Johnny Sings Lately (Music Thoughts: Sings The New Great American Songbook, Johnny Mathis)

0004794639It isn’t a surprise that there exists now a Johnny Mathis singing current pop songs because I do think he is one of the greatest male pop singers of a certain generation. Even in the 60s and 70s, his albums always included songs ‘of the day,’ and he always succeeded in getting those songs messages through. So all in all he thrives in singing ‘The New Great American Songbook,’ which included songs from the past twenty years or so. ¬†Produced by Clive Davis and Babyface, there are obvious choices here: the Josh Groban hit ‘You Raise Me Up,’ R Kelly’s ‘I Believe I Can Fly,’ and Adele’s ‘Hello,’ even before he sang those songs I had already imagined how he would sing them had he, and sure enough, the resulting work is very similar to my imagination. i.e.: well enough to be Mathis-fied. At 82, he still has most of the chops, with some roughness here and there that only enhances his interpretions. Other songs include Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ (serviceable because he hows some character there) and country hits by Keith Urban and Alan JAckson (I don’t know the originals well so I really do not have much comment on those tracks)

But ultimately, this is a curiosity album. I wonder who will really listen to this, besides die hard Mathis fans. The original interpretations are obviously irreplaceable, and though Mathis’ versions are good, what purpose do they really serve?

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