Johnny Mathis

The First Time Ever (I Saw Your Face)

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Jerry Fuller's production of The First Time Ever (I Saw Your Face) for Johnny Mathis is a pleasant and much-needed change in sound, as his same formula continues -- songs of the day mixed in with movie themes. Unfortunately, this change in sound was not utilized to its full potential. Al Capps arranges five of the 12 tunes, including the title track and "Love Theme From 'The Godfather' (Speak Softly Love)." There are exquisite shades and added depth to the production, though the song order is a little questionable. "Theme From 'Summer of '42' (The Summer Knows)" keeps everything mired

in the mellowness of the first two selections, not giving the listener (or the LP, for that matter) a chance to breathe. Al Capps' arrangements are gorgeous, but it is all a bit overwhelming, too much

in too quick a succession. Try hearing the difference between "Brian's Song," the theme from the TV show, and "Theme From 'Summer of '42.'" They flow seamlessly, which perpetuates the low tones and bluesy feel. "Since I Fell for You" has the first of six arrangements from D'Arneill Pershing, but still has the slow, moody presence of the preceding four numbers, one that doesn't make for repeated spins. Not recommended for those easily depressed. Would you believe that the Nilsson classic "Without You" is the first up-tempo number? It starts off side two and is tremendous, the final Al Capps arrangement here. D'Arneill Pershing handles the rest of the disc, starting with a sweeping "Betcha by Golly Wow" with majestic, Star Trek-style, otherworldly backing vocals. It is right up there with the Stylistics' own version and no doubt made one of Mathis' other producers, Thom Bell, quite proud. "Betcha by Golly Wow" is one of the album's finest moments. "Life and Breath," a slower-tempo version of America's "I Need You," the 5th Dimension's "(Last Night) I Didn't Get to Sleep at All," and the theme from Kotch, "Life Is What You Make It," conclude the disc in more traditional Johnny Mathis style, with side two playing much more easily than the first. For such an important artist, whose bread and butter at this point in time was reworking familiar material, song placement is key. The First Time Ever (I Saw Your Face) by Johnny Mathis has wonderful performances, but truly needs to shuffle these songs around to enhance the listening experience.

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