The LA singer’s voice remains an undeniably rich and powerful instrument.
Nick Levine 2013-02-18
It's tempting to dismiss Josh Groban as yet another classical crossover villain: a kind of one-man Il Divo. After all, it was his version of You Raise Me Up that Westlife copied and turned into an X Factor favourite.
Trouble is, the LA-born singer comes across very well in interviews, displaying a playful sense of humour that's not present in his music.
That said, asking rock producer Rob Cavallo (Green Day, My Chemical Romance, Paramore) to oversee his sixth album initially sounds like a joke. At the age of 31, is Groban about to swap classical pop for punk and emo tunes?
Thankfully not. He's sold 25 million records since his 2001 debut and All That Echoes is business as usual.
It begins with a You Raise Me Up-style anthem called Brave, before mixing up savvy cover versions with classy originals, some sung in romantic-sounding foreign languages.
And as ever, Groban really gets his money's worth from his string section.
However, the album does contain one or two surprises. Below the Line is basically Groban's take on Paul Simon's Graceland sound, which sounds horrific on paper but just about works.
The other highlight is Hollow Talk, a moody ballad with ambiguous lyrics. It's a welcome test for Groban, whose songs tend to be straightforward and sprinkled with clichés. Images of "wicked winds… blowing through the halls" and "the burning red sun" are typical.
There are no clunkers here, but Cavallo's production can be crass. When Groban covers She Moved Through the Fair, a traditional Irish folk song, overbearing bagpipes are used to create a vaguely Celtic vibe. Un Alma Más is sung in Spanish, so naturally there's loads of flamenco guitar.
Mostly though, All That Echoes is as hard to take issue with as Groban himself. This singer knows what suits his voice, an undeniably rich and powerful instrument, and uses it without showing off.
Be warned though: his cover of Stevie Wonder's I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever) is shamelessly cheesy and dangerously effective. Let's hope Louis Walsh never hears it.