On February 7th, Paul McCartney released his first standards collection, Kisses On The Bottom. The set was produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Tommy LiPuma and features Diana Krall and her band -- as well as guest appearances from Eric Clapton and Stevie Wonder. The album is most notable for being the first album in which McCartney plays no instrument on, choosing instead to sing live in from of the jazz ensemble.
McCartney told us that it was nice to work outside the confines of the rock world, which can seems to be pretty cut and dried once you hit the studio: "So it was nice, it was a good way to work. There was no preconceived ideas and I think we all feel like we contributed. And then we'd throw John Pizzarelli or one of the guys the solo; 'Hey John, you wanna take a solo?' -- and y'know, you can do that in the jazz world, 'cause they're used to doing that -- and they just go, 'Yeah, OK' and they take a solo.' And so nobody's ever heard that solo before. It was really, really nice. I think it comes over a bit on the album, the freshness. I hope it does, anyway."
He explained that it was always his intention to dip into the standards territory at some point during the Beatles career: "When we got into the recording world with the Beatles, I started to think, 'Yeah, it'd be nice to do them' -- but I never got 'round to it, 'cause we were writin' Sgt. Pepper's, y'know, we were writing 'The White Album,' writin' our new stuff."
As most McCartney fans are well aware of, McCartney -- who owns the publishing on multitude of pre-1950's songs, a standards collection was always on his back burner. He told us that in recent years -- the times kept it from becoming a reality" "So, years later, I still had this dream to do these songs, but every time I came to make this album, someone else would make one. Like I thought, 'Right! Now's the time!' Then Robbie Williams came out with one -- I thought, I can't do it now, because it's gonna look like I'm jumping on his bandwagon. And then that dust settled down, so I thought now's the time and Rod Stewart come out with one -- can't do it now."
McCartney followed the set with his DVD and Blu-ray concert collection -- Live Kisses. The set, which was recorded at L.A.'s legendary Capitol Studios on February 9th, features the former Beatle running through 13 tracks from his recent Top 10 hit standards collection, Kisses On The Bottom.
Paul McCartney kicked off his latest mini-tour on November 11th in St. Louis at the 19,260-capacity Scottrade Center. The show was the first of a five-show run this month, which will also hit Houston, Texas; Vancouver, British Columbia; and Edmonton, Alberta. In addition to all the usual Beatles classics which have dominated McCartney's setlists over the years, McCartney played such Wings favorites as "Junior's Farm," "Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five," and "Mrs. Vandebilt" -- along with a deeper dip into his "Fab Four" catalogue, running through evergreens such as "I've Just Seen A Face," "Birthday," and "The Night Before," among many others.
On July 24th, the Beatles released its first digital-only iTunes compilation, called Tomorrow Never Knows. The 14-song tracklisting which is geared for a younger market, has its origins in a long-rumored Beatles Heavy collection being pitched mid-decade by Capitol Records with -- allegedly -- Paul McCartney's involvement. Tomorrow Never Knows doesn't feature any unreleased Beatles tracks, but does include two "recent" alternate versions of "I've Got A Feeling" from 2003's Let It Be. . . Naked and "The End" from 1996's Anthology 3 collection. Tomorrow Never Knows was geared to the 20-to-30-something generation, in an attempt of showcasing the "Fab Four" more "indie"-style recordings. In addition to the new digital album, the 1968 promo film for "Hey Bulldog" is available free to stream or purchase via the iTunes Store.
Out in May was the DVD and Blu-ray of Martin Scorsese's George Harrison documentary, Living In The Material World. The three-and-a-half hour life-spanning documentary includes interviews with Harrison's widow and son Olivia and Dhani Harrison, his brothers Harry and the late Pete Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Martin, Eric Clapton, first wife Pattie Boyd, Yoko Ono, Phil Spector, Jeff Lynne, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Tom Petty, and Jackie Stewart, among others. The film premiered over two nights last October on HBO, with the DVD and Blue-ray becoming available soon after overseas, but until now, unavailable in North America.
Also available in the package -- and sold separately -- is Early Takes, Volume 1 - George Harrison. The majority of songs on 10-track CD are either demos or early alternate takes of tracks from his 1970 album, All Things Must Pass. Highlights also include a demo version of Bob Dylan's "Mama You've Been On My Mind" and the Everly Brothers' "Let It Be Me" -- as well as early versions of such post-Beatles classics as "All Things Must Past," "My Sweet Lord," "Awaiting On You All," along with the Dylan co-write, "I'd Have You Anytime."
