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A Night to Remember

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Album Review

For 50 years, Johnny Mathis has wrapped his velvet voice around some of the best light pop arrangements in music — whether it's Mitch Miller in 1958 or Thom Bell in 1977 or Walter Afanasieff in 2008. The 2008 edition, captured on A Night to Remember, may provoke few surprises — the guests are frequent, the arrangements ineffably slick, the voice smooth yet heart-tugging — but it's a fine latter-day album for Mathis, who spent the 2000s recording more Christmas albums (two) than non-Christmas albums (one). It's also his first straight-ahead adult contemporary record in a decade. Mathis sounds fantastic for a septuagenarian, and his duets (whether with singer or instrumentalist) prove his talents with the classic warm duet. The material he chooses is excellent as well; most of the songs strike the proper balance between the type of song everyone's heard but never needs to again, and the ones that should be heard more but might take more listens to carry. As well, it's a golden opportunity for producer/arranger Walter Afanasieff. Since the early '80s, Afanasieff has helmed most of the best records by many artists who have come later and courted the same audience as Mathis — Michael Bolton, Celine Dion, Luther Vandross, Mariah Carey, and Kenny G, to name a few. He definitely saved his best for this date, a landmark in his career (though it comes too late in Mathis' career to outsell some of Afanasieff's classics). Of course, there's never a moment that's not slick and polished — after all, not one but two smooth jazz saxophonists (Kenny G and Dave Koz) are featured on duets — but the playing and textures from most of the musicians involved are genuinely inspiring.


Born: September 30, 1935 in Gilmer, TX

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

One of the last and most popular in a long line of traditional male vocalists who emerged before the rock-dominated 1960s, Johnny Mathis concentrated on romantic readings of jazz and pop standards for the ever-shrinking adult contemporary audience of the '60s and '70s. Though he debuted with a flurry of singles chart activity, Mathis later made it big in the album market, where a dozen of his LPs hit gold or platinum and over 60 made the charts. While he originally concentrated on theme-oriented...
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