Johnny Mathis is known as one of the great crooners — one of the greatest to ever croon, in fact. “Misty,” “It’s Not For Me To Say,” “Chances Are” and nearly six decades of other rose-petal-soft ballads have cemented his legend in the hearts of millions. But there’s a side of Johnny that gets less attention, which is his creative restlessness and constant appetite to try new things. A few examples include the perfectly plush Philly Soul album he cut with Thom Bell (the producer behind the The Spinners and The Stylistics), and his unexpected yet exquisite album of vintage country songs he released to celebrate his 75th birthday. But the album that floors all lucky enough to have heard it is I Love My Lady, written and produced by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, AKA Chic.
Aside from Chic’s own run of hits (“Good Times,” “I Want Your Love,” and “Le Freak”), Rodgers and/or Edwards crafted massive, career-defining records for Sister Sledge, Diana Ross, David Bowie, Madonna, and too many others to namecheck here. And their collaboration with Johnny Mathis should have been just as big . . . except it was never released. A few songs have trickled out over the years and they hint at an explosive collection that finds Mathis’ honied voice dancing effortlessly across Chic’s timeless disco-funk. And if there’s a song on this set that truly makes the case for finally unleashing this album on dance floors around the world it’s “Sing,” which sounds as fresh and ready for anything as Daft Punk’s mega-hit “Get Lucky” (which coincidentally, was co-written by Nile Rodgers and is built on the inherent groove of his instantly recognizable guitar, aka “The Hitmaker”).
Nobody’s entirely sure why this album remains unreleased or why it was even shelved in the first place. Mathis has been quoted as saying the album was a “joy” to work on and a “milestone” for him, while Nile Rodgers was proud enough of I Love My Lady to include four of its songs on various Chic anthologies. We’re staying hopeful that the full sessions see the light of day (or, more appropriately, the lights at night), but until then we’ll be sweating it out to the few tracks that escaped and wondering what might have been if these songs were in the hands of roller-rink DJs back in the day.