Paul McCartney shows his romantic side

Published 5:31 am Thursday, February 16, 2012

“Kisses on the Bottom” by Paul McCartney — 3 of 5 stars

Paul McCartney is back, but he’s a long way from “Get Back” or “Back in the U.S.S.R.”

McCartney, one of the last remaining of the fab four along with Ringo Starr, doesn’t do much to remind of his classics with The Beatles and later with Wings and on his latest solo album, “Kisses on the Bottom.”

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The last year has seen McCartney branch off from the path of rock ‘n’ roll to the foothills of other genres.

“Kisses on the Bottom” sees McCartney crooning mellow jazz-tinged ballads and romantic tunes.

My first instinct was displeasure, followed by respect for his tenacity and effort before I settled somewhere in the middle.

On one side, it’s easy to see the album as McCartney casually checking off points on a musical bucket list sprawling across as many genres as he can reach.

After all, last year he composed the score for the ballet “Ocean’s Kingdom.”

On the other hand, McCartney has always had a romantic soft side — even with The Beatles: “The Long and Winding Road,” “And I Love Her,” “Michelle,” etc.

It’s more than McCartney trying his hand at any genre he can. It’s pleasant easy listening probably best appreciated with a glass of wine, dim lighting and your better half close at hand.

McCartney’s voice is pleasant and precise, but it’s not overpowering. But it doesn’t need to be. The songs require McCartney to live within a certain vocal bounds.

All but two of the 14 tracks are covers, but it’s difficult to discern the difference between the scattered originals.

One of the standouts is “My Valentine,” a bare-bones track that features Eric Clapton picking away on guitar. McCartney delivers romantic lyrics in a constrained tone that’s equal parts melancholy and infatuation.

“Kisses On the Bottom” is a bittersweet romance album that goes right for the heart, but never quite scales the peak.

The sound remains locked in neutral somewhere between gears.