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Johnny Mathis’ “Magic” Conjured By Funky Town Grooves On New Reissues

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Mathis - You Light and MagicFunky Town Grooves is kicking off January with some magic…some Mathis magic, to be precise.  The label is tapping three albums from legendary vocalist Johnny Mathis for CD release, one of which will be making its debut in the format. On January 27, FTG will reissue 1978’s You Light Up My Life and 1979’s new-to-CD Mathis Magic on one two-for-one disc, while 1979’s The Best Days of My Life will receive standalone release as an expanded edition.

You Light Up My Life was the prolific artist’s first album of 1978 following a busy 1977 in which he released both Mathis Is, his second, exhilarating collaboration with Philly soul architect Thom Bell, and Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, a collection produced by Jack Gold and arranged by Gene Page.  You Light Up My Life again teamed Mathis with Gold and Page.  It propelled Mathis back into the Top 10 of the Billboard Top LPs and Tapes chart (now the Billboard 200) for the first time since 1966, driven by his No. 1 smash duet with Deniece Williams, “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late.”  In addition to that chart-topper, the album also features a duet with Williams on the Bee Gees-penned “Emotion” and a wide range of silky solo tracks including the Bee Gees hit “How Deep is Your Love,” Charlie Smalls’ Wiz showstopper “If You Believe,” Rodgers and Hart’s standard “Where or When,” and the Oscar- and Grammy-winning title song written by Joe Brooks.   That’s What Friends are For, an entire album of duets with Williams, followed next for Mathis, scoring a Top 20 Pop berth later in 1978.

After the jump: details on The Best Days of My Life and Mathis Magic, plus track listings and pre-order links for both CDs!

Mathis - Best Days of My LifeNext came The Best Days of My Life, coming in an expanded edition from FTG.  Working once more with Jack Gold and Gene Page, Mathis immersed himself in the sound of disco with this January 1979 release.  But the first song from the album to reach a Billboard chart wasn’t one of the disco tracks, but rather a ravishing Oscar-nominated ballad from Marvin Hamlisch and Alan and Marilyn Bergman.   “The Last Time I Felt Like This,” from the bittersweet comedy Same Time, Next Year, paired Mathis with Jane Olivor.   It reached a No. 15 plateau on the Easy Listening chart.  An uptempo disco-flavored recording of Cole Porter’s 1934 song “Begin the Beguine” entered the Easy Listening chart five months later and reached the Top 40, at No. 37.  In August, L. Russell Brown and Lisa Hayward’s “Gone, Gone, Gone,” another uptempo cut, reached the Top 20 of the U.K. pop survey.  FTG’s standalone expanded edition of The Best Days of My Life adds five bonus tracks: the 12-inch disco mixes of “Beguine” and “Gone,” along with the single remix and instrumental version of “Beguine” and one previously unreleased outtake titled “I Never Said I Loved You.”

On the same CD as You Light Up My Life is Mathis Magic, the follow-up to The Best Days of My Life from the Mathis/Gold/Page team.  Originally released later in 1979, the centerpiece of the LP was a return to the Cole Porter songbook for a disco version of 1932’s “Night and Day.”  The album also features a dance version of Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer’s “That Old Black Magic,” and Mathis’ exquisite renditions of recent standards like Steve Gibb’s “She Believes in Me,” a hit for Kenny Rogers, and “New York State of Mind” from Mathis’ fellow Columbia artist Billy Joel.  British musical theatre star Stephanie Lawrence joined Mathis on the duet “You Saved My Life.”  Mathis Magic makes its debut on CD.

These two releases continue a streak of reissues for Mathis including 2014’s essential box The Complete Global Albums Collection and The Classic Christmas Album (featuring previously unreleased holiday tracks), both from Legacy Recordings.  What else will 2015 bring for fans of Johnny Mathis?  While we wait to find out, these releases are due on January 27.  Both have been freshly remastered by Sean Brennan at Sony’s Battery Studios and include new liner notes by Alex Henderson.  You can order below!

Johnny Mathis, You Light Up My Life/Mathis Magic (Funky Town Grooves FTG-403, 2015) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. You Light Up My Life
  2. Emotion – with Deniece Williams
  3. All I Never Need
  4. Where or When
  5. If You Believe
  6. Too Much, Too Little, Too Late – with Deniece Williams
  7. How Deep is Your Love
  8. Till Love Touches Your Life
  9. I Wrote a Symphony on My Guitar
  10. It Was Almost Like a Song
  11. No One But the One You Love
  12. Night and Day
  13. Love
  14. My Body Keeps Changing My Mind
  15. New York State of Mind
  16. She Believes in Me
  17. That Old Black Magic
  18. You Saved My Life –with Stephanie Lawrence
  19. To the Ends of the Earth
  20. Heart, Soul, Body and Mind

Tracks 1-10 from You Light Up My Life, Columbia JC 35259, 1978
Tracks 11-20 from Mathis Magic, Columbia JC 36216, 1979

Johnny Mathis, The Best Days of My Life: Expanded Edition (Columbia JC 35649, 1979 – reissued Funky Town Grooves FTG-405, 2015) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. Would You Like to Spend the Night with Me
  2. As Time Goes By
  3. The Best Days of My Life
  4. Gone, Gone, Gone
  5. The Bottom Line
  6. The Last Time I Felt Like This – with Jane Olivor
  7. Begin the Beguine
  8. How Can I Make It on My Own
  9. There You Go
  10. We’re in Love
  11. Begin the Beguine (Single Remix) (from Columbia single 3-11001, 1979)
  12. Begin the Beguine (12-Inch Disco Version) (from Columbia 12-inch single 23-11002, 1979)
  13. Gone, Gone, Gone (12-Inch Disco Version) (from Columbia 12-inch single 23-11002, 1979)
  14. Begin the Beguine (Instrumental) (previously unreleased)
  15. I Never Said I Love You (previously unreleased)

Written by Joe Marchese

January 6, 2015 at 14:49

2 Responses

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  1. It would be great for FTG to put out a 2/fer CD with the Mathis albums “I’m Coming Home” and “Mathis Is” on it. The two Mathis albums that were produced by the great Thom Bell.


    January 6, 2015 at 23:14

  2. This is really disappointing. While some fans will be happy to get these, “Mathis Is” is the album everybody wants and the other, of course, is the unreleased Nile Rodgers / Bernard Edwards produced album backed by Chic. Hopefully Japan will release them.


    January 7, 2015 at 00:23

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