In early 1956 a young man was faced with a life-altering dilemma that could have had dire consequences had he not chosen the right course. Having been a star athlete in both high school and college, he was invited to attend the trials for the U. S. Olympic track-and-field team. But he was also blessed with a unique voice and vocal style that caught the eye of Columbia Records executives and was asked to come to New York to begin work on his first recording session. Prompted by his father, 21-year old John Royce Mathis chose the latter and passed on this option to become a member of the Olympic team, opting instead for a chance to break into the uncertain world of popular music. A half-century later he has yet to look back.
Over the course of those 50+ years, Johnny Mathis has sold several hundred million records and has become one of the most beloved voices in popular music. Over the span of his first three decades he charted nearly four dozen singles on the best seller charts, including such seminal romantic ballads as "Wonderful! Wonderful!", I"t's Not For Me To Say", "The Twelfth Of Never" and "Chances Are" (his first of two #1s). But Mathis' real staying power has been as an album seller; his Johnny's Greatest Hits (the record industry's FIRST greatest hits package) alone stayed on the charts for an incredible 9 ½ years and by most accounts next to Frank Sinatra, he's been the most consistent album-seller of the modern era, having recorded upwards of 75 original collections.
Collectors' Choice is proud to present some of the best of those collections – nearly all new to CD – from one of the most enduring voices of our time.
Over the years, we at Collectors' Choice Music have been able to delve into the album catalogs of pop vocalists (Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Bobby Darin and Nat King Cole come to mind) that at one time seemed as unattainable as the stars in a summertime sky. And of all the stars shining up there, none has shined as brightly, and seemed as remote, as that of the classic Columbia albums of the great Johnny Mathis. We'll be honest, we have asked Sony before about these, and always been denied, but this time we came to them with a comprehensive proposal to reissue virtually ALL of his '60s albums that have never been on CD before, and they, much to our delighted amazement, relented! So here, on five beautiful 2-CD sets, are ten classic, charting Columbia albums from Johnny Mathis, sporting detailed liner notes from our resident pop vocal maven James Ritz. These Collectors' Choice Music exclusives have a street date of June 9.
CCM20162 JOHNNY MATHIS: I'll Buy You a Star/Live It Up! Of the ten albums we're reissuing, I'll Buy You a Star is the only one that's come out on CD before, but we had to include it because it made such a perfect pairing with Live It Up! Why? Because both of them boast arrangements by the great Nelson Riddle!
CCM20172 JOHNNY MATHIS: Rapture/Romantically Another perfect Mathis pairing, these 1962 and 1963 albums both featured arrangements by the legendary Don Costa, and both soared to the highest reaches of the charts.
CCM20182 JOHNNY MATHIS: Up, Up and Away/Love Is Blue These 1967 and 1968 albums marked Johnny's triumphant return to the Columbia label from Mercury, where he spent the middle part of the decade. They also marked a shift in his repertoire away from the standards that had dominated his previous Columbia albums towards more contemporary material, whose familiar melodies take on a whole new sheen when burnished by Johnny's ethereal tenor.
CCM20192 JOHNNY MATHIS: Those Were the Days/Love Theme from "Romeo & Juliet" Johnny Mathis doing a Doors tune? Yup—and doing it well, along with a host of other late-'60s pop favorites on these 1968 and 1969 albums. Robert Mersey, who arranged Johnny's previous two Columbia albums, conducts on Those Were the Days, while the great Ernie Freeman takes up the baton on Love Theme.
CCM20202 JOHNNY MATHIS: People/The Impossible Dream Johnny's warm, mellifluous interpretations on these two 1969 albums will make you hear these songs in a whole new way, even if you've heard them hundreds of times. A good example is his dramatically slowed-down reading of "Sunny"; the contemplative, even wistful tone of his performance really gives the "dark days" of the song's lyrics equal weight to the bright ones, an insight usually lost in the song's breezier interpretations.