Okay, who else cringed a bit when Paul McCartney announced not long ago that he was putting out an album mostly made up of standards -- classic mid-20th century love songs dedicated to his new wife, Nancy Shevell? Perfectly natural reaction. After all, the last thing we need is another aged Baby Boomer rocker doing a standards album. Thanks, Rod Stewart, for ruining it for everybody.
And Macca’s not even the first Beatle to do that, with Ringo’s earthily charming Sentimental Journey coming way ahead of the curve, back in 1970, a collection of tunes he recorded for his “mum.” Not to mention that McCartney wrote a whole bunch of romantic songs (some sublime, some famously silly) that long ago achieved standards status.
Well, McCartney’s album Kisses on the Bottom is here, the complete set debuting on NPR’s “First Listen” stream. (The official album release date is Feb. 7.) Having been preceded by release of the adequate, well-meaning original “My Valentine” (with lilting acoustic guitar by Eric Clapton), the whole turns out to be a bit of a delightful surprise.
Revelations? Well, no, but would you expect any? But Sir Paul nicely coos rather than croons, lending earnest intimacy to the songs, with Diana Krall and her small combo providing the warm, jazzy moods ranging from somber (“Always”) to giddy (“Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive”) to playful (“My Very Good Friend the Milkman” to glowing (the opening, tone-setting “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter”).“Bye Bye Blackbird,” by the way, is the only song that Ringo also did on his album 42 years ago. A second original, “Only Our Hearts,” closes on an intimate note with Stevie Wonder helping out on harmonica. Of course, all the notes on the album are pretty intimate.
But heck, listen for yourself: