This single CD contains a pair of Joni James titles -- Put on a Happy Face (1964) and I Feel a Song Coming On (1962) -- showcasing the artist's undeniably jazzy leanings. Although her initial fame was as a pop vocalist, many of her mid-'60s sides explored James' talents as an interpreter of a wide variety of jazz-influenced styles. Put on a Happy Face (1964) indulges the singer's penchant for Dixieland and slightly vaudevillian readings of pop standards. Under the direction and orchestration of jazz arranger Chuck Sagle and backed (albeit somewhat perfunctorily) by the verbose Jack Halloran Singers, James' perky persona and sunny disposition shine through a variety of well-known melodies. The entire effort has a light and unencumbered air that speaks volumes of James' rapport with Sagle, who scored many of the singer's most notable sides -- including her definitive rendition of "There Goes My Heart." On this album, he once again augments the vocals with a fresh blend of sonic scenarios ranging from the southwestern cowboy lollop heard on "Swanee" to the full-fledged ragtime rendering of "Hello, Dolly!" or "'Way Down Yonder in New Orleans," both of which sport a happy good-time banjo-led accompaniment. One of the best interpretations on the set is of the title track, which James lilts through with her own infectious sense of musical vigor.
I Feel a Song Coming On allows James to further shed her pinup image on a dozen tracks culled from a variety of American jazz and adult contemporary songbooks. This effort's free-form and improvisational accompaniment lends itself well to the vocalist's unique and fresh interpretations of a wide variety of popular standards and, concurrently, new additions to the otherwise traditional lexicon. Joining James is Jimmie Haskell, whose scores are equally inventive as each arrangement swells and ebbs with the unmistakable energy and unity of a legitimate live performance or jam session. The singer's earlier encounters with Stan Kenton's orchestra seem to have paid off quite a dividend as James weaves some post-bop mastery into the uptempo reading of "'Deed I Do" as well as the equally hot-steppin' "On the Sunny Side of the Street." The extended instrumental intros foreshadow the lightly maneuvered vocals that follow. Granted, James is no Ella Fitzgerald; however, she is able to swing with unquestionable authority on George Shearing's "Lullaby of Birdland" and adds an exceedingly soulful inflection to Duke Ellington's "I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)" as well as the Creole-steeped "Basin Street Blues." Her more refined style of balladry is highlighted on the gentle "Fly Me to the Moon" and the bluesy torch reading of "My Melancholy Baby." In 2003, Collectors' Choice Music issued this double-play CD sporting newly inked liner notes and brilliantly remastered sound as part of their digital renovation of James' seminal '50s and '60s output.