Like everyone…

I tend to trundle down the comfortable and familiar pathways of my music catalog … often listening to the same artists and album content. Or alternatively, I can get enraptured with the new toys in the standards toy box — like Nikki Yanofsky and Jonny Blu — to the exclusion of some great artists and material.

Last week I shook myself out of those “listening traps” while rummaging around the standards catalog panning for crossover artists for the Top Five list. It was a fun and fruitful experience as I rediscovered some great artists that have been languishing in the lesser traveled sections of my music library.

Maybe the most prolific and notable of which is Johnny Mathis. Where have I been keeping Johnny Mathis, and how could I have been so remiss?

Like Tony Bennett, Johnny has been plying the standards for several decades — I mean he recorded the cornerstone classics “Wonderful, Wonderful” and “It’s Not For Me To Say” in 1956 and pushed out his first of many #1 hits with “Chances Are” the year I was born … and I’m freaking fifty -pfrumph years old!

Don’t get “Misty” about it …  just go listen to him!

I actually toyed with Johnny as a crossover artist for the Top Five post last week. The guy was an Olympic class track athlete before breaking out as a vocal star. But he decided very early to veer toward a music career (thank you Johnny) so I abandoned him as a true crossover player.

But not before I listened to a boatload of Johnny Mathis’ work … geez, listening to the shear number of giant hits and classics JM has brought to the American Songbook made me feel guilty for not folding him into my playlists more often.

Johnny is absolutely an A-list player that deserves a regular appearance in your playlist — don’t fall prey to the same rut listening affliction I’ve been guilty of! Load up some Mathis and enjoy one of the living vocal standards legends.

If you’re new to JM or need a great album to limber up the Mathis section of your catalog, I like his 1998 release Johnny Mathis: The Ultimate Hits Collection (pretty much only available as a digital download these days). It’s just a tip of the iceberg selection from the his large catalog but a great starting place with 18 classic Mathis tracks that are very well produced.

“Misty”, “Chances Are”, “Wonderful, Wonderful”, “It’s Not For Me To Say” … all the songs that resonate Johnny’s unique lilting vocal style are there. Broadway hits like “Maria”, classics like “Stardust” and maybe my favorite version of “Stranger in Paradise” … I know, how can anyone top Tony B with “Stranger” but Johnny really nails that song and I love his rendition.

If you want to go “all in” on Johnny Mathis, hunt down the exhaustive album, A Certain Smile — a 51 track career compendium that more completely covers the bet. At least be sure to add the Mathis mandatory “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” off this album as a digital download for your library.

Johnny has taught me a lesson. I learned that I need to regularly exercise all of my standards library … there’s great stuff out there I’ve missed for too long. Thanks Johnny … and happy belated birthday (last Friday 9/30)!

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