Friday, 30 November 2012

JOHNNY MATHIS "MATHIS IS..." (1977)

In the middle of my life I had nothing to lose
No one to love, now it's you I'm thinking of
You're a little of heaven to me
You're all I need, it's my concern
There's a lesson to be learned
I thought I had the whole world at my feet
Now I know that I was dreaming
I fooled around and lost the only one made for me
And now I'm sorry, oh so sorry

Loving you, is it worth the pain of losing you?
Losing you, is it worth the pain of loving you?
Loving you, is it worth the pain of losing, losing your love?

You can label a man worth having it's up to me
This heart of mine has to live a second time
Take a little of your love from me and I'll be gone
Your love to me is like honey to a bee
I stand accused of being what I am
I'm a fool and now I know it
This episode is ready to unfold
How can I begin to write a brand new story

Loving you, is it worth the pain of losing you?
Oh losing you, is it worth the pain of loving you?
Loving you, is it worth the pain of losing you?
Oh losing you, is it worth the pain of loving you?


[From the lyrics of "Loving You - Losing You"]



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.

Unsurprisingly, given his emphasis on long sustained notes and heavy vibrato, Mathis studied with an opera coach prior to his teenage years, and was almost lured into the profession; his other inspirations were the smoother crossover jazz vocalists of the 1940s - Nat "King" Cole, Billy Eckstine and Lena Horne.

Mathis was an exceptional high-school athlete in San Francisco, but was wooed away from a college track scholarship and a potential spot on the Olympic squad by the chance to sing. He was signed to a management contract by club owner Helen Noga, who introduced the singer to George Avakian, jazz producer for Columbia Records.

Avakian signed him and used orchestras conducted by Teo Macero, Gil Evans, and John Lewis to record Mathis' self-titled debut album in 1957. Despite the name talent and choice of standards, it was mostly ignored upon release.

Columbia A&R executive Mitch Miller - known for his desperately pop-slanted Sing Along albums and TV show - decided the only recourse was switching Mathis to Miller's brand of pop balladry, and the formula worked like a charm; the LP "Wonderful Wonderful" didn't include but was named after a Top 20 hit later in 1957, which was followed by the number five "It's Not For Me To Say" and his first number one, "Chances Are". From that point on, Johnny Mathis concentrated strictly on lush ballads for adult contemporary listeners.



Though he charted consistently, massive hit singles were rare for Johnny Mathis during the late '50s and '60s - half of his career Top Ten output had occurred in 1957 alone - so he chose to focus instead on the burgeoning album market, much like Frank Sinatra, his main rival during the late '50s as the most popular traditional male vocalist.

Mathis moved away from show tunes and traditional pop into soft rock during the '70s, and found his second number one single, "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late", in 1978. Recorded as a duet with Deniece Williams, the single prompted Mathis to begin trying duets with a variety of partners (including Dionne Warwick, Natalie Cole, Gladys Knight, and Nana Mouskouri), though none of the singles enjoyed the success of the original.

Mathis continued to release and sell albums throughout the '90s - his fifth decade of recording for Columbia - and beyond, among them 1998's "Because You Loved Me: Songs of Diane Warren" and 2000's "Mathis on Broadway".

Mathis followed the Broadway album with 2002's "The Christmas Album" and 2005's "Isn't it Romantic: The Standards Album", both of which found the iconic vocalist in fine form. In 2008, Mathis released the Walter Afanasieff-produced and arranged "A Night To Remember", his first straight-ahead adult contemporary album in over a decade. "Let It Be Me: Mathis in Nashville", Mathis' first full-length album of country music, appeared in September of 2010.

[bio by John Bush, original page is available here]



Johnny Mathis sometimes in the 70s

Released in March 1977, "Mathis Is..." was Mathis' second album to be graced with arrangements and production by legendary Philadelphia producer Thom Bell - the first being "I'm Coming Home", documented here in all its glory thanks to the usual great mastering work by Funkerman.

The following review of the album was written by Joe Viglione, original page is available here.

