"I could see it in his face that he loved music, too." remembered Mr. Mathis. "I taught him that song. He got it in nothing flat, and he put something into it. That's when I felt it - I felt that the sound I heard, if it could be cultivated, maybe a lot of people would love the sound. And that's when I knew I had a job to do."
That was the beginning of Johnny Mathis. He was eight then, and 12 years later, the shy, wiry Johnny consumated his love affair with song. As a teenage idol he earned $ 100.000 a year. At 29, he became a millionarie. Today, at 38 and with 56 albums to his credit, he is a multimillionaire.
His cultivated image as the love song singer remains intact: "I think love chose me. I didn't choose it. It just happened. I don't know why I ended up being the love singer."
Renée Lamarr, Encore magazine, June 1974
One of the last and most popular in a long line of traditional male vocalists who emerged before the rock-dominated 1960s, Johnny Mathis concentrated on romantic readings of jazz and pop standards for the ever-shrinking adult contemporary audience of the '60s and '70s. Though he debuted with a flurry of singles chart activity, Mathis later made it big in the album market, where a dozen of his LPs hit gold or platinum and over 60 made the charts. While he concentrated on theme-oriented albums of show tunes and traditional favorites during the '60s, he began incorporating soft rock by the '70s and remained a popular concert attraction well into the '90s.
[Excerpt from Johnny Mathis bio]
Following "I'm Coming Home", released the previous year and conducted / arranged by legendary Philadelphia producer Thom Bell along with singer-songwriter / lyricist Linda Creed (the album is documented here in all its glory thanks to the usual great mastering work by Funkerman), "The Heart of a Woman" was Johnny Mathis' 57th-or-something album.
"The Heart of a Woman" was released in late November 1974 and was produced by Johnny Bristol, who, after his successful Motown productions both in team with Harvey Fuqua (most notably Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" hit-single) and alone (more singles by Gladys Knight & the Pips, Jermaine Jackson and a U.K. hit-single by The Velvelettes), had made it into his own as a singer (his debut album "Hang On In There Baby" has just been released a few months earlier the same year), and was fast becoming a respected and sought-after songwriter and producer in the American music world.
Accompanied by the above-mentioned "I'm Coming Home" and "Mathis Is...", released in 1977 and once again produced by Thom Bell, "The Heart of a Woman" may be seen as the central part of an ideal triptych of albums released by Mathis during the 70s whose "soul" sound was still aimed at the adult contemporary market but probably also at a different kind of younger audience.
Here's another excerpt from the article/interview by Renée Lamarr published on the June 1974 issue of Encore magazine:
Johnny possesses to his musical fingertips that indefinable quality called style. Yet celebrated as he is an outstanding pop artist, Black audiences never turned on to him in great numbers. They remained distant from him when he was at the peak of his career. For all his success, Mathis was seen merely as a pretty boy singing love ballads. In the late fifties and early sixties Blacks preferred the rhythm-and-blues sounds of Jackie Wilson, Ray Charles, the Drifters, the Platters. Johnny says, apologetically, "Black people never bought my records in great numbers, but that didn't mean that they didn't hear or like them."
Johnny Mathis does not like discussing civil rights or his "responsibilities as a Black artist". When pressed, he says that he looks forward to the day when those kinds of questions need not be asked. "I don't make judgements based on the color of someone's skin. Either you are intelligent or you are ignorant."
Recently there has been an attempt to interpret the name of Johnny's new hit album, I'm Coming Home - which has attracted Black record lovers - as a statement by Johnny to the Black community. Johnny says, "There is no connection. I didn't write the song, Linda Creed did. And Linda Creed is a little Jewish girl."
"The Heart of a Woman" comes in a nice cover with stunning photographs by Richard Avedon (whose work had already graced other Mathis' releases earlier). The album contains the following tracks:
01. Woman, Woman (3:16)
02. Sail On White Moon (3:12)
03. It's Gone (3:13)
04. House For Sale (3:18)
05. Feel Like Makin' Love (3:40)
06. Memories Don't Leave Like People Do (4:23)
07. Strangers In Dark Corners (3:50)
08. Wendy (3:36)
09. The Heart of a Woman (2:57)
10. The Way We Planned It (3:35)
All tracks were remastered from the original vinyl in November 2011 and are available in FLAC lossless format or high-quality 320 Kbps MP3 files, both formats include completely restored PDF artwork. Please have a look at the comments for the download links.
Four tracks on "The Heart of a Woman" are written or co-written by Johnny Bristol and they probably are the highlights of the album. Most of the songs are arranged by Paul Riser, except a few whose arrangements are credited to H. B. Barnum and James C. Barnett.
"Woman of the world, you're something special, girl. You're not a tool for some damn fool to break, no, no. That, you don't have to take..." So goes the refrain of "Woman, Woman", the opening number written by Johnny Bristol that already appeared as the first track on his debut LP "Hang On In There Baby" a few months earlier. Compared to the original this version is considerably shorter and doesn't offer the complex instrumental intro. This song was also released as a 7" single in some European countries offering "Feel Like Makin' Love" as a tempting B-Side.
