This isn’t a review of the new album which was released on Tuesday. In fact, I don’t have it yet. This is the first time, aside from his non-pop/rock releases, since 1982 that I didn’t get a new McCartney album on release day.
There has been a great deal of agonizing among McCartney fans on the web about the new album titled Kisses On The Bottom. Most notably was the concern that Paul was “doing a Rod Stewart”, in other words doing a standards album to cash in on that fad. This was a ridiculous assertion if only because the standards thing isn’t a fad anymore. No one was concerned that Paul might be making his own “Little Touch Of McCartney In The Night”, using Harry Nilsson as his template.
The next most pervasive concern about the project was the wisdom of doing it at all. I tend to fall into this group who would have preferred that Paul did a new pop/rock album, at an entire album of original compositions in the style of the old standards. In the end, Paul recorded two of his own newly-written songs for the album. Having not heard the album in its entirety, I still think an album of new McCartney songs would have been preferable.
Next up in the list of complaints was the title, Kisses On The Bottom. Initially, the title was reported to be “My Valentine” (after the McCartney-penned song of the same title). The eventual title sparked disbelief. When it was first announced, it literally seemed unbelievable. The title clearly invoked images of kissing someone’s butt, rather than the kisses at the bottom of a letter. It seems that people have generally warmed to the title, but I still think it was a bad call.
Lastly, there was a lot of comment about the quality of Paul’s vocals. He’s nearly 70 and his voice is showing it. Paul’s vocals are probably better than most 70 year old singers. Nonetheless, coming from the guy who had such a versatile vocal sound, from the ultra-smooth “My Love” to the roar of “Monkberry Moon Delight” to the slippery softness of “Listen To What The Man Said”, any change that diminishes that voice is a shock to the system.
In actuality, the change in Paul’s voice has been at least a two decade process, and was mostly unnoticeable. Until his last couple of releases, Paul’s diminished vocal abities haven’t been relevant. This was partially due to the 2003 recording of 2007′s Memory Almost Full. McCartney’s vocals in 2003 were significantly better than they were in 2007. The mostly instrumental Electric Arguments featured mostly processed vocals with a lot of reverb. Only “Two Magpies” gave any indication of his actual voice. Elsewhere he sounded pretty much the same as had over the past decade or so. His one-off single “I Want To Come Home” would have been better had the vocals been recorded in 1984, but they were too different. Now, with Kisses On The Bottom there is no avoiding the fact that Paul’s vocals have deepened, lost their range, and are a little gravelly. My understanding based on those who have heard the entire album is that the vocals work.
I don’t think I’ve ever been as apprehensive about a new McCartney album. At least David Kahne isn’t anywhere near the album.