Guys I just found out that legendary blues singer Etta James has passed!
This must be really sad news for McCartneys rhythm guitarist Brian Ray, he was a member of her band for years!
I thought you guys might find this interesting.
Kisses On the Bottom -
Martin In The Morning
I had attended meetings at Concord Music Group in Beverly Hills before. The first time was in 2003 or 2004, shortly after we launched Fabulous 570/690 KLAC, the Los Angeles radio station that first caused me to open the Great American Songbook. In my first meeting at Concord were several company executives, my friend, legendary record promotion exec Don Graham and myself. Toward the end of the meeting held in a spacious, elegant conference room, three floors over the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Crescent, Norman Lear, the Hollywood legend that created television trendsetters like "All In The Family," walked into the room. He and my friend Don were old friends; in fact Don's bride Robin Wilson was an actor in Mr. Lear's TV series "Hot L Baltimore." I bring this up because my meeting on Thursday, January 5th at Concord Records was quite different.
I was invited to preview Paul McCartney's new CD "Kisses on the Bottom," his 15th solo CD. After the valet took my car in the underground parking lot, I was asked for ID. My name was checked off a list and I was sent to the lobby, two floors up. There, I was asked for ID again. After signing the guest register, the security guard then said he would escort me back to the elevator, where he used a security key, the only way to access the floor below, between the lobby and the parking garage. The elevator door opened and Darnell Gamble, a promotion executive for Concord Records greeted me. He escorted me through what looked more like a basement bunker, an air raid shelter, than the glamorous Beverly Hills entertainment enterprise I had observed in prior meetings. There were exposed concrete and steel beam ceilings, a web of wires running here and there, employees huddled in cubicles, stacks of CDs everywhere.
Darnell led me into a small conference room with a sectional sofa against the wall, tables with a couple boxes filled with tasty Mulberry Hill pizza, and sitting on the sofa was my old friend Don Graham. Darnell handed me a copy of the liner notes and album art for the new Paul McCartney album and said, "I'll need this back from you before you go." (Odd, I thought). Then Rick Nuhn, Senior Director Urban Music for Concord's Stax record label walked into the room. I knew Rick from my time at Fabulous 570/690. A longtime radio personality, Rick worked down the hall at Clear Channel Radio's Hot 92 Jamz.
After a little small talk, Lou Simon, a colleague at Fabulous 570/690, now program director of SiriusXM's "Siriusly Sinatra" arrived. Darnell asked Lou, Don and I if we had any recording devices. We all answered in the affirmative, that our smartphones were all capable of recording. It quickly became apparent why we were in this bunker 50 feet below Beverly Hills ... there was no cell phone service. It would be very difficult, if I were of a mind, to phone the station and play the CD on the air.
There was a time where I would have done such a thing to have a competitive edge on other stations, to be the first to play an important song or album. Years ago while programming Monterey, California (then) top 40 station KIDD-AM, a colleague and I were invited to the offices of a radio trade magazine to hear a new song from the iconic rock group Journey. Buzz Bennett, publisher of the now defunct Fred Magazine explained that this song was from "some goofy movie called 'Caddy Shack." He added "... but the song is a winner." It was Journey's "Anywhere You Want It." (Both the song and movie stand up well today). Buzz started to play the song, on an "Acetate," an early master copy of a recording. They were often used for reviewers to listen to a new release before it was actually pressed to the vinyl form that would be available in stores.
As he played Anywhere You Want It for us, Buzz dozed off in his plush office chair. We grabbed the acetate from the turntable, drove the 5 miles back to the radio station, recorded it, played it on the air at 12 noon on that Friday (then took it back to Buzz's office as he slept), and proceeded to play it every hour on the hour all weekend long. The cease and desist letter from Columbia Records was delivered the following Monday. Needless to say, our competitors in the market as well as stations in San Francisco and elsewhere were furious that this little nothing top 40 radio station in Monterey broke one of the biggest songs of the year two weeks before the record was supposed to be released.
The folks at Concord Music Group were determined to prevent that from happening. But I digress.
We began listening to cut 1, I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter. The song, written by Fred E. Ahlert and lyrics by Joe Young was first a hit for Fats Waller in 1935, and has been recorded by everyone from Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin to Barry Manilow and Willie Nelson. The lyrics in the first verse explain the title of the album:
I'm gonna sit right down and write myself a letter,
And make believe it came from you.
I'm gonna write words oh, so sweet
They're gonna knock me off of my feet,
A lot of kisses on the bottom,
I'll be glad I got 'em.
