It’s a legend’s prerogative to do whatever he or she likes, and Paul McCartney has exercised that prerogative plenty over the last couple of decades, turning out an oratorio, classical albums, some experimental electronic music, and other un-pop efforts. Kisses On The Bottom, its name taken from a line in the song “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter,” is McCartney’s probably inevitable standards album, a concept that allows him to play the contented crooner with Diana Krall and her backing band, as well as special guests Eric Clapton and Stevie Wonder. It’s as pleasant and unnecessary as that description makes it sound.
McCartney’s in fine voice working through chestnuts like “It’s Only A Paper Moon” and “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive,” as well as a pair of new songs that fit right in to the mix. “My Valentine,” performed at McCartney’s recent wedding, is a modest and moving tribute to a love built to last through good times and bad, and “Only Our Hearts,” which features a Wonder harmonica solo, ends the album on a lovely, lonely note. If only most of the album didn’t sound so sleepy, wrapping McCartney in strings as he works through songs that he clearly likes but just as clearly don’t engage him all that much.
By comparison, give another listen to Run Devil Run from 1999, one of the best albums of his solo career. Another mostly covers collection, this time drawing from the early days of rock ’n’ roll, it features McCartney, then recently widowed, at his most vital, reconnecting with the music of his youth and singing with a scary sense of urgency. There his covers sounded like a matter of life and death. Here they sound like preludes to a nice cup of tea and an afternoon nap.