Saturday, November 12, 2011

Johnny's Greatest Hits, by Johnny Mathis (March, 1958)

Dad's Take:

It's kind of cheating to include greatest hits records in a list of classic albums, but there are several on our list, so there you go. But I suppose when the greatest hits album not only topped the charts but stayed on the charts for two and half months short of 500 weeks, a Billboard record until it was bested by Pink Floyd's 1973 Dark Side Of The Moon, the album definitely qualifies as a classic.

The performances on this album are as sweet as honey. Whether the classic Mathis anthem, "Chances Are," or standards like "When Sunny Gets Blue" or the gorgeous "Wonderful! Wonderful!," Mathis is as close to perfect as you're going to get. He was perhaps the best old-school balladeer of the rock and roll age. Not bad for a Texas kid who grew up in San Francisco and very nearly made the Olympic track team.

Song after song, this album is full of slow dancing favorites. If 1958 was anything like 1978 (and I suspect it wasn't all that different), then this album was put on late at night, instantly turning teen dance parties into teen make-out parties.

Nearly every song that came on made me think, "Oh yeah! I know that one." I don't always recognize the titles, but I know most of the songs. I'd forgotten about great tunes like "It's Not For Me To Say." So, I might ding this one a bit for being a Greatest Hits record instead of showcasing what Mathis could do on a complete album, but that doesn't change the fact that this is a great record of mellow love songs, sung by one of the classic voices of popular music. Mathis occasionally tips over the line into sappiness, but most of the time he's just plain romantic.

One can only wonder how much this record contributed to the last few years of the baby boom.

Brad's Take:

Before listening to this, I'd heart the name Johnny Mathis here and there, but I don't know if I ever knowingly listened to any of his music.

After listening to the whole album, I re-discovered a couple songs that I have heard once or twice before, such as "Wonderful! Wonderful!"

If Frank Sinatra's In The Wee Small Hours was a post-break up album, Johnny Mathis' Johnny's Greatest Hits could have been the pre-break up album. All the songs are corny, but every song is sung with all of Johnny's full love stricken heart. (That was pretty corny too.) The lyrics aren't that corny though. They are love songs, but they're not overly cheesy. It's a grilled cheese sandwich, but the cheese doesn't melt over the edges. You know what I mean...

I'm excited to finally start a Johnny Mathis collection. I really like this greatest hits record and I'm very interested in hearing more from Johnny Mathis' ginormous back catalog.


Scott said...

Grilled cheese sandwich. Good one, Brad.

Brad said...

Haha thanks!

justjack said...

Hey Scott, don't forget Johnny sang the theme song to Family Ties.