musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Posts tagged ‘Steve Miller’

The Soul of Johnny Mathis

“Who is that singing?” asked one of my customers last week, referring to a CD that I was playing in the shop at the time.

“Johnny Mathis,” I replied.

“No kidding? I used to listen to him when I was in high school. That was back in South Dakota,” said the man, who added that he’s 76-years-old. “How old is Johnny Mathis now? He must be about ninety!”

Well, not quite. Although Johnny Mathis has seemingly been around forever — he recorded his first song in 1957 — he won’t turn 80 until September next year. It’s reported by the Guinness Book of World Records that Mathis has sold over 350 million records worldwide, ranking him as the third most successful recording artist of the 20th century. While recording legends such as Elvis Presley and the Beatles are at least names known to children born this century, I expect only a miniscule percentage have even heard of Johnny Mathis, much less heard any of his songs.

mathis_essential 

Granted, Johnny Mathis doesn’t possess the “cool factor” of Elvis or the Beatles, but you can’t ignore the fact that he was an outstanding vocalist. Mathis has one of the effortlessly smooth voices that sound good no matter what type of material he is singing. Mathis often gets lumped into the “easy listening” category of vocalists but he’s recorded an impressive and versatile canon of music during his long career, ranging from pop and country to jazz and soul, not to mention copious movie themes and Broadway show tunes.

mathis_cominghome

The CD that I was playing in my shop was I’m Coming Home, an album recorded in 1973 that represented a “comeback” of sorts for Mathis, who after so much success in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, was finding the new decade a more difficult proposition as far as selling records. The album was produced by the legendary Thom Bell, and reflected Bell’s “Philly Soul” background. In the long line of Johnny Mathis albums, this one wasn’t a big seller and tends to get overlooked by many fans, but the lack of sales certainly wasn’t due to lack of quality. The album was chock-full of great tunes, most of the material written by Bell and his partner, Linda Creed, along with a couple of cover tunes. Mathis’s version of “I’m Stone in Love With You” (a big hit for the Stylistics) and “Life is a Song Worth Singing” (a solo hit for Teddy Pendergrass a few years later), along with the scintillating title track rank as some of the best songs that he ever recorded. I’m Coming Home is an album well worth checking out for fans of Mathis and those that enjoy early 1970s soul music.

Meanwhile, here are the other great and groovy CDs that I’ve been listening to repeatedly in recent weeks:

stevemiller_anthology 

Steve Miller Band – Anthology

Nick Heyward – From Monday to Sunday

Charles Earland – In Concert

Various Artists – Super Funk 2

Eddi Reader – Vagabond

 

memphis70 

Various Artists – Memphis 70

Paulo Nutino – Caustic Love

Richard X. Heyman – X

Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison

Jonathan Wilson – Fanfare

 

bridgewater_redearth 

Dee Dee Bridgewater – Red Earth: A Malian Journey

Daryl Hall & John Oates – Our Kind of Soul

Grant Hart – Good News for Modern Man

Robin Trower – State To State: Live Across America 1974-1980

Tommy Guerrero – A Little Bit of Somethin’

 

ec_wayout 

Various Artists – Eccentric Soul: The Way Out Label

Chicago – Live in Japan

White Denim – Corsicana Lemonade

The Ovations – One in a Million: The XL and Sounds of Memphis Recordings

The Merry-Go-Round – Listen, Listen: The Definite Collection

 

johnnyotis_boogie

Johnny Otis – That’s Your Last Boogie

Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison – Cheater’s Game

Parliament – The 12-Inch Collection and More

The Voices of East Harlem – Right On Be Free

Churches – The Bones of What You Believe

 

petergreen_splinter

Peter Green – Very Best of Peter Green and the Splinter Group

Eric Clapton & Friends – The Breeze: An Appreciation of J.J. Cale

Counting Crows – Somewhere Under Wonderland

Boogaloo Joe Jones – Legends of Acid Jazz

Joe Henderson – State of the Tenor: Live at the Village Vanguard

 

hawley_coles

Richard Hawley – Coles Corner

Various Artists – Hall of Fame Volume 3: More Rare and Unissued Gems from the Fame Vaults

Low – The Invisible Way

Jimmy Eat World – Damage

Paul Revere & the Raiders – Greatest Hits

 

brenda_tipoftongue

Brenda and the Tabulations – Right on the Tip of My Tongue

Arcade Fire – Reflektor

Gordon Lightfoot – A Painter Passing Through

Various Artists – Late Night Tales: Groove Armada

Willie Nile – Places I Have Never Been

 

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