Search - Audra McDonald :: Happy Songs

Happy Songs
Audra McDonald
Happy Songs
Genres: Pop, Classical, Broadway & Vocalists
  •  Track Listings (14) - Disc #1

Can a diva sing the blues? Past efforts at torch singing by the classically trained have sometimes left listeners feeling more stung than singed. But in tackling this slate of songs from the '30s and '40s (seasoned with a ...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Audra McDonald
Title: Happy Songs
Members Wishing: 1
Total Copies: 0
Label: Nonesuch
Release Date: 9/17/2002
Genres: Pop, Classical, Broadway & Vocalists
Styles: Easy Listening, Vocal Pop, Opera & Classical Vocal, Traditional Vocal Pop
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPCs: 075597964523, 755979645232

Can a diva sing the blues? Past efforts at torch singing by the classically trained have sometimes left listeners feeling more stung than singed. But in tackling this slate of songs from the '30s and '40s (seasoned with a couple of newer, era-friendly tunes by Jay Leonhart and Michael John LaChiusa) for her third studio album, multiple Tony Award winner Audra McDonald has wisely remembered that plumbing their emotional core requires more than perfect vibrato and resonates from a place just slightly to the left of the diaphragm. McDonald claims this collection was inspired by the birth of her daughter. If that's the case, she is going to have one joyous, soulful child. The singer ranges from the gorgeous, delicate smoke of "I Must Have That Man" and the standard "More Than You'll Know" through the saucy jazz of Leonhart's "Beat My Dog" and loopy spunk of LaChiusa's "See What I Want to See" to the breathy blues of "Tess' Torch Song" and unabashed romance of the Gershwins' "He Loves and She Loves." And if the exotica-goes-Broadway ethos of the Brazilian "Bambalele" seems slightly askew, it nonetheless meets the album's happy criterion. --Jerry McCulley

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CD Reviews

She just keeps getting better and better
M. Rhone | San Jose, CA USA | 09/18/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"It must be said at the outset that I am a huge fan of Ms. McDonald's work. That does not, however, preclude me from being honest about my impressions of her albums. I'm a fan because of her huge talent, not in spite of it.Happy Songs is Audra McDonald's third solo album, and each one has been better than the last. Audra sings with a vibrancy and brilliance that is unmatched. Her tone is impeccable, but she's more than willing to give up that elusive perfect note to get at the truth of the emotion behind a song. For this reason, there's never any doubt that she believes every word she sings.Much has been written about how the birth of her daughter inspired Audra to record songs from the Depression (there are a few cheats on the album - two new songs and others written post-Depression), when people turned to entertainment to lift their spirits (hence the title of the album). While many of these songs wouldn't qualify as "happy" ("Suppertime" is sung by a woman whose husband has just been lynched; "Beat My Dog", "Ill Wind", and others are about bad relationships), it still works. Whether it's the wonderful arrangements and interpretation, or just realization that things could be worse, the album does indeed make one feel better.Those critical of McDonald's song choice in the past (indeed, her first album - although wonderful - was not for everyone) will find little to quibble over here. Each song is a gem, from better known songs like "He Loves and She Loves" and "More Than You Know" to the less familiar "I Double Dare You", to the first-time recording of "See What I Wanna See". The album appears to be crafted to be a crowd-pleaser, and it succeeds.The country needs a pick-me-up today as much as it did 70 years ago. Listeners could do far worse than popping "Happy Songs" into their CD players."
Vocal virtuosity meets Instrumental authenticity.
Karen P. Smith | Chicago, IL USA | 11/06/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Okay, I've never written a review before, so this is another of the "firsts" that discovering Audra McDonald's voice has led me to do. I am an unabashedly adoring FAN, but unlike many others, I couldn't have cared less about Broadway singers until I heard Audra McDonald on her second solo CD, "How Glory Goes." First, I was captivated by Audra's renditions of three Harold Arlen songs on the "Glory" CD. After more listenings, I had to learn to love the more modern songs on the CD, only because Audra McDonald was singing them. Finally, I had to get my own copy of everything else this superlatively gifted performer had recorded.As a collector of music written in the 1930s and 1940s, I cannot express the height of my excitement when I heard that "Happy Songs" would be a collection of my most favorite "pop" music, produced by my most favorite hybrid (classical-popular) singer. Now that I have heard the CD about a half dozen times, I can say I am happy with the result. Though this may sound like faint praise, compared to what other reviewers have written, please understand, I am often and easily disappointed, and Audra McDonald has yet to disappoint me.Too often, when I listen to re-makes of 1930s/1940s music, I can instantly tell that it's not the real thing, that something doesn't quite match. That is, since I want to hear the 1930s/1940s SOUND, not a 1950s or 1960s (or worst of all, 1970s) "update" of that sound, I get jarred by the clash of eras. What I love about "Happy Songs" is that Audra's inestimable singing of the music is so authentically accompanied by the instrumentalists supporting and showcasing her. Ted Sperling's work as conductor, arranger and pianist shine through on track after track of this CD, and make it near-magical for me. McDonald and Sperling's rendition of "Ill Wind," as just one sterling example, a song originally written for a Cotton Club revue (and dubbed ineffectually in the movie by the same name) sounds like it is being sung by a REAL 1930s chanteuse and played by a REAL 1930s swing band--fantabulous!To sum up, if you like Ella, or Duke, or Ivie Anderson, or Fletcher Henderson, or Judy Garland, or Glenn Miller, you will love "Happy Songs" by Audra McDonald."
Happy, Sad, Inbetween, She sings it all well.
Kwame Holmes | Florida | 09/25/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Just to dispel some of the talk that these songs arent really ALL Happy Songs, some are downright depressing. I mean Supper Time is a song about what the newly widowded wife of a lynched man is going to tell their kids. However, misleading theme or not, this is DEFINITLY Audra's best album. Some people loved the adventourousness of her first album, but the song selections were almost TOO obscure to be really appreciated. Her second album was gorgeously sung, but some of the arrangements on repeated listenings grew bland(Audra is one of those singers who really sounds best with a SMALL band). This album is really a happy medium. There are some new songs, Beat My Dog and See What I Wanna See, both of which are amazing and have simple arrangements. The older songs are much more obscure, yes its Ellington, Gershwin and Arlen, but not that many people really perform these songs, except More Than You Know(which i think is the weakest song on the album). Audra is at her best when a song has her moving quickly with a big band, or slower with just a piano or guitar. It sounds like she gets a little bored with some of the slower, over orchestrated numbers, but thats an effect that is few and far between. 9/10 The songs on this album are rousing, and if not "happy" they are hopeful and full of genuine emotions. They also show Audra's development as a singer and as a song selector in positive directions. No fan of Audra or pop standards should be without it."