Singer and guitarist John Pizzarelli opens his new album with songs written by Paul McCartney with “Silly Love Songs”, recorded for the 1976 Wings LP “Wings At The Speed Of Sound” and arranges it with a sweet and catchy background courtesy of Jessica Molaskey and Madeleine Pizzarelli. It reminds me of his equally poignant version of the James Taylor classic “Your Smiling Face” from his 2004 “Bossa Nova” record. A light bossa beat played by Helio Alves on piano, Martin Pizzarellli on bass, and Duduka DaFonseca on drums..
The Brazilian team can be heard on three more of the tracks here. For “My Love”, from the 1973 Wings LP “Red Rose Speedway”, John uses Don Sebesky and Larry Goldings for a lush orchestral arrangement for this beautiful ballad which went to Number 1 back then. “Heart Of The Country”, written by Mr. McCartney for the Scottish countryside which he escaped to after the Beatles breakup (and recorded for the 1971 Paul and Linda McCartney LP “Ram”), is a simple, strutting little ditty.
Michael McDonald helps out on a swinging “Coming Up”, a song from Paul’s second solo album from 1980, which gets some neat brass section work. Michael sounds great on this. For “No More Lonely Nights”, it’s back to Helio and Duduka for another light Bossa arrangement plus the delicious background vocals. The track is also enhanced by a Stan Getz-like Harry Allen on tenor sax. The song first appeared on the 1984 McCartney album “Give My Regards To Broad Street”. A lovely arrangement with a very catchy ending. And the same team is back on “My Valentine”, from one of the newer McCartney albums, “Kisses On The Bottom” from 2012, where John was featured as well (as were Diana Krall, Christian McBride, and Stevie Wonder). It seems that the songs with this particular group are among the most pleasant on offer.
The love ballad “Warm And Beautiful”, again from the 1976 Wings LP and directed to Paul’s then wife Linda, comes with a string cushion and John’s dad Bucky on rhythm guitar as well as Larry on piano. It scratches the syrupy surface. “Hi, Hi, Hi”, back in 1972 banned by the BBC because of its “sexually suggestive lyrics” and its potential “drug reference”, is thankfully done without the lyrics which would be pretty odd these days. And “Junk”, again from McCartney’s first solo album from 1970, criticizing our material and wasteful world, still has its relevance today.
I’ve never been fond of “Let ‘Em In” (1976) which serves as another uptempo brass cut here. The softer, quieter songs are more relevant, like “Some People Never Know” (from the Wings LP “Wild Life”, 1971), where Larry Goldings is featured on organ. And “Maybe I’m Amazed”, written just before the breakup of the Beatles and again dedicated to Linda, works very well with just John on guitar and vocals and his wife Jessica on backgrounds. The album also has a bonus track for the upcoming festive season: “Wonderful Christmastime”. Nice one.
John is currently on a European tour and stops in Barcelona (October 16th), Murcia (17th), Madrid (18th), Sevilla (19th), Paris (20th,21st), and Stuttgart (22nd) before he heads back to the States to play Washington, DC’s Blues Alley October 29th to November 1st.