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I'll Buy You a Star

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Album Review

The voice of Johnny Mathis is always distinctive and compelling but when blended with Nelson Riddle, whose magic made recordings by Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, and so many others even more special, the results are extraordinary. I'll Buy You a Star puts Mathis' voice in a beautiful setting, something Linda Ronstadt would emulate years later on her three discs with the legendary conductor. After Mathis hit with Glenn Osser's orchestration of "Starbright" in 1960, he seemed to go on a "star" kick on this release a year later, and that's OK. "I'll Buy You a Star" and "Stairway to the Stars" lead off this classic with additional cosmic themes on side two, the singer indulging astrology in "Sudden Love" and talking about love being "heavenly" in "Warm and Willing." The genius of this collection, though, is that there is a smooth continuity of styles, a departure from the usual Mathis formula which would have the singer switching musical genres on many of his albums with only his voice to keep things consistent. Where another '60s LP, So Nice, would blend current Top 40 and show tunes, a combination carried over to Mathis' projects in the '70s, Riddle works on the same level, equally talented and matching Johnny, their skills weaving a texture that creates a superior work of art — and one without the necessity of a Top 40 hit, the arena where this artist reigned from 1957 to 1963. "The Best Is Yet to Come" is sassy and smart, the horns fitting nicely under the singer's perfect vocal instrument. "Smile" is elegance suspended in space — the instrumentation and voice swimming together, wrapped in a warm production. Sony re-released this music on compact disc in 1996 with four additional tracks conducted by Riddle: "Jenny," "Wasn't the Summer Short?," "Wherever You Are It's Spring," and "Should I Wait (Or Should I Run to Her)." It's a fabulous set of recordings for those who appreciate music as art.


Born: 30 September 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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I'll Buy You a Star, Johnny Mathis
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