuff from my Dad’s era. I used to enjoy listening to him and he put me in mind of that genre.
So one afternoon, when it was raining, I was in that foyer, and without anyone noticing except a couple of waiters who were clearing up, I sat at the piano and started knocking around with this little tune: “What if it rained? We didn’t care. She said that someday soon the sun was gonna shine … ” So we did that one and eventually I had the pleasure of working with Eric (Clapton), who put a lovely acoustic guitar part on.
And by the way, I forgot the important ingredient, the day I wrote it was Valentine’s Day, a fairly important fact! It was our first dance, very romantic.”
- Paul’s single from the album, featuring at least a half dozen music videos. A very tender love song, with the L.S.O. providing sweet backing, and Mr. Eric Clapton on acoustic guitar. Nice, vintage Paul, even if it led a rush to the restrooms and food in concert. Rating – 7.5
“Always” A song written by Irving Berlin in 1925 as a wedding gift for this wife. Over the years, it was recorded by many artists of various styles, including Franck Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Harry Nilsson, Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Leonard Cohen, Phil Collins…
- Another with the L.S.O. and Paul sings it in a breathy slightly higher range. The song itself is wonderful for a nearly 100 year old composition. Rating – 8
“My Very Good Friend The Milkman*”
A 1934 song written by Johnny Burke and Harold Spina, which was a hit for Fats Waller. Eric Clapton covered it in 2010.
- Another song with Paul singing in a slight breathy fashion. He whistles, he bobs, he bounces….he’s Paul. Ira Nepus adds much on trombone. Rating – 7
“Bye Bye Blackbird” A 1926 song written by the American composer Ray Henderson and lyricist Mort Dixon. It was first recorded by Gene Austin in 1926. Ringo Starr recorded it in 1970 for his album “Sentimental Journey.” “I never learned how to play all those old songs. All I ever did was sing them, at the family sing-songs. They’re quite complicated, the chords and things. I’d have a bash, and I did eventually become the sort of family piano player, at New Year, as my Dad got a bit older and I got a bit more capable.
But I was always busking it; he knew the real chords, and I had to busk my way around. But it was good enough for the family sing-song. A lot of these songs, like Bye Bye Blackbird, were ones that I’d sung along with.”
- The L.S.O. adds a wonderful touch of drama as Paul speak sings the pre-verse. Great song I’ve heard from many, including Trini Lopez, and Ray Bolger on “The Partridge Family.” This much slower version isn’t what I am used to. Trini, live at P.J.’s, with a rollicking crowd clapping along is.. Rating – 7
“Get Yourself Another Fool” a 1949 song written by Frank Haywood and Monroe Tucker. It was recorded by many artists including Sam Cooke.
- Eric Clapton on blues electric and The L.S.O. give this song the needed tension. McBride’s double bass drives the rhythm. Outstanding lead vocals within his normal range makes things sweeter for me. Rating – 8.5
“The Inch Worm” A song written by Frank Loesser and originally performed by Danny Kaye in the 1952 film Hans Christian Andersen. Mary Hopkins covered it on her 1969 album “Post Card“, produced by Paul McCartney.
Over the years, the song has been recorded by many singers, including David Bowie – who said the song was the inspiration behind his 1980 hit “Ashes To Ashes.” “Ashes To Ashes wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t have been for Inchworm. There’s a nursery rhyme element in it, and there’s something so sad and mournful and poignant about it. It kept bringing me back to the feelings of those pure thoughts of sadness that you have as a child, and how they’re so identifiable even when you’re an adult.”
- Awww…a children’s choir make this a song a delicate butterfly spinning in the wind. A wonderful counting counter melody. Rating – 8
“Only Our Hearts*” The song was recorded with a totally different set of musicians compared to the other songs of “Kisses On The Bottom“. The song features Stevie Wonder on harmonica. This was their first collaboration since the recording of “Tug Of War” in 1981.
“Stevie came along to the studio in LA and he listened to the track for about ten minutes and he totally got it. He just went to the mic and within 20 minutes had nailed this dynamite solo. When you listen you just think, ‘How do you come up with that?’ But it’s just because he is a genius, that’s why”.
- Paul really belts out this one, as this song about past love had to stir memories of Linda, even with his happiness with Nancy. Stevie Wonder offers a nice harmonica instrumental on the break, but maybe this isn’t the song for it? Rating – 7
“Baby’s Request” “Before we started the album I played Tommy [LiPuma] a couple of songs that were written in the style of the album that we were about to make. And he said, ‘Oh, we should try that.’ That was originally written, very much in this style, for The Mills Brothers.”
- Nearly note for note remake of the 1979 Wings song. Perfect song for the album, but would have liked to see something new other than the horn solo instead of guitar. Wait!!! Paul and Diana throw in a coda and skip on to the play out. Rating – 8
“My One and Only Love” A popular song with music written by Guy Wood and lyrics by Robert Mellin. Published in 1953, the song originated in 1947 as “Music from Beyond the Moon” with music by Guy B. Wood and lyrics by Jack Lawrence. Vocalist Vic Damone recorded this version in 1948. In 1952, Robert Mellin wrote a new title and lyrics for the song, and it was republished the next year as “My One and Only Love”. When Frank Sinatra recorded it in 1953 with Nelson Riddle, it became known.
- Beautiful song, well done by all. Not sure if the background sound made (Brushes maybe?) in the arrangement is supposed to be rain, or if I am listening to a slightly used copy? Either way I like it…. You can’t have a song as well written as this with Paul McCartney singing it and give it less than.. Rating – 8
“The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)” It was written in 1945 by Robert Wells and Mel Tormé. The original 1946 recording (Nat “King” Cole Trio) was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1974. It has been recorded many times over the years (by Mel Tormé, Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra…).
To be noted that Paul McCartney, being a long-time vegetarian, changed the original lyrics from “some turkey and some mistletoe” into “some holly and some mistletoe“.
- Like Santa, Paul delivers the goods. He does this slow classic justice, and the album ends with a thumbs up and a smile. Rating – 8
Overall this album grades out at 7.73/10.
While it is not one I will go back and re-listen to often, if at all, KISSES ON THE BOTTOM is a very nice album, done with care and some outstanding musicians.
It will probably be listened too at the end of the end and bring huge tears, which gently fall into my open smile.
Next, Paul works on somethings new. The rest of 2012.