Personnel: Johnny Mathis (vocals); Deniece Williams, Dionne Warwick, Forever Plaid (vocals); Dean Parks, Al Caiola, Tony Mottola (guitar); Glenn Osser & His Orchestra, Nelson Riddle & His Orchestra, Percy Faith & His Orchestra, Ray Conniff & His Orchestra, Ray Ellis & His Orchestra.
Arrangers: Gene Page; Henry Mancini; Michel Legrand; Jorge Calandrelli.
By the time this two-CD, 40-track anthology hit the stores in 2004, consumers had a wide choice of Johnny Mathis compilations that contained his biggest hits in variable surroundings, ranging from succinct single-disc collections to box sets. This one does have all of the major late-'50s/early-'60s hits you'd expect of anything with "essential" in its title, although -- in an effort to make this a career-spanning selection -- the entirety of disc two is devoted to his post-1970 work, when Mathis was a run-of-the-mill adult contemporary singer (albeit one who did return briefly to the top of the charts in 1978 via his duet with Deniece Williams, "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late"). Still, disc one does have a lot of Mathis' best songs, and some of the most popular make-out music of all time. ~ Richie Unterberger