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Customer Review

44 of 54 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This is no celebration, December 3, 2006
This review is from: Johnny Mathis Gold: A 50th Anniversary Celebration (Audio CD)
This should have been every bit a 4CD set for the audio alone, and yet Mathis is limited to 18 songs? For someone like me, who has followed him for the last 22 years, and who has nearly every digitized studio CD put out for him, this particular collection is a maddening travesty. This should have been Johnny Mathis' year of glory. He should have had a Kennedy Center honor, and he should have had a comprehensive "thank you" from the industry for his 50-year career, at least 4 CDs plus video tracks, but apparently 50 years in any field is so commonplace it doesn't mean anything anymore. I'm not happy with what they've done in the way of "celebrating" Johnny Mathis, not at all.

This so-called "50th Anniversary Celebration" is no celebration, no "thank you" to Johnny Mathis for his artistry and longevity. It's nothing more than a plain old compilation like Johnny's Greatest Hits or the Ultimate Hits Collection. One could look at this as being a reasonable selection of songs from 1957 on, except that there's a huge problem. It seems to skip the 70s and most of the 80s and 90s altogether, and during that period there were some damn fine recordings produced by Thom Bell, Robert Mersey, Johnny Bristol, and Phil Ramone to name a few. It ignores all the ones that have yet to be released. This would have been the perfect time to bring them out. It all comes off as a slapdash effort to me, and I really don't care why it ended up being the way it ended up being. It should have been so much MORE.

So obviously, this wasn't designed for someone like me. Who then buys these compilations? Through my website, I learned long ago that there are people who don't know a lot about Johnny Mathis and want to learn about him without being chastised for asking. Buying this set MAY be a useful introduction to Mathis, but even there, I believe there are better, more comprehensive collections, that are less expensive now, as well, and these are available both by download as well as by CD. Johnny's Personal Collection 4CD boxed set, from the nineties, does a far better job of reviewing the last 50 years than this set does, which has nothing special to distinguish it even from the other compilations still available by download and CD.

Unless, of course, one considers the reflections of Mr. Mathis, himself, on the 18 cuts that supposedly sum up his 50 year career. Someone read to me over the phone his interesting and poignant running commentary, included in the CD booklet but not available by download, about each of the 18 songs included on the compilation, written in a similar style as for the Personal Collection boxed set. He gives a heartfelt thanks to George Avakian and even former manager Helen Noga and asks, "what did they see in me?" He even explains what happened with the infamous album of Brazilian songs produced by Sergio Mendes, recorded before the Mathis Sings Ellington project.

A product of that recording session, "So Many Stars", played for me over the phone, while over 15 years old, still sounds fresh, as if it were recorded yesterday. The one other new song, "The Shadow of Your Smile" features Dave Koz and Chris Botti and is exquisite, is reminiscent of the Mercury Records recording only sultrier, and is available by download right now if you don't want to buy this recording or wait for Koz's album, "At the Movies," to come out at the end of January. For me, Koz's album will be worth it just for having Anita Baker singing again on it, as well as Barry Manilow and Donna Summer! Plus, it's produced by Phil Ramone, who produced Mathis' lovely "All About Love" album from - yikes - over 10 years ago.

Are Mathis' thoughts the dealmaker for me? Probably not. As much as I'd like to have them, I can wait until a few more show up in the used section or eBay if I were to consider buying. Would someone other than me consider this worth buying? Of course. Someone who wants to read the booklet, someone who would rather not pay a dollar for the download of one of the new songs, someone who would rather not buy another artist's CD, or, someone who had managed to get her name in the credits and needs something to crow about, I guess. But practically speaking, it would be kind of a waste for someone who downloads music to their iPods or iTunes and makes their own CDs. Will this make a good gift for Grandma or Grandpa? Possibly, if there's somebody out there who likes Johnny Mathis, never got Johnny's Greatest Hits on CD, doesn't know he's still alive, doesn't have anything digitally available for him, would like to read what he says in the booklet, and won't care how old the pictures are on the cover.

