Johnny Mathis

Love Story

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The Love Story album from Johnny Mathis is one of his most realized, produced during a decade when he worked with producers ranging from Richard Perry and Jerry Fuller to one of the proponents of the Philly sound, Thom Bell. Here the singer is in a comfortable setting with producer Jack Gold, ably assisted by arranger and conductor Perry Botkin, Jr. a couple of years before Botkin hit with "Nadia's Theme (The Young & the Restless)." Even the front and back cover photos have a different aura, with Mathis dressed in black with a white collar, peering out of an all-black cover and looking deep in thought. His rendition of "(Where Do I Begin) Love Story" is riveting, a sweeping and majestic piece to lead off the record, and not the usual Jack Gold musical movement, but more pronounced and determined. The Top Ten hit, of course, went to Andy Williams in 1971, with Henry Mancini going Top 15 and Francis Lai taking the same title Top 35, all in the same year. The competition was intense, and maybe that's why the team pulled out all the stops here. They then take Lynn Anderson's 1970 Top Three hit "Rose Garden" and fuse the pop with big band, eliminating whatever elements sent it to number one on the country charts for Anderson. As a pure pop tune, it works very well, a standout performance chock-full of backing vocalists and unique instrumentation. This could have been a hit for Mathis, as it goes beyond the usual formula of "let's put some sweet accompaniment behind the voice and let Johnny do his thing." "Ten Times Forever More" sweeps in with backing vocalists as if the Ray Conniff Singers suddenly showed up to duet with Johnny. No doubt Perry Botkin Jr. greatly influenced this project. Perry Como's Top Ten nugget "It's Impossible" gets equal time, with the arrangement, production, and backing vocals all stunning. This was a big year for the crooners, and Mathis reinterpreting these new classics was essential. No mere run-throughs, the recording and performances are on par with the hit versions. Robert Mersey steps in to arrange and produce one track, "I Was There," and it does have a different feel to the rest of the album, sounding vocally like Mathis' 1964 Top Ten hit "What Will Mary Say." "What Are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life" closes out a powerful and exhausting side one. The second side goes back to what producer Mitch Miller prescribed for this artist: careful and pleasant versions of "We've Only Just Begun," the Classics IV's "Traces," "For the Good Times," and "My Sweet Lord." George Harrison's number seems like an outtake when compared to the tour de force of side one or even the awe-inspiring Phil Spector/George Harrison production of the original hit. Taking Dennis Yost to task on "Traces" is easy for Mathis, but not bringing in the bells and whistles for "My Sweet Lord" was a mistake given all the attention focused on "Rose Garden" and the tunes at the beginning of the LP.

"Loss of Love," on the other hand, brings a sense of grandness back to the project and concludes an important component of the vast Johnny Mathis catalog.

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