It's a shame the most interesting Beatles at the time of their 1970 break-up - Lennon and Harrison - are no longer with us, because the post-Beatles legacy is carried into the second decade of the 21st century by these two albums. Not that many care, few today will be listening. If they did, these would confirm McCartney and Starr's irrelevance, the McCartney album especially. But his excuse is it's deliberate.

Kisses on the Bottom - the title from a line in a 1930s' Fats Waller song Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter which he covers here - is McCartney going back to the music of his parents' generation, in some instances songs he heard as a kid round the family piano at Christmas.

But - immaculately produced by Tommy LiPuma (Barbra Streisand, Natalie Cole), partially recorded in the famous Capitol Studios in Los Angeles where Sinatra and others worked, with Diana Krall and her group, guest Eric Clapton, and the London Symphony orchestrated and arranged by expat Kiwi Alan Broadbent and Johnny Mandel - this is far from a boozy knees-up around the ol' joanna in Liverpool.

Even the two Waller songs (the other the cheery My Very Good Friend the Milkman) are given poised readings, which is the tone here. The quiet ballads therefore - often soaked in romance and nostalgia - come out best: Home, More I Cannot Wish You (written by Frank Loesser whose publishing Macca owns) and Irving Berlin's Always are shamelessly wistful, late-night reveries, and McCartney's original My Valentine - written for his new wife - fits in seamlessly as a newly minted classic jazz ballad.

Advertisement

McCartney also includes the often forgotten intros these old songs had: Bye Bye Blackbird doesn't start with "Pack up all my care and woe".

So this is McCartney fulfilling another goal and, although utterly irrelevant in contemporary music and possibly even to most of his ageing audience, he acquits himself exceptionally well in places. You just wish it had all been low-light, up-close slo-mo ballads, and upbeat nostalgia like Ac-cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive had been relegated.

McCartney isn't the first ex-Beatle to have ambled through his past. Ringo's first solo album Sentimental Journey was a heavily orchestrated collection of standards like Night and Day, Stardust and Whispering Grass.

Now up to his 16th solo album (when did you ever count?) he is surviving by the same formula which gave him early hits like It Don't Come Easy, Back off Boogaloo and You're Sixteen: slather the songs in multi-tracking and backing vocals to cover his shortcomings.

Still, he and friends - among them jazz bassist Charlie Haden (on Buddy Holly's Think it Over), Joe Walsh, co-writers Glen Ballard, longtime pal Vinnie Poncia, Van Dyke Parks, Dave Stewart and others - enjoy themselves on covers (Rock Island Line) and vocally undemanding originals. And another reflective tribute to his childhood with In Liverpool.

Strange times. One ex-Beatle album of little interest to anyone under 60, the other perhaps only of appeal to those over that age.

Who: Paul McCartney
What: Kisses on the Bottom
Stars: 3.5/5

Who: Ringo Starr
What: Ringo 2012
Stars: 1.5/5

Verdict: The remaining former Beatles enjoy themselves - even if few are listening or care much - because they can.

-TimeOut