Fun song. I heard a little age in Paul McCartney's voice, but it sounded sweet, innocent, and fun.
Cut 2, Home [When Shadows Fall] is a standard I wasn't familiar with, but that isn't saying much. I'm a fan of this music, a student, not an expert. Sure, in nearly 10 years around the genre, I've learned a lot, but Paul McCartney's new CD has proven to be an update in my knowledge of the genre. The song, written by Harry Clarkson, Jeff Clarkson and Peter Van Steeden, has been recorded by the likes of Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole, later included on Sam Cooke's 1964 album "Ain't That Good News." The song was also performed live by the Beatles from 1957 to 1960. Talk about bringing it full circle, from the Beatles (and Quarrymen) of the 50's to Paul McCartney at nearly 70.
Cut 3, the oh so familiar It's Only a Paper Moon continued the fun.
But it was cut 4 that made us all want to stop and catch our collective breath. I've been listening to every version I can find of More I Cannot Wish You, written by Frank Loesser and included in Guys and Dolls. On the air the day after the preview, I played Glenn Yarbrough's 1965 recording of the song because it was the only one I could find that didn't have the traditional Broadway delivery. Paul McCartney's performance of this song is NOT Broadway.
It DID bring me to tears. It reminded me of a story told by a piano bar legend here in L.A. I met friend, author, Tom Ruck for drinks at the famous Bel Air Hotel. Antonio Castillo Delegala took a break from his piano, where he had entertained the rich and famous (or wannabes like Tom and me) for over a decade. MartiniInTheMorning.com had just started playing songs from Tony Bennett's 2006 album Tony Bennett Duets: An American Classic. Antonio heard us playing Mr. Bennett's duet with Paul McCartney, The Very Thought of You. He said that song has special significance for Paul McCartney, as he often came in Antonio's Bel Air Hotel piano bar when he was courting (now) former wife Heather Mills. Paul would come in and ask Antonio if he would please play "Our Song," The Very Thought of You. Antonio recalled that Paul and Heather would sometimes sit and listen, sometimes dance by the cozy little fire lit bar, and sometimes, Paul would ask Antonio if he could sit at the piano, and play and sing that same song. It was as recent as two weeks before the divorce was announced, Antonio said, that Paul and Heather were in the Bel Air Hotel bar asking for their song. Needless to say, The Very Thought of You is NOT on Paul's first standards album. But, hearing his recording of More I Cannot Wish You brought to mind images of a Paul McCartney in love, sitting at the piano, singing to the woman he loves, like a whisper, almost prayerful, powerful in its intimacy. Wow. Wow. Wow.
4. More I Cannot Wish You
OK, I know this is part two and we already covered cut 4, More I Cannot Wish You ... but let me just say again, WOW! You will find yourself coming back to this cut over and over.
5. The Glory Of Love
So many great versions of this 1932 Billy Hill song. We have it in our library by Dean Martin, Peggy Lee, Vic Damone, Diane Schuur with B.B. King and of course the well known Bette Midler version from the movie "Beaches." Paul McCartney convinces us that
You've got to give a little, take a little
And let your poor heart break a little
That's the story of, that's the glory of love ...
6. We Three [My Echo, My Shadow And Me]
A story of longing, waiting till eternity for the one I love ... written by Nelson Cogane, Sammy Mysels & Dick Robertson and a huge 1940 hit for The Ink Spots
What good is the moonlight, the silvery moonlight
That shines above.
I walk with my shadow, I talk with my echo,
But where is the one I love?
We three, we'll wait for you, even till eternity -
My echo, my shadow and me.
7. Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive
The 1944 Johnny Mercer/Harold Arlen song was inspired by a sermon Johnny Mercer heard from the pulpit of "Father Divine." Mercer told the Pop Chronicles radio documentary "I went to hear Father Divine and he had a sermon and his subject was 'you got to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.' And I said 'Wow, that's a colorful phrase!"
Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive has been recorded by the likes of Bing Crosby and Aretha Franklin ... and now, Paul McCartney.
8. My Valentine
This will be the first "single" released to mainstream pop radio. Paul's vocals slightly reminiscent of his vocals on The Beatles classic "The Long and Winding Road."
