Decades ago, Grandma Coleman admonished me about wishing my life away, as she used to put it, hoping for an event that was months away. She had trouble getting that concept through my thick head each fall, as I could hardly wait to get Halloween behind me and get the Yuletide season rolling.
That’s just as true today as it was when I was a kid. I have more fun than I did then each November, with Dia de Los Muertos and Thanksgiving, but truth be told, those holidays don’t hold a Christmas candle to the annual, interminable wait for the man with the bag.
This year, the evergreen Johnny Mathis made things easy for those of us who are ready to chug some eggnog. On October 13, the Voice Of Romance released an impeccable new album entitled Christmas Time Is Here, getting a multi-week jump on The Great Pumpkin and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
And if Johnny Mathis says Christmas time is here, in October, who are any of us to argue??
The new album is an expansion of his 2022 A Merry Little Christmas EP, which included beautiful new recordings of “Blue Christmas,” “White Christmas,” and “When A Child Is Born.” The new album’s title track is that familiar tune from the classic animated television special A Charlie Brown Christmas from 1965. Decades went by with very few artists covering it, until just a decade or so ago. Now that Mathis has wrapped his warm voice around the beautiful Vince Guaraldi melody, to my mind, no one else need ever sing it again.
Broadway star Kristen Chenoweth duets with Mathis on a spirited “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.” As talented as the Broadway star is, she’s very much along for the ride. On this track, Mathis makes it clear that he’s the undisputed master of Christmas music.
Another of the album’s highlights is a version of “Merry Christmas, Baby” that had me thinking thoughts about which I should ashamed, given the song’s being covered by an artist who debuted before I was born. Prior to Mathis’ new version, my favorite had been Natalie Cole’s. After hearing Mathis’ take on the sexy song, I had to take a cold shower.
Mathis’ new version of “Auld Lang Syne” includes a verse I’d never heard before, and will give me a reason to play this album well past Santa’s overnight junket this year. But brace yourself: it’s a tear jerker. There’s something about hearing the 88 year old Mathis wrapping up the year, while looking forward to another, that just touched a chord in me. As I type this, listening to the track, I’m wiping away more tears while sitting in my favorite coffee shop. In October.
That’s the magic of Johnny Mathis, and his gifts shine as brightly today as they did when he released his first Christmas album, in 1958.
Fans of new, high quality Christmas music don’t have a lot to which to look forward these days, so a new, full length Johnny Mathis Christmas album, in 2023, hits the spot. Don’t sleep on it this Christmas.
And if, as you’re listening to Mathis’ new album this Christmas Eve, you happen to catch a glimpse of St. Nick, please tell him that your favorite freelance writer gave it everything he had this year, and urge him to cut me a break!
Johnny Mathis’ Christmas Time Is Here is available on all major digital and online platforms.
Catch one of Mathis’ annual Christmas concerts! Details are at JohnnyMathis.com.
Michael P Coleman’s musings are available at MichaelPColeman.com.