Compilations are weird phenomena, and it seems there are people who will buy them regardless, as if the idea is to just throw away the Ultimate Hits Collection from eight years ago in favor of this one. I'm not one of those people. I didn't even touch that last compilation. Besides content, for Johnny Mathis' 50th Anniversary, I wanted to see RESPECT for a 50-year body of work, and this collection just doesn't do it for me, because I don't believe it does it for him. Not the way it should have been done. So unless I get this as a gift, I'm not going to go out of my way to get it.

A 50-year career such as that of Johnny Mathis needs more than Johnny's Greatest Hits and a couple of carrots to dangle made to look as if it were something really special. In this age when the CD isn't even relevant anymore, it's just not feasible, and it's just not right. In my opinion, if either one of these 50th CDs weren't piggybacked with the concert video, just like the previous compilation, the Ultimate Hits Collection, was piggybacked to Live By Request, they wouldn't get many bites on this one. The idea that this is the best that his people and his label could come up with for one of the last of the great singers just about breaks my heart. The name of Johnny Mathis used to stand for something; his record company apparently has little respect for that. In the meantime, Tony Bennett just keeps going and going...
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Comments

Tracked by 1 customer

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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 18, 2006 6:45:39 PM PST
Agie says:
I appreciate your truthful insight about this project. I agree that his music company has terribly failed him. If enough of his fans felt this way, maybe the output wouldn't be so very poor.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 19, 2007 3:19:07 PM PST
Thanks! I appreciate that.

Posted on May 1, 2007 1:52:15 PM PDT
T. Green says:
I totally agree! I have been a fan for nearly that long, too. My biggest disappointment was that the song "Brazil" from his TV special was not included. This particular song really showcased his voice and was absolutely thrilling with the orchestratons---and it was not included! How sad! I will not buying this as I have all of the songs on other CD's.

Posted on Aug 3, 2007 8:18:53 PM PDT
You are truly a fan and I couldn't agree with you more. Is it possible there is a "complte box set" like Reprise did with Mr. Sinatra. One can only hope,

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 7, 2007 8:25:14 PM PDT
A. McIntyre says:
The simple reason that Tony Bennett and the late Rosie Clooney kept going on and on is because they put new albums out nearly every years and included new material in the live performances. I am also a big Johnny Mathis fan, but at some point he let Bennett, Clooney, Peggy Lee et al. take over the spot he would have normally held in the Great Amweican Song Book.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 6, 2008 4:46:37 PM PDT
FAS1 says:
I agree, too---especially with Mr. Brimmer's comment. Mr. Mathis' career began in the mid-50's and soared for the next twenty. I'm quite sure if you study Johnny's record sales from the mid-50's to the mid-70's, you would wonder why Columbia/Legacy has NEVER issued a comprehensive compilation box set in Johnny's honor. I've heard it said many times that the record industry is a whore's business. Maybe that's why Mr. Sinatra started his own record company in late 1960!!! That was a brilliant move!!!

Posted on Jun 24, 2009 8:45:48 AM PDT
Well, Johnny did get a 4-cd box set from Sony several years prior to this "50th Anniversary" collection, though truth be told I don't like the sound quality on that set very much as it's a bit bass shy and some songs have been remixed.

Posted on Dec 14, 2009 7:36:29 AM PST
K. Ward says:
Sounds like you need to just buy his every album and quit being a whiney "" I didnt get all my favorite songs"" ass.

Posted on Dec 25, 2012 5:01:27 AM PST
I appreciate the reviewers passionate remarks, and she makes many good points. But -- at the end of the day -- I think it is entirely unjustified to dump all of this frustration onto what is a great and modestly priced collection. To love Johnny Mathis and then stick a two-star review on a strong selection of his great songs just because it is not a ~~large enough~~ collection...to me, this is to lose a sense of proportion. This is especially true in this MP3 era when we can make a few adjustments for a modest cost.

Posted on Jul 26, 2014 5:27:36 PM PDT
CANARY LOVER says:
Amen. IGG!
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