OMG. You won't hear this on the mainstream pop stations that get to do the contests and give listeners a chance to attend a private concert with Paul McCartney at Capitol Records...BUT this is one of the best cuts on the CD and YOU WILL HEAR IT ON MITM! The classic Irving Berlin song was written in 1926 and has been recorded in every decade since. Rest assured that unless the Mayans are right, people will be recording this song in 2026 and 2126. Paul McCartney's version could become the one to which music lovers will compare future recordings of this melody and these lyrics that speak a simple, timeless truth. I'll be loving you, always. Always.
One thing special about Paul McCartney's recording of Always is his inclusion of the intro verse
Everything went wrong,
And the whole day long
I'd feel so blue.
For the longest while
I'd forget to smile,
Then I met you.
Now that my blue days have passed,
Now that I've found you at last
I'll be loving you Always
With a love that's true Always.
When the things you've planned
Need a helping hand,
I will understand Always.
10. My Very Good Friend The Milkman
Johnny Burke and Harold Spina wrote this novel song, which became a 1935 hit for Fats Waller, in which the singer's very good friend the milkman, and others, suggest that the singer and his love should be married. Eric Clapton recorded this song in 2010 and lends a slow hand on Paul McCartney's "Kisses on the Bottom" CD.
11. Bye Bye Blackbird
Paul McCartney is not the first (former) Beatle to record this 1926 classic written by Ray Henderson and Mort Dixon. Ringo Starr recorded the song for his 1970 "Sentimental Journey" album. Nor is McCartney the first ‘Rocker' to record Bye Bye Blackbird. Joe Cocker's 1969 version later played a prominent part in Nora Ephron's "Sleepless in Seattle." Rod Stewart included the song on his 2011 "Fly Me to the Moon: Great American Songbook Volume 5."
Having said that, NO ONE in recent vintage has recorded "Bye Bye Blackbird" like Paul McCartney. If it doesn't give you chills, check your pulse or consider calling 911.
12. Get Yourself Another Fool
Recorded by Sam Cooke in 1963, Elvis Costello in 1984 and now Paul McCartney with help from Eric Clapton.
13. The Inch Worm
Another Frank Loesser song, this one first recorded by Danny Kaye for the 1952 motion picture Hans Christian Andersen.
14. Only Our Hearts
The other new Paul McCartney composition on the album, Only Our Hearts features Stevie Wonder on harmonica. As I listened to the song, I had to remind myself that this was not a Standard, rather a brand new song that, to my ear, fit in with some of the best love songs of the Great American Songbook.
I LIED! The Deluxe version of the album contains two bonus cuts, another original composed by Paul McCartney, Baby's Request and another classic from the Great American Songbook, My One and Only Love.
Summary: Here's the thing - it's Paul McCartney. Like so many of my generation, I grew up listening to The Beatles, but I wasn't one of those screaming Beatles fans. In fact, a defining moment in my musical development was when I heard a Beatles' song and a Rolling Stones' song, with Frank Sinatra's "That's Life" in the middle. To me, Frank Sinatra was as much a part of the contemporary music of the day as The Beatles, The Stones and all the others. But, having an artist so significant to the music of my generation painting this beautiful portrait with the music of his youth is inspiring. I remember just after Rod Stewart's first Great American Songbook album was released, he was asked what he's singing in the car as he navigates L.A.'s notorious traffic. Rod said "You can bet it's not Hot Legs!" When he revealed the impending release of that first Standards album, Rod announced to a mutual friend ... "I've become Ella Fitzgerald." Paul McCartney, still Paul McCartney, puts an elegant, intimate touch on these timeless tunes, not unlike the affection with which he once sang about Michelle. He has able assistance from experts in the genre, Diana Krall, members of her band, her producer Tommy LiPuma, John Pizzarelli, his famous father, jazz legend Bucky Pizzarelli.
This is a beautiful, emotional album, showing respect not only for the music, but for those who will listen to these songs. Some are Beatles fans who will be introduced to, or perhaps more accurately, immersed in this most American of music, these songs often regarded as America's greatest contribution to the arts. Others who will listen to these songs are those who have long been acquainted with the genre and most, if not all, of these songs. These are the folks who back in the 60's chose Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Tony Bennett over John, Paul, George and Ringo. I speak to both on a daily basis because our audience is an interesting and not always harmonious coalition of the two camps. I hope fans of Michelle and Rocky Raccoon will love this poetic, almost prayerful Paul McCartney. I hope fans of Frank, Sammy, Dino, Ella and writers like Irving Berlin and Johnny Mercer who inspired Paul McCartney to write the soundtrack for a generation, will welcome Paul into that special group of performers they feel measure up to The Greatest Songs Ever Written.
All I can say is WOW!!