Paul McCartney – Live Kisses (2012)

This isn’t a ring-a-ding thing, a Rat Pack thing, a Sands hotel thing. And that’s a very good thing. What you’re struck by, as Paul McCartney cuts a quietly emotional figure on this live companion to his standards set Kisses on the Bottom is how un-dashing he is, how un-Sinatra.

There’s no tie. No hat. No braggadocio.

In other words, it’s perfect.

Live Kisses, an Eagle Rock DVD/Blu-ray which follows McCartney’s February 2012 live broadcast from the Capitol Studios in LA, moves with an effortless brio from the nervy conversation between John Clayton’s bass and McCartney’s voice, hushed and confidential, at the beginning of “The Glory of Love” (where so often the song comes bursting in, with another arrangement) to the polished brush off of “Get Yourself Another Fool” (featuring a brilliantly attenuated turn by Joe Walsh of the Eagles) and then, on the original “My Valentine,” that twinge of fear that exists at the very bottom of any true love.

McCartney, as much as anything, captures the child-like wonder that he must have felt listening to the set’s age-old songs at his father’s feet — even amidst a crack group that also includes guitarist Anthony Wilson, vibraphonist Mike Mainieri, conductor Alan Broadbent, guitarist John Pizzarelli, drummer Karriem Riggins and pianist Diana Krall. And that brazenly open-hearted sensibility, that willingness to let go, has always been McCartney’s most lasting charm.

Then, finally, for the encore, there is this: “My One and Only Love” — as suggested by producer Tommy LiPuma — and maybe McCartney’s most obvious opportunity to fail, so closely associated is this song with the iconic early 1960s version by Johnny Hartman. McCartney, staying in his highest, most emotionally fragile register, goes on to touch the very heart of the song — not its obvious romance, but its surrender, its sweet surrender — in a way that no rock singer could reasonably be expected to do.

In that way, Live Kisses and its studio counterpart are successes that McCartney could only have happened at this point in his career, a point in which he doesn’t wink at the material (as he so often did in period-piece songs like the Beatles’ “Honey Pie” and Wings’ “You Gave Me the Answer”) so much as warmly embrace it.

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • Sam

    Love this record. It saddens me that the crap standards albums put out by Rod Stewart sold like crazy, while Paul’s subtle gorgeous album has struggled to find an audience. But I hope he’s not measuring the success of this album by sales but rather by quality. Because it’s wonderful.

    It’s also irritating how some of Paul’s own fans have totally rejected this album (they don’t like jazz, they don’t like his soft voice on this album, they want a “rock” album, moan, moan, moan).

    For Paul’s entire solo career, people have been shooting down his most adventurous work, only to come ’round to it, 30 or 40 years later. So maybe 40 years from now, more people will appreciate what a quiet little gem this album is.

    • S. Victor Aaron

      Glad to see you decided to hang with us again, Sam ;-)