The enigma that is Paul McCartney. He is the writer of some of the best pop songs in history, melodist extraordinaire and the go to guy if you need a headliner for a charity festival. He has also not been able to recreate the magic of his earlier compositions in his recent work. It’s not that surprising really; he no longer has to compete with John Lennon and trying to better himself is, to be fair, one big ask. He’s also not twenty-five anymore, although age shouldn’t really be an excuse as Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Leonard Cohen have adapted to maturity and managed to produce some great music in the last couple of years.

Last time McCartney released a pop record we had to put up with him pratting about with a Mandolin on that God-awful song ‘Dance Tonight’. It is with this still planted in my mind that I approach any new McCartney material with caution. Kisses on the Bottom (Who’s bottom, you ask?) is Macca’s latest project and is surprisingly an album of twelve covers of jazz standards and two self-penned songs in the same style. McCartney has said that it is the album he would have liked to make with The Beatles but they never found enough time. It is made up of childhood favourites; the songs he and Lennon would listen to in their youth.

So can McCartney pull off reinterpreting those early songs? With a great backing band made up of Diana Krall and Eric Clapton among others and producer Tommy LiPuma, a jazz whiz, it would be ridiculous if he wasn’t able to have success in this genre. The album is Jazz in its most laid back and easy going form. It is the kind of music that gets put on in the background at a dinner party, wine glasses chinking and pleasantries made. The production is incredibly slick which gives a smoothness to proceedings. The instruments are played with the utmost precision; drums are patted or brushed rather than hit and the guitars sound like they are being stroked. Then there is McCartney’s voice. He whispers and croons, sounding like his vocal cords have been doused in honey. He still sounds like Paul McCartney but he is knowingly ‘singing it down’ for the sake of the songs and atmosphere. Each slight vocal nuance is magnified, we can hear the breaths, the plosives and the saliva wrapping around the words. His scouse inflections occasionally pop up which reminds us who it is that is singing. I absolutely hate it when he whistles. A pernickety qualm, I know, but it just has a real smugness and appears to say "look how carefree we are."

‘My Valentine’ and ‘Only Our Hearts’ are the only two original songs on the album, and they are a success. The aforementioned track is steeped in Jazz tradition, McCartney opting for a refrain, of the song’s title. The melody line slowly descends with the chord progression, slipping in and out of major and minor keys. The chorus is highly definable as a McCartney moment, rising just as ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ does in its chorus. ‘Our Only Hearts’ sits alongside everything else comfortably. The melody moves around elegantly and the lyrics are purposefully banal, "Holding on to the love that we shared, only our hearts know how much love is there." The harmonica solo is a cheap little gimmick that does its utmost to ruin the song but doesn’t quite manage it.

The other songs that frequent the album seem to split into two types. There is the slower ballad, usually with lush strings and/or classical guitar (‘Always’, ‘Home (Where Shadows Fall)’) and then there is the slightly more up tempo songs, chirpier and cheekier (‘My Very Good Friend The Milkman’, ‘I’m Gonna Write Myself A Letter’). There are also some very strange choices. ‘More I Cannot Wish You’ is a boring song from the musical Guys and Dolls and a baffling choice. ‘Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive’ sees McCartney become the hip new vicar of the parish. It sounds like Rev. Mac is singing a ‘cool’ song to a congregation of oldies that are swaying in their pews. ‘Glory of Love’ and ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’ are both much slower than the original versions, the former was originally a knees-up drinker that probably sound tracked many a 1930’s Friday night. McCartney gives an intimate and honest rendition on the latter, a definite highlight and touching moment.

Kisses on the Bottom shares most kinship with Rod Stewart’s Great American Songbook series. I know this collection rather too well, as I have bought numerous volumes for my Mother at Birthdays and Christmas. The fact that McCartney has made an album so similar to this does however, raise an eyebrow. It is quite obvious that he has decided to make this record purely for himself. They are the songs that he has an emotional connection with and I doubt he cares whether it sells millions. As it happens, it’ll sell in its truckloads to the over forties with Valentine’s Day approaching. So with all this said, I now have to give the album a mark out of ten, which has left me in a real quandary. It is a definite return to form for McCartney, but he isn’t exactly operating in the same spaces as usual. Nor is this album, Revolver. Kisses… does what it sets out to, which warrants a high rating, but there is also the feeling that McCartney is coasting. Lest we forget, he was a Beatle.