Classic Christmas: Johnny Mathis' Merry Christmas
Over the holidays, we're looking back at some classic Christmas albums taking some track by track and just digging on others.
On the popular '70s and '80s sitcom The Jeffersons whenever George wanted to get Weezie in the mood, all he had to do was mimic the voice of Johnny Mathis while singing in her ear. It did it for her every time and we're pretty sure she wasn't alone. There is smooth and then there's Johnny Mathis.
In the '50s and '60s, Mathis was the clean cut alternative to rock and roll despite being mixed race, which was even more complicated than being black in those days. Mathis turned in soft, unoffensive tunes with his silky tenor warble and all the girls swooned. Today, Mathis is best known for his Christmas music. He's made five holiday-themed records, but the best this native Texan turned out is still his first, Merry Christmas.
While none of Mathis' versions of classic Christmas songs may be as well known as, say, Nat King Cole's "A Christmas Song," virtually everyone hears at least one Mathis song every year at the holidays.
On this record, "Winter Wonderland" was the single that charted -- the album reached number three -- and, like the other songs on the record, it's a straight reading of the holiday classic. We particularly enjoy his rendition of "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear."
The record was arranged by Percy Faith and performed by his orchestra. At a time when parents were terrified at the prospect of this new fangled rock and roll music and the influence it had on their children, Mathis was a safe alternative. In what what must have been a subtle stab at his contemporary, a rather tepid version of the Elvis classic "Blue Christmas" even made its way onto the record.
This album is the epitome of the soft and smooth Christmas music you might imagine sideburn-sporting dudes in turtle necks playing for their ladies in disco era to put them in the mood. In our mind, there's a bear skin rug on the floor and freshly opened bottle of chianti on the bar. Oh, yeah.
Check out previous classic Christmas album recaps:
Andy Williams - The Andy Williams Christmas Album
Phil Spector - A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records
Frank Sinatra - A Jolly Christmas fro Frank Sinatra
The Carpenters - Christmas Portrait
Vince Guaraldi Trio - A Charlie Brown Christmas
George Winston - December
Various Artists - A Very Special Christmas
Mel Torme - Christmas Songs