"Superstar producer/arranger Thom Bell worked on Johnny Mathis' 1973 "I'm Coming Home" album, a ten-song project of material composed mostly by Bell and the late Linda Creed. Mathis then brought producer Jack Gold back for 1975's "Feelings" LP, worked with producer John Florez that same year for the "When Will I See You Again" disc, and reunited with Gold for "I Only Have Eyes for You" in 1976 and 1977's "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me".

For the most part, these mid-'70s collaborations played it safe, which makes Bell's return on 1978's "Mathis Is..." an important but sadly forgotten event in Philly soul history. Casey James and Leroy Bell, the authors of Elton John's Grammy-nominated 1979 Top Ten hit, "Mama Can't Buy You Love", are on board here, only they do their co-writing on "Mathis Is..." with the master, Thom Bell.

The result is extraordinary music for both Mathis followers and fans of the Philly sound. M.F.S.B. are on board, as is guitarist Lee Ritenour and the conga player from the Janis Joplin "Pearl" album, Ms. Bobbye Hall, and they make some exquisite stuff.

"Loving You - Losing You" is the essence of that Thom Bell sound, a co-write by Thom and Leroy Bell. Mathis, of course, made a point of adding the hit songs from this special genre to his repertoire.

Gary Puckett & the Union Gap producer Jerry Fuller cut "Break Up to Make Up" with Mathis on 1973's "Killing Me Softly With Her Song" album, while John Florez recorded the Three Degrees' hit on the aforementioned "When Will I See You Again".

For those who adore the Spinners and Stylistics, the softer side of Bell's historic work, this effort is a dreamy mini-masterpiece. It's a shame Mathis didn't continue this notion over half a dozen albums or so, branching out from the safety of re-recording hits of the time and going back to the thing that made him so popular in the first place: his first-rate work with Percy Faith, Nelson Riddle, and Ray Conniff.

Lou Rawls reinvented himself with the material from these geniuses from Philadelphia while Bobby Hebb and Johnny Mathis were involved, but didn't stay in the game long enough to be rewarded as richly as they should have been through the Thom Bell/Kenny Gamble/Leon Huff magic.

This album has the elegance found on Elton John's "Mama Can't Buy You Love" without the drive; it is velvety, smooth and a perfect fit for Mathis' perfect voice. Urban adult contemporary as classy as the Delfonics. Very, very nice."



"Mathis Is..." contains the following tracks:

01. As Long as We're Together (5:02)
02. Lullaby of Love (3:45)
03. Loving You - Losing You (4:36)
04. I'll Make You Happy (5:00)
05. Heaven Must Have Made You Just For Me (4:10)
06. Hung Up In the Middle of Love (4:25)
07. World of Laughter (3:27)
08. I Don't Want To Say No (5:19)
09. Sweet Love of Mine (3:50)

All tracks were remastered from the original vinyl in November 2012 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.






The following credits/notes appear on the back cover of "Mathis Is...":

Arranged, conducted and produced by Thom Bell, except "Sweet Love of Mine" and "I'll Make You Happy" arranged by Tony Bell Sr.

All selections are Might Three Music, BMI, administered by Blackwood Music.

Guitars: Tony Bell Sr., Lee Ritenour (courtesy of Epic Records)

Keyboards: Thom Bell

Drums: Andrew Smith

Vibes: Gary Coleman, Bob Zimmitti

Congas: Ms. Bobbye Hall

Strings: Charles Veale and his string section

Horns: George Bohannon (courtesy of A&M / Horizon Records) and his horn section

Recording studios: Kaye-Smith Studios, Seattle, WA.; Western Recorders, L.A., CA.; Sound Labs, L.A., CA.

Chief Engineer: Don Murray

Assistant engineers: Buz Richman, Ron Gangnes, Winslow Koots, Linda Tyler, George Bell

Mixed by Kaye-Smith Studios, Seattle, WA.

Mastered at A&M, Hollywood, CA.

Mastering engineer: Bernie Grundman

Special thanks to: Don Renaldo - violin, Jack Faith - alto and bass flutes, Larry Gold - cello, Davis Barnett - viola, M.F.S.B. (courtesy of Philadelphia International Records)

(C) 1977 CBS Inc.

