Real Gone's 2015 compilation The Complete Christmas Collection 1958-2010
sprawls over the space of three CDs, which is more than enough room to contain five full-length holiday albums from Johnny Mathis, along with non-LP cuts that appeared on singles and collections -- or the records of others -- over the years. The first of these, Merry Christmas
, appeared in 1958 and the last, The Christmas Album
, showed up in 2002 (another album called Sending You a Little Christmas
appeared in 2013; it's not here, but some odds and ends from the 2000s are), so this can almost be seen as a series of successive snapshots from the decades, capturing where Mathis was over the years. Throughout it all, Mathis adheres to his effortless elegance: he doesn't change so much as the productions, with the lush strings of the '50s giving way to the slight, light swing of the early '60s, the widescreen schmaltz of the '70s, the softly synthesized '80s, and the excessively crisp new millennial nostalgia. These are distinct differences but they're subtle, easy to lose if the album is played on loop in the background -- which is how this is meant to be heard, after all. Mathis' holiday albums are warm and inviting, the ideal soundtrack to snowy evenings or an afternoon of wrapping presents and trimming the tree, so it's nice to have all of them in one handy place.