Exclusive: Paul McCartney‘s upcoming album of standards, “Kisses on the Bottom,” is getting a big push for its February 7th release. “Kisses,” which I got to hear recently, will get a TV special taped in Hollywood during Grammy week. And McCartney, I can tell you exclusively, is set to sing his brilliant new song, “My Valentine,” on the Grammy Awards February 12th–two days before Valentine’s Day. Even better: I can also tell you that “Kisses”–a reference to the x’s at the bottom of love letters and not anything untoward–is an exquisite recording made by award winning, legendary producer Tommy LiPuma.
LiPuma–who McCartney has tapped as music director of his MusiCares tribute on February 10th–has used only the finest musicians in this effort–Diana Krall and her two bands (studio and touring), father and son guitarists Bucky and John Pizzarelli, and Andy Stein, virtuoso violinist from Commander Cody. Stevie Wonder plays a trademark harmonica solo on a McCartney original, “Only Our Hearts,” and Eric Clapton adds his bluesy guitar to a couple of tracks including a sensational cover of “Get Yourself Another Fool.”
Also exclusive: taking a page maybe from Sting, who sang it memorably in “Leaving Las Vegas,” McCartney will include a bonus track recording for download of the Frank Sinatra hit, “My One and Only Love.” It’s not on the album simply because Paul and LiPuma couldn’t physically fit another song on the CD. My guess is fans will buy the CD and then download the extra song.
What a treat this album is, simply because the recording is outstanding. McCartney sang a lot of it live with Krall; the spontaneity is evident throughout. Many of the musicians’ great moments were ad libbed, too. Krall, who doesn’t sing on the album. helps LiPuma give the project the feeling of a George Shearing recital at the Cafe Carlyle. Listened to on real speakers (forget those damned earbud things), “Kisses” has a warm, intimate glow. And listen, it is far from boring. McCartney is so energized, he sounds as if he’s had a “voice lift.” But there’s absolutely no trickery–it’s all him.
Everyone’s going to have favorites when “Kisses” is revealed (which should be soon). You should know that even though McCartney the businessman owns a lot of music catalogs, the songs he and LiPuma chose were from the heart, not the wallet. He only has the copyright on Frank Loesser’s “More I Cannot Wish You,” a little gem from “Guys and Dolls” — and “Inchworm,” from “Hans Christian Anderson.” But reviving Loesser’s overlooked classics for a mainstream audience is like missionary work. You only get rewarded for it. It’s not like he’s singing “Luck Be a Lady Tonight.”
I loved his inspired vocal on “We Three,” also an old Sinatra hit, which LiPuma could release as a focus track. (We used to call them singles.) As with all the songs, McCartney invests a lot of humor and personality in his reading. I think it’s going to surprise everyone how well he took to this genre.
At the same time, the McCartney originals–“My Valentine” and “Only Our Hearts”–are two of his best songs in years and years. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a lot of singers like Tony Bennett cover them quickly. And all this from a man who turns 70 this June.
LiPuma–by the way–has produced everything from Barbra Streisand‘s famous “The Way We Were” album to Natalie Cole‘s “Unforgettable” and dozens of artists from Michael Buble to George Benson to Gladys Knight and Dave Mason.
1. I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter (Alhert/Young) 2:36
2. Home (When Shadows Fall) (Van Steeden/Clarkson/Clarkson) 4:04
3. Paper Moon (Arlen/Harburg/Rose) 2:35
4. More I Cannot Wish You (Loesser) 3:03
5. The Glory of Love (Hill) 3:45
6. We Three (My Echo, My Shadow and Me) (Dorsey/Robertson/Mysels) 3:22
7. Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive (Arlen/Mercer) 2:31
8. My Valentine (McCartney) 3:14
9. Always (Irving Berlin) 3:49
10. My Very Good Friend the Milkman (Burke/Spina) 3:04
11. Bye Bye Blackbird (Henderson/Dixon) 4:26
12. Get Yourself Another Fool (Forrest/Heywood) 4:42
13. The Inch Worm (Loesser) 3:42
14. Only Our Hearts (McCartney) 4:21