For an album that was originally recorded in June 1958, the Christmas songs that Johnny Mathis first recorded as a gift to his mother is worth its weight in gold each and every winter holiday season. That’s why it’s my #2 selection for the Twelve Days of Amazon Christmas 2020 edition.
Maybe it’s the quality of his voice at such a relatively young and tender age, and the expert accompaniment by Percy Faith and his orchestra. But then, again, maybe it’s the 1963 recording of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” that follows as Track 6. Or the host of classic recordings from 1986 that come after that, arranged and conducted by Ray Ellis.
By the time you get to Track 14, a 2004 recording of “O Tannebaum” performed with the aid of Mannheim Steamroller, we’ll the Christmas vibe is fully in swing. And the, suddenly, there she is: Bette Midler, in duet with Mr. Mathis for a superb rendition of “Winter Wonderland” from 2006, with beautiful orchestral arrangements by Patrick Williams.
So, you see, it’s not Johnny’s gold we’re talking about here; it’s 50 years of musical accomplishment, recording, mixing, and remastering. It’s the whole package. It’s a supreme studio song, showing how Christmas songs change from year, even as the spiritual and festive core of the words and music stay the same. If that isn’t what Christmas music means to me, then I don’t know what else to call it. If you’re yearning for a Christmas sound for your holiday season without a trace of sarcasm, cynicism, or irony, look no further than Johnny Mathis Gold. You can always act like a Grinch next year!