ARTIST: Johnny Mathis
TITLE: “Sending You a Little Christmas”
LABEL: Columbia Records
STYLE: Old-fashioned traditional pop vocal Christmas
NOTABLE: Any list of the all-time kings of Christmas music should include Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, and Johnny Mathis. Mathis is the last king standing. Johnny Mathis released his first Christmas album in 1958; “Sending You a Little Christmas” is his sixth original collection.
At age 78, Mathis is one of the last vocalists of his era still actively recording and touring, but this is no nostalgia trip. Mathis looks great, and his distinctive voice is still as strong as it’s ever been. Guests on the album include Billy Joel, Natalie Cole, Jim Brickman, Susan Boyle, The Jordanaires, Gloria Estefan, Vince Gill and Amy Grant.
HIGH POINTS: Album is a nice balance of duets and solo Mathis performances. Highlights in the former category include a melancholy medley of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “White Christmas” featuring Vince Gill and Amy Grant, a fine version of “Do You Hear What I Hear” with Susan Boyle, and a bright, Tex-Mex country-flavored “Home For The Holidays” with The Jordanaires.
Best of the latter include the title track (even though it’s billed as a duet with pianist Jim Brickman), a faithful-to-the-original cover of the Carpenters’ “Merry Christmas Darling,” and the album closer, “Count Your Blessings,” which features Mathis’ strongest vocal performance in the collection.
LOW POINT: Mathis is in fine vocal shape, and the collection is solid, but compared to the wonderful holiday music he’s already recorded, there’s nothing on “Sending You a Little Christmas” that would be considered a landmark recording. “This Is a Time for Love” is a mid-tempo ballad sung in multiple languages that never really hits the mark – and isn’t really a Christmas song, either.
With its orchestrated synths, the keyboard-heavy “Decorate the Night” sounds like it was recorded in 1989. Of course, if you love that era, that’s not necessarily a negative.
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