REVIEW: Johnny Mathis – Gold: A 50th Anniversary Celebration (Music Added!)

Gold: A 50th Anniversary Celebration, a new offering from Columbia/Legacy that’s being released very soon now, is part of a larger effort that’s been put together to commemorate the long and notable career of Johnny Mathis. It joins the already released A 50th Anniversary Christmas Celebration album, and both tie in with an upcoming PBS special.

The album is a compilation of recordings generated during the course of his long career, which means of course that the Johnny Mathis of 2006 will inevitably be compared to his youthful self in terms of quality of voice. It’s a valid approach since this is, after all, a 50 year commemorative album, and it gives fans a chance to revisit his sound in different eras.

jm1Not surprisingly, among the songs on this album are some that also appeared on Johnny’s Greatest Hits, which he released in 1958. In retrospect, that might have seemed a surprising step for so young an artist, but by then he had the hits to back it up. After being discovered and helped along by Mitch Miller (yes, the sing- along guy), who acted as producer for many of his early recordings, he had generated a number of best-sellers by that time. That 1958 album is said to have been the first “greatest hits” collection ever generated by any artist, and it remained on the Billboard charts for a record 490 weeks.

Among those early hits were “Chances Are”, “It’s Not For Me To Say” and “Wonderful, Wonderful”, and those songs and others from that same era are part of this new 50th Anniversary album. These recordings from the late 1950s, in most cases backed by Ray Coniff and his orchestra (and in all cases sung by Johnny in his full, youthful, vibrant voice) will reacquaint you with many of those tunes and how he warbled them. His distinctive vibrato and styling are impossible to mistake for anyone else.

I found it a little surprising that the first dozen or so songs were all from the late 1950s, and then the rest of the songs on the album are from 1986 or later — a gap of over 25 years. Mathis was active during that period, but was shifting genres and looking for new avenues. He also began doing a number of duets, including one that became a big hit, “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late”, with Deniece Williams. None of that period is covered on this album. Instead, it picks up again with an older Mathis, starting with “True Love”, where he’s backed up by Henry Mancini, and continuing on through his collaboration with Sergio Mendes, “So Many Stars”, both recorded in the late 1980s. His voice is still very familiar and sounds pretty good, although a little more subdued than the younger version. That’s followed by Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood”, recorded in 1990, and I had a difficult time evaluating the vocal on this, because I didn’t listen to it for very long. Maybe that seems unfair, but this tune has always been one of my favorites as an instrumental, and I just cringed when I heard him sing it. (Although according to Johnny’s album notes, Ellington offered the song to him.)

The last two cuts on the album are something a little different. On “The Shadow Of Your Smile”, recorded just this year, “smooth jazz” reigns supreme as Johnny is accompanied by Dave Koz on sax and Chris Botti on trumpet, and both have a number of long and extensive solos that cut back on Johnny’s portion of the song. Still, though, it all works pretty well and is a pleasant listen.

The album closes with Johnny’s duet with Ray Charles on “Over The Rainbow”, and this one just didn’t work in my opinion. I felt that the styles of the two singers are too different for them to mesh. It was recorded a couple of years back and according to Johnny’s album notes they did actually sit side by and side and record this, so it wasn’t one of those virtual things that are often put together. (And he sounded surprised that Ray was actually there, which I found curious.)

Overall, a lot of good listening to be found on this new release.

Johnny Mathis – Gold: A 50th Anniversary Celebration

Buy the album


30 thoughts on “REVIEW: Johnny Mathis – Gold: A 50th Anniversary Celebration (Music Added!)

  1. On the TV Special “Johnny Mathis A 50th Anniversary Celebration”” they ran a clip from a 1978 Johnny Carson Tonight Show in which Mr. Mathis sang a gorgeous version of “Little
    Boy Blue”(At least I think that’s the name of the song). I have not been able to find this
    on any CD and hoped someone here would know how I could find it if it exists. Thanks
    in advance. Bill Schoenbeck


    1. You can find it on You Tube. It is absolutely my favorite and I understand, he likes it too. He commented it was one of his favorites in a small venue concert.


