Johnny Mathis’ association with Columbia Records began in 1956, which makes it one of the longest relationships between artist and label in popular music. But it’s often overlooked that Mathis departed Columbia for a brief period at rival Mercury Records, right as some young upstarts from across the pond were changing the face of music forever. (Keep in mind that Mathis himself wasn’t even 30 when he made the shift!) During a prolific three years (1963-1966) at Mercury, Mathis recorded eleven albums, including one Christmas collection and one Broadway-themed set that never saw release. Despite the singer’s endurance, none of these Mercury albums have ever seen compact disc release in its original form; only the Christmas album has been released on CD, and even then under a different title and with some songs dropped. Real Gone Music is rectifying this longtime wrong with its new reissue program of Mathis’ underrated work for Mercury Records. The series of two-fers begins on August 28 with the release of 1964’s Tender is the Night paired with the same year’s The Wonderful World of Make-Believe, plus the unreleased 1965 Broadway joined with that year’s Love Is Everything. The Mathis releases will join Real Gone’s other vintage titles due in August from Gary Lewis and the Playboys, David Cassidy and The Grateful Dead.
By 1963, Mathis had notched some eighteen Top 40 hits for Columbia and over fifteen albums that emphasized his romantic side. After a jazz-leaning debut in 1956, the label steered the young singer towards lush balladry, with productions and arrangements from Percy Faith, Ray Conniff, Nelson Riddle, Glenn Osser, Don Costa and Ralph Burns. He even returned to a jazz format with 1959’s Open Fire, Two Guitars, backed just by the guitars of Al Caiola and Tony Mottola plus an upright bass played by Frank Carroll and Milt Hinton. But Mathis’ versatile voice could handle swingers (see the Burns and Riddle sets), too, and he had long displayed an affinity with the wide-ranging material from the Hollywood and Broadway songbooks. At Mercury, he tackled both classics and contemporary songs.
We have full details, track listings with discographical annotation, and pre-order links after the jump!
For Tender is the Night, the lead-off album of Real Gone’s first two-fer, Mathis teamed once again with Don Costa, perhaps best-known for his long association with Frank Sinatra. Film songs (“April Love” from the movie of the same name, “Call Me Irresponsible” from Papa’s Delicate Condition, “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” from Disney’s Cinderella) joined Broadway showtunes (“Somewhere” from West Side Story, “Where is Love” from Oliver!) on this resplendent collection. Tender is the Night was Mathis’ 23rd consecutive charting album, reaching No. 13. Arranged and supervised by Allyn Ferguson, and conducted by Jack Feierman, The Wonderful World of Make-Believe followed its predecessor’s basic blueprint. The Disney catalogue was tapped again for “Alice in Wonderland” from the 1951 animated film, and the Academy Award-winning “When You Wish Upon a Star” from Pinocchio. From the stage came Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s “Camelot,” then just a few years old, and “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” from Harry Carroll and Joseph McCarthy’s 1918 musical Oh, Look!. Mathis even gave Bobby Darin a run for his money with a winning rendition of the Charles Trenet-penned “Beyond the Sea.”
An all-Broadway album must have seemed a natural, but 1965’s Broadway was ultimately shelved. Two songs from the album belatedly appeared on Legacy’s 1997 The Global Masters compilation of 24 Mercury-era tracks, but more tracks from the sessions have been unearthed, and will premiere here from Real Gone. Mathis tapped both then-recent Broadway hits (Jerry Herman’s “Hello, Dolly!”) and songs that were already standards (Rodgers and Hart’s “Manhattan”). Harold Arlen and E.Y. “Yip” Harburg’s “Ain’t It De Truth,” written for the film version of Cabin in the Sky but recycled for the musical Jamaica, made an appearance, along with Cole Porter’s “Get Out of Town” from Leave It To Me! The Broadway album will be coupled with Love Is Everything. That album reunited Mathis with his frequent Columbia collaborator, arranger Glenn Osser. Although Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s “Go Away, Little Girl” appears on the set, it’s generally drawn from the same well of Broadway and Hollywood tunes, including Jerome Kern and Ira Gershwin’s “Long Ago and Far Away” (from the 1944 film Cover Girl) and Jule Styne and Bob Merrill’s “People” from 1964’s Funny Girl.
This is Love and Olé, both with Allyn Ferguson, arrived before Love is Everything, and those will be addressed later by Real Gone. Olé was a great departure for Mathis, as he performed a number of Latin American songs in their original language. These weren’t just much-covered songs from the bossa nova boom (although Mathis did record “Manha de Carneval”) but also light classical pieces from the likes of Heitor Villa-Lobos and even Desi Arnaz’ signature “Babalu.” Indeed, there’s plenty coming in this series.
Mathis may have been disappointed that, despite his fine work at Mercury, only the 1966 LP The Shadow of Your Smile hit the Top 10. In 1967, he returned to his old stomping grounds at Columbia, and he’s remained with the label to the present day. Columbia steered him towards so-called “middle of the road” covers of popular songs, and he scored an impressive No. 1 duet with Deniece Williams in 1977, “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late.” Mathis also embarked on adventurous collaborations with Thom Bell of Spinners and Stylistics fame, and even disco legends CHIC, on an album that still remains unreleased except for a few songs.
As the singer still has a number of LPs never released on CD, hopefully the vault doors are now open to the Real Gone label. Connoisseurs of great vocal pop won’t want to miss Tender is the Night/The Wonderful World of Make-Believe and Broadway/Love Is Everything. Each release has been newly remastered at Battery Studios in New York, complete with original art and new liner notes based on an exclusive interview of Johnny by noted writer James Ritz. Both titles arrive from Real Gone Music, in association with Sony Music Entertainment, on August 28.
Johnny Mathis, Tender is the Night/The Wonderful World of Make-Believe (Real Gone Music, 2012)
- Tender is the Night
- No Strings
- I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby
- April Love
- Call Me Irresponsible
- A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes
- A Ship Without a Sail
- Forget Me Not
- Where is Love?
- Tomorrow Song
- I’m Always Chasing Rainbows
- House of Flowers
- Beyond the Sea
- Sky Full of Rainbows
- Sands of Time
- Alice in Wonderland
- Dream, Dream, Dream
- The Wonderful World of Make-Believe
- When You Wish Upon a Star
- Beyond the Blue Horizon
Tracks 1-12 from Tender is the Night, Mercury LP 20890, 1964
Tracks 13-24 from The Wonderful World of Make-Believe, Mercury LP 20913, 1964
Johnny Mathis, Love is Everything/Broadway (Real Gone Music, 2012)
- Never Let Me Go
- A Thousand Blue Bubbles
- Love is Everything
- Young and Foolish
- An Affair to Remember
- Come Ride the Wind with Me
- Go Away, Little Girl
- Dancing in the Dark
- Long Ago and Far Away
- This is All I Ask
- One More Mountain
- Ain’t It De Truth
- Get Out of Town
- Hello, Dolly!
- Comes Once in a Lifetime
- You’d Better Love Me
- Don’t Rain on My Parade
- Of Thee I Sing
- When I’m Not Near the Girl I Love
- Ridin’ High
- She Loves Me
Tracks 1-12 from Love is Everything, Mercury LP 20991, 1965
Tracks 13-24 scheduled for Broadway, unreleased, rec. 1965
Tracks 16 & 17 previously released on The Global Masters, Columbia/Legacy CD C2K 64894, 1997