What do you do with an album that’s perfectly pleasant but ultimately unnecessary?
That’s the puzzle of Paul McCartney’s lightweight new record, a jazzy salute to the songs he grew up hearing his father play on the family piano. He’s not calling it such, but “Kisses on the Bottom’’ is essentially McCartney’s foray into the Great American Songbook.
He’s joining a crowded house: Rod Stewart, Bette Midler, Carly Simon, Willie Nelson, and Cyndi Lauper have all turned to standards at some point. It’s safe ground, particularly for artists trying to age gracefully by paying homage to the music that first inspired them.
It’s hard to quibble with an album so consistent and well-meaning. The arrangements are tasteful, sprinkled with stardust. Singing close to the mike, McCartney unfurls an elegant croon that occasionally recalls latter-day Nick Lowe. And he keeps impeccable company, with Diana Krall on piano and her band backing him; Eric Clapton and Stevie Wonder even make cameos.
As lovely as it is at times - McCartney’s glowing rendition of “Bye Bye Blackbird’’ puts a lump in the throat - the album is inconsequential. There’s little here that begs to be heard more than once. On the bright side, two McCartney originals (“My Valentine,’’ “Only Our Hearts’’) fit nicely among the classics.
Chances are “Kisses on the Bottom’’ is McCartney’s fond and fleeting trip down memory lane before he shoots off in another direction. At the very least it’s the ideal soundtrack for that dinner party when you lean in and kindly ask: “Could you please pass the Chardonnay, love?’’ (Out tomorrow)
ESSENTIAL “Bye Bye Blackbird’’