In all of Rock and Roll there are many icons but there are few gods still left to us. Some go out kicking and screaming, blazing new and bolder territory, some fall back on the familiar Tin Pan Alley. Paul McCartney is one such deity.
He has a new album coming out Feb 7 called "Kisses On The Bottom" and it is filled with standards. From the opening number "I Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter" from which the title is taken through such classics as "Paper Moon" and even "Inch Worm," a wonderfully beautiful melody with a silly little lyric, he leads on a musical journey that is lately becoming more and more familiar.
The arrangements are sparse as is his voice. Listening to these 'older' songs he begins to sound his age. His voice is raspy and huskier. That soft tone is perfect for these melodies.
This is not a new idea. McCartney had a hit early in his Beatles' career with "Till There Was You". Rod Stewart, after learning he couldn't cavort as vigorously on stage, made a new career singing album after album after album of these songs from times gone by. What is it about aging rockers? Why do they eventually fall back to the classic standards? What does this say about our music today?
I propose that nobody is writing songs anymore. They write dance numbers and performance pieces. Will we be singing Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" 30 years from now? Will anyone but McCartney sing "Band On the Run"?
Give me a song with a well crafted melody and lyrics to make me think or smile or fall in love. Some things, such as many of the songs he sings on this new album, will live forever. This is a nice album, it has a pleasant nostalgic feeling to it. (To hear it done right check out Harry Nillson's "A Little Touch of Schmillson In The Night" from 1973.)
We tend to forget that even rock gods age just as we all do. Our heroes are supposed to be timeless and immortal. Paul McCartney, and others who attempt to take us down that same familiar path, remind us that we can only visit the past, and however enjoyable that visit may be, we cannot not return to it for long.
Hear "Kisses On The Bottom" streaming for free on NPR the week of Jan 30 at http://www.npr.org/2012/01/29/145758948/first-listen-paul-mccartney-kisses-on-the-bottom.