"Sail On White Moon" is also penned by Bristol, it was released as the B-side of the domestic version of "The Heart of a Woman" single. According to Discogs, 7" promo copies with a "stereo" version on the A-side and a "mono" version on the B-side also exist. This song was part of Bozz Scaggs' "Slow Dancer", an album produced earlier the same year by Johnny Bristol.
"It's Gone" and "House For Sale" are songs that probably appealed more to the "traditional" Mathis public, the latter was written by Lawrence D. Brown and Oleg Lopatin and was also included on "Soul & Inspiration", an album by the popular music vocal group The 5th Dimension, the same year.
"Feel Like Makin' Love", a rendition of Roberta Flack's hit-single written by Eugene McDaniel, closes the first side of the album. This song was also released as a 7" single in U.K. backed with "The Heart of a Woman" on the B-Side.
"Memories Don't Leave Like People Do" is again a song written by Johnny Bristol, this time in collaboration with John Henry Glover Jr., James A. Dean and Jerry Butler. This tune was used as the opening number on Butler's "Power of Love", produced by Bristol and released in 1973. Bristol had also recorded and released his own version of this track on his debut album in early 1974.
"Strangers In Dark Corners", the last Bristol-penned song that appears on "The Heart of a Woman", had already been included on Tavares' "Check It Out", their debut album produced by Johnny Bristol in late 1973. Bristol will also record and release this tune on "Strangers", his fourth LP, in 1978.
Originally performed by The Impressions on the original soundtrack of "Three The Hard Way", an action blaxploitain movie directed by Gordon Parks Jr. in 1974, "Wendy" is another all-sugary tune performed by Mathis at his best in his usual passionate way.
"The Heart of a Woman", the album title-track deserves a deeper look. Also released as a single in the U.S., the song was created as a singing commercial for Helena Rubinstein’s Courant perfume. Here's the whole story as published in the 23rd November 1974 issue of Billboard:
Mathis Gets Col-Cosmetic Promo
NEW YORK — Columbia Records and Helena Rubinstein, cosmetic manufacturer, are cross-promoting their respective products with separate campaigns backing a new Johnny Mathis release and Courant perfume. The development between the two firms was prompted by a Mathis recording of an original commercial tune for Courant, which was then selected as the "B" side of a new single and the title cut of his "The Heart Of A Woman" LP, now scheduled for release Monday (25). On the Columbia side, the label is inserting a "scratch-and-sniff"’ advertising panel, 3"x3" in size, under the skin wraps of the first 100.000 alburns pressed. The panel pictures Courant products and alerts buyers to a national radio campaign being run by Courant. Beginning Thursday (21), some 60 radio stations. covering the top 15 markets in the U.S., will air seventy 60-second Courant spots per week through Christmas. The spots credit Mathis as a Columbia recording artist and also name the composition he is performing. They will be aired on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of each week. It is also understood that Courant has acquired some 13.000 Mathis singles with special promotional sleeves, and will be distributing them free at its cosmetic counters throughout the U.S. during the holiday buying season.
With "The Way We Planned It" the album comes to its end.
Johnny Mathis, photo by Richard Avedon
The following credits/notes are taken from the back cover of "The Heart of a Woman":
Produced by Johnny Bristol.
Special thanks to Franzel Venable for vocal harmony on "Feel Like Makin' Love".
Henry Wallace Shead - Keyboards
Reginald Burke - Keyboards
Melvin M. Ragin - Guitar
Ray E. Parker Jr. - Guitar
Dennis Coffey - Guitar
Michael Anthony - Guitar
Henry E. Davis - Bass
Edward Greene - Drums
Joe L. Clayton - Percussion
Gene Estes - Percussion
All songs arranged by Paul Riser except "The Way We Planned It" arranged by H. B. Barnum and "Feel Like Makin' Love" and "The Heart of a Woman" arranged by James C. Barnett.
Engineering and mixing by Greg Venable.
Recorded at Larrabee Sound, West Los Angeles, and Devonshire Sound, North Hollywood, California.
Produced by Johnny Bristol for Jon Mat Records, Inc., except "The Way We Planned It" produced by Jerry Fuller for Jon Mat Records, Inc.
Photos by Richard Avedon.
Cover Design by John Berg.
Johnny Mathis, photo by Richard Avedon
This is a review of "The Heart of a Woman" taken from Billboards Top Album Picks published in the 7th December 1974 issue:
For nearly 20 years, Mathis has been one of our premier singers and one of the few who has almost continuously appeared to all generations. Here he uses his patented velvet voice to float through a number of the types of ballads he has always been associated with as well! as some more uptempo things which fall somewhere between soul rockers and his familiar Style. With Johnny Bristol handling the production, we may have the most contemporary commercial LP Mathis has come up with in several years.
Best cuts: "Woman, Woman", "Stranger In Dark Corners", "Memories Don't Leave Like People Do", "The Heart of a Woman", "Feel Like Makin' Love".
Dealers: Mathis catalog generally picks up around Christmas, and display can he helped with fine Avedon cover photo.
And to finish this post, here's a few interesting links about Johnny Mathis and Johnny Bristol:
If you have any other useful information about "The Heart of a Woman" - especially corrections and improvements to what I wrote above - or if you spot any dead links, just get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!