Top Artists – Johnny Mathis

Johnny Mathis – Heavenly

More Pop and Jazz Vocal Albums

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  • A superb 360 Stereo pressing of Heavenly, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • This copy had all the Tubey Magical richness of the best coupled with the hardest thing to find on an old Columbia record: top end extension
  • Natural vocal reproduction is the sine qua non of a Johnny Mathis album – this pressing showed us just how good Columbia was back in 1959
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “The tempos are slow, the strings swell, and Mathis’ vulnerable tenor, dripping with tender emotion yet never missing a beat, soars and swoops over all. The best track, a revelation when it appeared on this album, is “Misty,” a treatment of Erroll Garner’s jazz piano classic with a newly added lyric by Johnny Burke.”

*NOTE: On side one, a mark on the edge makes 3 moderate pops at the beginning of Track 1, Heavenly.

Mobile Fidelity remastered Heavenly back in 1984 (I think), and if you own one and want to know what the album should have sounded like, this is your chance. Simply play this original LP. It will help you understand why your copy is still sitting on the shelf in mint condition to this day. When you remaster something for “audiophiles,” you run the risk of ruining what made the original album such a joy to listen to in the first place. MoFi never had a clue how to get the midrange on their records right, but Columbia was doing just fine twenty five years earlier. (more…)

Johnny Mathis – Johnny’s Newest Hits

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  • This early Columbia 360 pressing of Johnny’s Newest Hits (hey, they were new in 1963!) boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The best copies demonstrate the big-as-life early Columbia Sound at its best – full-bodied and warm yet clear, lively and dynamic
  • Both sides here are clean and present with wonderfully full strings and rich vocals
  • “…a collection of his ‘latest hits, the ones that brought him back to the singles charts.'”

Finding clean Johnny Mathis records from 50+ years ago, on Columbia, in stereo, is no easy task, which is why you see so few come to the site. We would be hard pressed to find one good title to shootout in a given year — there are simply too few original pressings that have survived the turntables of the day.

One tip we can offer any Mathis fans who may be out there: stick to the Columbia era if you want audiophile sound. His Mercury recordings, at least the half-dozen or so we’ve played, were godawful sounding. (more…)

Johnny Mathis – Open Fire, Two Guitars

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  • Mathis’ superb 1959 release finally arrives on the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish 
  • The All Tube recording chain at Columbia’s 30th Street studios allowed their engineers to make recordings practically unequaled in the decades since
  • An outrageous claim? Not really, because this very pressing backs up every thing we say
  • 4 1/2 stars: “On this album, Johnny Mathis creates an atmosphere of fireside intimacy by dispensing with his usual orchestral accompaniment so that the purity of his voice entices the listener’s full attention… The enduring popularity of Open Fire, Two Guitars is attributable in part to its hypnotic aura of closeness and confidentiality…”

*CONDITION NOTES:

  • On side one, a mark makes a mostly light sandpapery sound for 1-2 seconds, then, at the end of track 1, An Open Fire, there are 2 moderate pops.
  • On side two, a mark makes 6 light ticks one-quarter inch from the end of track 1, When I Fall In Love.

Finding clean Johnny Mathis records from 60 years ago, on Columbia, in stereo, is nearly impossible, which is why you see so few come to the site. We would be hard-pressed to find one good title to shootout in a given year. These days it’s taking three to five years to bring any of the classic Johnny Mathis albums to market. There are simply too few original pressings that have survived the turntables of the day, and their owners.

Which is why we are so pleased to present one of Johnny’s most beloved albums, and one that is quite a bit more musically involving than most. If you like Dream With Dean, and who doesn’t?, this Mathis album should be right up your alley.

One tip we can offer any Mathis fans who may be out there: stick to the Columbia era if you want audiophile sound. His Mercury recordings, at least the half-dozen or so we’ve played, were godawful sounding. (more…)

Johnny Mathis / Heavenly – Testing For Sibilance

More Pop and Jazz Vocal Albums

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All copies have sibilance, some more than others. The best copies have the least and make it sound much less objectionable.

We’ve known for decades how good a test sibilance is for tables, cartridges and arms. Sibilance is a bitch. The best pressings, with the most extension up top and the least amount of aggressive grit and grain mixed in with the music, played using the highest quality, most carefully dialed-in front ends, will keep sibilance to an acceptable minimum.

VTA, tracking weight, azimuth and anti-skate adjustments are critical to reducing the amount and the quality of the spit in your records.

Play around with your table set-up for a few hours and you will no doubt be able to reduce the severity of the sibilance on your favorite test and demo discs. Your other records will thank you for it too.

Especially your Beatles records. Many Beatles pressings are spitty, and the MoFi Beatles pressings are REALLY spitty. Of course MoFi fans never seem to notice this fact. A large collection of MoFi pressings and an owner with critical listening skills are rarely found together. You either have one or the other.

Vintage Reverb

If you don’t like at least some reverb on your vocals, Mathis’s albums are probably not for you. The standard recording approach for Male Vocals in the ’50s and ’60s was to add reverb to them. Sometimes it sounds right and sometimes it’s too much. For “too much” play some of Nat King Cole’s records from the era to hear what I mean. Try “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer” from 1963 if you don’t know where to start. Tony Bennett’s records have plenty of reverb as well.