In one of the more emotional moments of Living In The Material World, Ringo Starr recalls his final meeting with Harrison only weeks before his death: "The last weeks of George's life, he was in Switzerland and I went to see him -- and he was very ill. Y'know, he could only lay down. And while he was being ill and I'd come to see him, I was going to Boston, 'cause my daughter had a brain tumor. And I said, 'Well, I've got to go, I've got to go to Boston,' and he goes (laughs, holds back tears) -- it's the last words I heard him say, actually, and he said, 'Do you me to come with ya?' (Laughs tearfully) I thought, 'God.' So, that's the incredible side of George."
In January Ringo Starr's released his 17th solo album -- and his first self-produced collection-- called, Ringo 2012. The new album, which was mainly recorded at Ringo's L.A. estate, features two remakes of classic Ringo tunes -- his 1973 self-written Ringo album standout "Step Lightly" -- and in a nod to hardcore fans, as the lead single, a team-up with brother-in-law Joe Walsh on the 1977 chart bomb, "Wings."
Highlights on Ringo 2012 feature the Van Dyke Parks co-write, "Samba," Ringo's covers of the Lonnie Donegan skiffle standard, "Rock Island Line," and Buddy Holly's "Think It Over" -- which was featured on the recent tribute set Buddy Holly: Listen To Me. Also included on the album is "In Liverpool," Ringo's third autobiographical song about his childhood: "So far, since I've had this thought, I've got a Liverpool song on the last three CD's -- and they're just snippets of my life. This one is a bit school days, going to the Iron Door -- which is a club in Liverpool. Me and the boys, me and the girls, me and the band. Y'know, it's bit like growin' up, but you can do it in a coupla lines."
Once again Ringo hit the road this summer for a North American tour with current All Starr Band includes returning All Starrs Todd Rundgren, saxophonist Mark Rivera, Mr. Mister's Richard Page, and drummer Gregg Bissonette. New to Ringo's band are Santana and Journey co-founding keyboardist Gregg Rollie, and Toto's co-founding guitarist Steve Lukather.
33-year-old Dhani Harrison, the only child of the late Beatle George Harrison, married longtime girlfriend Solveig Karadottir, a former model -- now psychologist -- on June 2nd, at his father and mother Olivia Harrison's estate, Friar Park, Henley-On-Thames. Guest were only told of the ceremony the day before the event, with surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr attending, along with such notables as actors Tom Hanks and Clive Owen. McCartney gave a speech toasting the couple, telling Dhani that his father would be "so proud" of him. Stella McCartney designed the bride's dress, having previously designed the wedding dresses for Madonna's 2000 nuptials to Guy Ritchie and for Nancy Shevell's wedding to her father, Paul McCartney, last year.
Officially released on October 9th -- what would've been John Lennon's 72nd birthday -- the Beatles finally released Magical Mystery Tour on DVD. In addition to the 53 minute movie -- which also includes an optional director's commentary by Paul McCartney -- the package, which will sell for just over $50, also includes the separate performances of "Your Mother Should Know," "Blue Jay Way," and "The Fool On The Hill," along with the group's then contemporary promo for "Hello Goodbye," and the featurettes "Nat's Dream," "I'm Going In A Field -- Ivor Cutler," "The Making Of Magical Mystery Tour,'" "Ringo The Actor," "The Cast" and "Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush -- Traffic."
Also out in October was the Yoko Ono sanctioned book, The John Lennon Letters. The book was edited by noted Beatles author Hunter Davies and features letters sent by the late Beatle to lovers, friends, family, and fans from every point in his life, and culled from a collection over nearly 300 letters and postcards. Highlights include Lennon's rants to and against the press, Yoko bashers, producer George Martin, and Paul and Linda McCartney. Yoko Ono, told us that -- both then and now -- trying to pin down what John Lennon meant to the world is impossible: "John was an artist and musician -- and a poet, as well. And also, he was a songwriter, singer, rocker. So, he was a very complex character."
On August 23rd, John Lennon's killer Mark David Chapman was denied parole for the seventh time. A statement released by the State Department of Corrections said Chapman was interviewed via a video conference from the Wende Correctional Center in upstate New York on Wednesday, and that a full transcript of the conference would be released later. On May 15th, Chapman was transferred to a new prison after spending over 30 years at New York's Attica Correctional Facility. Lennon's killer is now incarcerated at Alden, New York's Wende Correctional Facility, 20 miles east of Buffalo. A spokesman for the state prison system went on record as saying "the agency doesn't disclose why inmates are transferred to a new facility." Chapman will be eligible for parole once again in 2014. Chapman is now 57-year-old and is serving a 25-years-to-life sentence for murdering Lennon in front of his New York City apartment on December 8th, 1980.