New Release (Hear Music)
For the first time in his career Paul McCartney’s been scooped by Ringo, who did his own standards album (Sentimental Journey) in 1970. But if you’re a casual McCartney fan — or the kind that’s had enough of silly love songs — this isn’t quite the schmaltz you were dreading. In terms of material, it’s not your standard standards album: Only half the tracks are familiar pop; the others are hipper choices like “My Very Good Friend the Milkman” (recently done by Eric Clapton) and Johnny Mercer’s “Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive.” Arrangements are mostly stripped down to piano, acoustic guitar, standup bass and brushed drums — a savvier marketer would call this a jazz album. Paul’s vocals are suitably intimate (and apparently all live), with uncharacteristic use of both high register and understatement. One of the new originals, “My Valentine” is up there with any of his latter-day ballads, with a surprising melancholy undertone (“Only Our Hearts,” with a Stevie Wonder harmonica solo, isn’t bad either). Would’ve been nice if he’d thrown in just one change-of-pace rocker, though.