  2. Hmmm…I don’t know, Bill. I did a search thru Google, Allmusic and the Wiki and none seem to list that song, but I seem to remember it too. I also checked iTunes and the Wal-mart download site, but nothing.

    Anybody else know?


  3. I did a little research, found the song’s lyrics and I don’t see anything about “Little Boy Blue”. Is there more than one song with this title? This one is from the 1970 movie of the same name, and was sung by Peggy Lee, but Streisand appears to be mentioned more in Google. Find some vague references to it with Mathis, but…


  4. Johnny Mathis sang “Pieces of Dreams” on the show, fantastic, but apparently never recorded it – is there a recording available of music from Carson’s shows?


  5. Perot, am not sure which song you mean. I don’t recall any like that when reviewing CD. Or are you talking about the TV special?
    Thanks, James, for the info on Pieces Of Dreams!


  6. ‘Pieces of Dreams’…on Long & Winding Road LP in UK. Just listened to it again last night. In concert, JM version was always stunning, dramatic and emotional with one of the longest held notes at the end of any piece. Always ‘did it’ for me! On the L&WR LP though, the songs fades at the end and does not have the emotional clout of as live version. I really want to see the carson show version.


  7. I’m with Perot – just saw Johnny in concert and he sang a song with the chorus of “Hold back, hold back, let go…” Amazing song. Anyone know if this can be found on a CD?


  8. The title of the song is actually “Little Boy Lost (Pieces of Dreams)”. In other words, “Pieces of Dreams is the subtitle or alternate title. The music was composed by Michel Legrand and the lryics were written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman for the 1970 film, “Pieces of Dreams”, starring Robert Forster, Lauren Hutton and Will Geer. Marilyn Bergman refers to the song simply as “Little Boy Lost” in her November, 1996 guest appearance at the ASCAP Extended Songwriters’ Workshop. The lyrics are as follows:

    Little boy lost,
    in search of little boy found,
    you go on wondering, wandering,
    stumbling, tumbling round, round.
    When will you find
    what’s on the tip of your mind?
    Why are you blind
    to all you ever were, never were,
    really are, nearly are?
    Little boy false,
    in search of little buy true,
    will you be ever done traveling,
    always unraveling, you, you?
    Running away
    could leave you farther astray.
    And as for fishing in streams
    for pieces of dreams;
    those pieces will never fit.
    What is the sense of it?
    Little boy blue,
    don’t let your sheep roam.
    It’s time, come blow your horn,
    meet the morn,
    look and see,
    can you be far from home?


  9. See for the song that had “Hold Back” as the chorus. Song’s actual title is “Let Go” and it appears on the DVD (video) version of “Johnny Mathis Gold: A 50th Anniversary Celebration” but apparently does not appear on any CD that Mathis has recorded.


  10. In the begining of the special they flash back to 1975 when Johnny is sitting on a wooden fence singing a song…Does anyone know the name of that song???


  11. Gary,
    thanks! I’d been trying to find that for about twenty years. i saw johnny sing it on carson’s show and it was the most incredible performance i’d ever seen. i love this!



  12. TO: Bill Schoenbeck I have the mp3 audio file if you want me to send it to you. I’ve also uploaded it on a video on the youtube web site. Just do a search on Johnny Mathis – Pieces of Dreams, click on my name stillgotit01 and send me a youtube mail giving me your email address and I’ll use mine and send you the mp3 ok?


  13. I also have been trying to find Johnny Mathis’ song, Little Boy Lost, (Pieces of Dreams) that was performed on the Carson show.
    The utube performance has been deleted.
    Is the Johnny Carson performance anywhere else?
    If there was or is a more beautiful voice than Johnny Mathis, I have yet to hear it.


  14. I’m trying desperattttttttlllllyyyyyy to find a d/l for PURE IMAGINATION… of my favs….that and….LET GO I’d like to have the audio of both


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