Like any processing of the sound — compression, limiting, reverb, EQ, etc. — it can be used with taste and discretion and make the recording better, or it can be overdone and practically ruin everything. For our part we think Johnny Mathis’s recordings use reverb tastefully and correctly for the most part.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Heavenly 
Hello, Young Lovers 
A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening 
A Ride On A Rainbow 
More Than You Know 
Something I Dreamed Last Night

Side Two

Misty 
Stranger In Paradise 
Moonlight Becomes You 
They Say It’s Wonderful 
I’ll Be Easy To Find 
That’s All

AMG Review

Heavenly is Johnny Mathis’ most successful regular album release, exceeded in his catalog only by the compilation Johnny’s Greatest Hits and the seasonal Merry Christmas collection.

It’s not hard to understand why; this record is the epitome of Mathis’ approach to music. Standards like “More Than You Know” and “Moonlight Becomes You” are joined by show tunes like “Hello, Young Lovers” and “Stranger in Paradise” and a few more recent titles, such as the Burt Bacharach-composed title song and “That’s All.”

The tempos are slow, the strings swell, and Mathis’ vulnerable tenor, dripping with tender emotion yet never missing a beat, soars and swoops over all. The best track, a revelation when it appeared on this album, is “Misty,” a treatment of Erroll Garner’s jazz piano classic with a newly added lyric by Johnny Burke. Few could have carried off that lyric (go ahead, try and think of another male singer of the ’50s who could handle it), but it was perfect for Mathis, and the track was spun off for a single that became his biggest hit in two years and remains one of his signature songs.

Though still fairly early in his career, Mathis had done a lot of recording; Heavenly was actually his tenth album release in less than three years (counting two hits collections and the Christmas album). As a result, he was a recording veteran while still being fresh enough to give his performances real feeling.

It all came together on Heavenly, Mathis’ longest running number one album which spent more than five-and-a-half years in the charts.

Mercury

In 1963 Mathis joined Mercury and stayed with the label for three years during which he released eleven (!) albums.

We played quite a number of them and never heard a good one. Our advice: steer clear.

Background

November 9, 1959 
5 weeks mono

With the incredible success of Johnny’s Greatest Hits, Johnny Mathis became one of the premier recording artists in the country. His follow-up albums, Swing Softly, Open Fire, Two Guitars, and More Johnny’s Greatest Hits, all made the top 10, but it would take Heavenly to put Mathis back on top.

For this album—Mathis’s first recordings with arranger Glenn Osser—the crooner turned to a mix of show tunes, standards, and contemporary ballads. Many of the song selections were chosen because they had been performed by Mathis’s heroes. “I was influenced by Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Nat King Cole,” he says. “I would listen to their recordings and then go in and sing the same songs.” Such was the case with “A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening,” a tune performed by Fitzgerald and included in the film Higher and Higher, featuring a young Frank Sinatra.

“A Ride on a Rainbow” was from the NBC-TV show Ruggles of Red Gap. “I heard Judy Holiday, who performed it in the Broadway production, sing it.

And that was it for me,” says Mathis. “I fell in love with her. She was just a fabulous actress. I was a kid and I was very impressionable. Any time I heard anyone sing anything really well, I was influenced by the performance. Then I found out there was a beautiful song there. That’s one of my favorite songs of all time.”

“Misty,” Heavenly‘s best-known number, almost didn’t make it on the album. “We always had two or three extra songs,” Mathis says. “‘Misty’ was sort of relegated to that second or third spot. I was adamant that we record the song, because I had known Erroll Garner, the composer who wrote it, since I was 13 years old, and I had promised him that I was going to record the song. It would have been very embarrassing if we didn’t record it.”

Yet Columbia executives had other ideas. They wanted Mathis to record “Love Look Away” from Flower Drum Song. In the end, Mathis won out—”Misty” made it on Heavenly. He still remembers recording the track: “For the high note after the instrumental break, I had to walk across the room, because the engineers didn’t know how to make a crescendo. So I walked across the room and sang and then walked straight into the microphone, because I wanted it to sound like my voice was coming out of the oboe solo.”

Mathis would later appease the Columbia executives by recording “Love Look Away” in February 1961. The track appeared on the album I’ll Buy You a Star, which stalled at number 38.

Heavenly hit the summit in its eighth week on the chart. It was one of three Mathis titles in the top 10 at the time—More Johnny’s Greatest Hits held at number nine, while Johnny’s Greatest Hits dropped to number 10.

THE TOP FIVE
Week of November 9, 1959

1. Heavenly, Johnny Mathis
2. The Kingston Trio at Large, The Kingston Trio
3. Inside Shelley Berman, Shelley Berman
4. South Pacific, Soundtrack
5. From the Hungry I, The Kingston Trio

number1albums.com

Johnny Mathis – Warm

Side one is killer sounding, with the All Tube Analog sound that Columbia was famous for. The vinyl is fairly quiet as well for a ’50s Columbia 6 Eye pressing. I don’t know how many unscratched, lightly-played Mathis records you’ve ever seen, but in our experience they are few and far between — hence the fact that this is the first one to make it to the site.

AMG Review

Johnny Mathis released Warm, his sophomore album, in 1957. The album is an example of the classic romantic mood that made Mathis a superstar. The lush, romantic Warm includes “My One and Only Love” as well as “A Handful of Stars,” “By Myself,” “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face,” “Then I’ll Be Tired of You,” “I’m Glad There Is You,” and “While We’re Young.” A classic Mathis album with a title track that ranks, with “Misty,” as one of his best.