Since her beginnings in the industry as a jingle-singing sound-alike, Clare Teal has done very well for herself, winning a fistful of awards and now co-producing her 8th album. With Get Happy she returns to a recipe that's worked well in the past: mix equal measures of standards, own material and '60/'70s pop songs, season with gentle humour and...start swinging!
Some singers thrive on melancholy, but the huge warmth of Clare's voice was born to convey happiness. Sultry and tinged with suggestive slurs, Begin The Beguine evokes a pre-war cabaret, and her Puppini Sisters-style close harmonies are convincingly retro on the title track and on Cheek To Cheek, with its swing-to-latin, big band feel.
Clare's songwriting is warm and retro, too. Her new fables feel as old as Aesop, and she casts herself as an agony aunt in them (happy endings are mandatory, of course). All For Love is an intimate, burlesque piece; Get On It Sam is high-octane life-coaching in a waltz; and High Love comes with a nostalgic, fairground feel.
You can't fault Clare's delivery or her almost Karen Carpenter-like deeper tones, but something is missing here. If your idea of happiness is listening to a bit of maudlin introspection with a peppering of angst or anger, you'll be disappointed. Even on songs like the former hit for Roy Orbison and Jim Capaldi, Love Hurts or Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, Clare is angst-less and anger-free and she sounds triumphant, not broken-hearted.
There's also a sameness to some of the tracks. Most are characterised by upfront, intimate vocals and improvisation is limited to the occasional interlude. Having said that, there's a sterling set of musicians on Get Happy. Dennis Rollins comes up with some great raunchy trombone fills in All For Love and Get It On Sam, and James Watson gets a few decent solos on piano. Moondance is fairly standard singers' fare, but it really works with Clare's ballsy vocals and scatting, and James, Simon Little (bass) and Chris Dagley (drums) grasp the opportunity for an instrumental solo and really stretch out.
Need a pep-talk? Need to detox your life? Get Happy will sort you out, and you'll hear some fine future standards in the process.