(P) 1977 Jon Mat Records, Inc.

Manufactured by Columbia Records / CBS Inc., 51 W. 52nd Street, New York, N.Y.

Photography: Norman Seeff

Design: Tom Steele, Nancy Donald




Advertisement for "Mathis Is..." published on the 12th March 1977 issue of Billboard magazine

This review of "Mathis Is..." is taken from Billboards Top Album Picks published in the 12th March 1977 issue:

Mathis' voice becomes the instrument again for Thom Bell's musical concept for chartdom: soft, sweet, non-abrasive but catchy orchestral charts which flow with the romanticism of Mathis' distinct voice. Orchestra and chorus are provided - with a new element of vibes adding fills - to this pleasant almost background kind of program. Mathis has given his record career 100% over to producer-arranger Bell who is credited with arranging, conducting and producing seven of the nine cuts. There's a formatted ring to Bell's concept for the Mathis vocal range: a midrange carriage for his vibrato and clear tenor, with strings and soft background voices adding strenght to Mathis' own gliding ability.

Best cuts: "As Long As We're Together", "loving You - Losing You", "Hung Up In the Middle of Love".

Dealers: A program of soft love ballad produces the kind of Mathis package he's noted for.



More information about "Mathis Is...", Johnny Mathis and Thom Bell is available here:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Mathis

http://www.themathischronicles.net/

http://www.thejohnnymathisarchives.com/

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/johnny-mathis-mn0000246885

http://www.soulfulkindamusic.net/jmathis.htm

http://www.funtrivia.com/en/Music/Mathis-Johnny-16607.html

http://hardtofindbeats.blogspot.com/2011/11/coming-up-johnny-mathis-im-coming-home.html

http://www.discogs.com/Johnny-Mathis-Mathis-Is/master/214812

http://www.allmusic.com/album/mathis-is-mw0000873333

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thom_Bell

http://www.soulwalking.co.uk/Thom%20Bell.html

http://www.soultracks.com/thom_bell.htm

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/thom-bell-mn0000639763

http://www.obscuresound.com/2007/09/soul-musics-genius-sculptor-thom-bell/

http://www.billboard.com/features/how-thom-bell-rang-up-the-hits-for-philly...

http://souljoneswords.blogspot.it/2012/01/betcha-by-golly-wow-exclusive-thom-bell.html

http://soulfuldetroit.com/archives/1157/4310.html?1061667139


If you have any other useful information about "Mathis Is..." - especially corrections and improvements to this post - 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!

8 comments:

  1. Dear Mr Candyman. WOW! I'm slightly out of time and have always adored Johnny Mathis's honey sweet voice. His 70s albums are the big gap in his accessible discography. THANK YOU for this post so that his great music can be enjoyed.

    I was completely blown away by the quality of your capture from vinyl sources and more to the point ... your loving recreation of the artwork is just stupendous to the point of pitching the artwork into CD form. My hat comes off to you.

    Erwin

    ReplyDelete
  2. You're welcome Erwin, many thanks for your kind words. I will work on more Mathis' vinyls in the next months, it will take some time but anyway... Stay tuned, best wishes!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you so much for making "Mathis Is" available again after all these decades. Your job of mastering the LP is nothimg short of amazing. I was always surprised that Columbia never released this album on CD either here in the states or domestic.
    It sounds as good, if not better, than when I put in on my turntable back in 1977. You did an awesome job.
    Thank you once again,
    Tom Novak

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Tom, many thanks for your comment. I will post more Mathis' LPs in the future, I don't have much time to dedicate to the blog, but anyway... keep the faith!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi,

    Thank you so much for this gold records. I dig the track "I don't wanna say no" like five years ago. Brillant ! Keep it up

    ReplyDelete
  6. NEW DOWNLOAD LINKS

    FLAC: https://dfiles.eu/files/p5qli71jw

    MP3: http://www.mediafire.com/?npq9gr5q9yvrwx9

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you for this greatful music!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Philipp, many thanks for all your comments!

      Delete

Be nice, keep it clean, stay on topic, no spam, thank you!!!

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