Happy Songs

Happy Songs

by Audra McDonald
     
 

Starting a family has put Audra McDonald in an up mood, and all her optimism spills out on the appropriately titled Happy Songs. Gathering, for the majority of the recording, songs made famous in the 1930s and 40s, McDonald brings her exquisite voice and unimpeachable taste to bear on such judiciously chosen material as “I Wish I Were in Love Again,” “He…  See more details below

Overview

Starting a family has put Audra McDonald in an up mood, and all her optimism spills out on the appropriately titled Happy Songs. Gathering, for the majority of the recording, songs made famous in the 1930s and 40s, McDonald brings her exquisite voice and unimpeachable taste to bear on such judiciously chosen material as “I Wish I Were in Love Again,” “He Loves and She Loves,” “Ill Wind,” and “More than You Know.” She even dares to go where such vocal icons as Billie Holiday (“I Must Have That Man”) and Ethel Waters (“Supper Time”) have famously gone before, and does both songs proud. McDonald also pokes into such delightful if offbeat material as Duke Ellington’s “On a Turquoise Cloud” and Jay Leonhardt’s “Beat My Dog,” a contemporary anomaly that nevertheless works in terms of the album’s concept. It’s a commonplace to state that this multitalented singer-actress can seemingly do anything she sets her mind to. The classic material on Happy Songs becomes just one more hurdle she leaps easily over.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - William Ruhlmann
Audra McDonald's third album may be called Happy Songs, but the cover -- on which she is depicted in sepia tone, inserted into a photograph from the 1940s, dolled up in period getup, and looking like she's waiting for a train -- suggests that the title is intended ironically, a suggestion further documented by a perusal of the songs on the back cover, which include Irving Berlin's anti-lynching ballad "Supper Time" and Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler's "Ill Wind (You're Blowin' Me No Good)." The former song is associated with Ethel Waters and the latter with Aida Ward, while the leadoff track, "Ain't It de Truth?," was introduced by Lena Horne, and "I Must Have That Man!" was first sung by Adelaide Hall, all predecessors of McDonald as a black female musical theater star. By singing their songs, she embraces that heritage, and by singing so well, she demonstrates that she is their equal. But she also addresses the work of white female stars like Dinah Shore, who introduced "Tess' Torch Song," and Judy Garland, whose arrangement of Rodgers & Hart's "I Wish I Were in Love Again" is updated here, and she holds her own with them, too. Happy Songs is an affectionate look back at a more extravagant era of entertainment when women's emotions (as written for them by men) were expressed powerfully, and these songs explore the range of those feelings. The choices are sometimes daring, such as the wonderful, but long-forgotten Freddy Martin hit "I Double Dare You" from 1937, which McDonald handles with frenetic energy, and, stepping out of the long-ago past into the recent days of nightclub novelty, Jay Leonhart's song of comic romantic complaint, "Beat My Dog." Such numbers demonstrate that these can be "happy songs," even when the sentiments are less so.

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Product Details

Release Date:
09/17/2002
Label:
Nonesuch
UPC:
0075597964523
catalogNumber:
79645

Related Subjects

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Audra McDonald   Primary Artist
Walt Weiskopf   Clarinet
David Engel   Vocals
Lawrence Feldman   Clarinet,Flute,Alto Saxophone
Steve Freeman   Vocals
Willie Hayes   Percussion,Drums
Cecilia Hobbs   Violin
Kevin Kuhn   Banjo,Guitar
Larry Lunetta   Trumpet
Lee Musiker   Piano,Celeste
Brian O'Flaherty   Trumpet
Suzanne Ornstein   Violin,Concert Mistress
Dave Ratajczak   Percussion,Drums
Clay Ruede   Cello
Jack Schatz   Trombone
Debra Shufelt   Viola
Chris Komer   French Horn
Richard Heckman   Clarinet,Flute,English Horn,Oboe,Tenor Saxophone
Belinda Whitney   Violin
Leo Daignault   Vocals
Grace Paradise   Harp
Ted Sperling   Piano,Celeste,Conductor
Xin Zhao   Violin
Adam Grabois   Cello
Laura Oatts   Violin
Peter Donovan   Bass
Mark Thrasher   Clarinet,Bassoon,Bass Clarinet,Baritone Saxophone
Michael Nicholas   Viola
Paul Sundfor   Clarinet,Flute,Piccolo,Alto Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone
Michael Boschen   Trombone
Mark Patterson   Trombone

Technical Credits

George Gershwin   Composer
Brown   Composer
Jack Cortner   Orchestration
Bruce Coughlin   Orchestration
Don Sebesky   Orchestration
Ira Gershwin   Composer
Robert Hurwitz   Executive Producer
Tommy Krasker   Producer
Kevin Kuhn   Arranger
Joel Moss   Engineer
Lee Musiker   Arranger
Rack Godwin   Arranger
Eadie Griffith   Arranger
Scott Hull   Mastering
Ted Sperling   Arranger,Vocal Arrangements
Larry Hochman   Orchestration
Peter Donovan   Arranger
John Vachon   Original Photography
Gregg Schaufeld   Editorial Coordinator
John Ryle   translation
Michael Gibson   Orchestration

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