12 Songs, 42 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

It would be hard to imagine an album more conducive to romance than Johnny Mathis’ Open Fire, Two Guitars. This 1959 release is exquisite in its simplicity, keeping a tight spotlight on Mathis’ winsome vocals while guitarists Tony Mattola and Al Caiola offer subtle accompaniment. The intimacy of the recording is a big part of its enduring appeal — unlike most of Mathis’ hits from this era, there are no florid arrangements obscuring his singing. The title tune (by Leiber and Stoller) sets the dreamy tone and leisurely pace for the rest of the album. Mathis’ readings of familiar numbers like “I’ll Be Seeing You,” ”My Funny Valentine” and “Embraceable You” brings them renewed luster. His way of lingering on a note and turning a phrase into a sensuous sigh recalls Billie Holiday at times — in fact, his rendition of “Tenderly” rivals Holiday’s in its subdued eroticism. Even a seemingly lightweight number like “Bye, Bye Blackbird” becomes an eloquent expression of longing in his hands. For capturing desire in song, Open Fire, Two Guitars approaches perfection.

EDITORS’ NOTES

It would be hard to imagine an album more conducive to romance than Johnny Mathis’ Open Fire, Two Guitars. This 1959 release is exquisite in its simplicity, keeping a tight spotlight on Mathis’ winsome vocals while guitarists Tony Mattola and Al Caiola offer subtle accompaniment. The intimacy of the recording is a big part of its enduring appeal — unlike most of Mathis’ hits from this era, there are no florid arrangements obscuring his singing. The title tune (by Leiber and Stoller) sets the dreamy tone and leisurely pace for the rest of the album. Mathis’ readings of familiar numbers like “I’ll Be Seeing You,” ”My Funny Valentine” and “Embraceable You” brings them renewed luster. His way of lingering on a note and turning a phrase into a sensuous sigh recalls Billie Holiday at times — in fact, his rendition of “Tenderly” rivals Holiday’s in its subdued eroticism. Even a seemingly lightweight number like “Bye, Bye Blackbird” becomes an eloquent expression of longing in his hands. For capturing desire in song, Open Fire, Two Guitars approaches perfection.

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