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Music Review: Josh Groban – A Collection

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Josh Groban is insanely popular in America, but mention his name to someone in the UK and you'll get one of two responses — either a shrug or a reply of "Didn't he sing that Westlife song?" — both of which are just plain wrong.

A lot of people sneer at pop/classical crossovers, but the record-buying public seems to love them regardless; hence the regular chart appearances of the likes of Il Divo, G4 and Jonathan Ansell, amongst others. With 25 million album sales to his name, Josh Groban likewise rates high with a lot of people. So even if it seems a bit early in the game, he releases his first best-of collection in Europe.

Each of his three studio albums — 2001's Josh Groban, 2004's Closer, and 2006's Awake — are well represented, highlighting his incredibly melodic tenor voice. As well, there are a couple of live tracks thrown in for good measure, including the previously unreleased "Anthem" and a version of "Weeping" recorded with the Soweto Gospel Choir at the Mandela Concert in Hyde Park, London. His voice has added resonance live, so it's a shame nothing from his three live albums — Josh Groban in Concert, Live At The Greek, and Awake Live — is represented in this set. Indeed, it was his live performance at a Michael Buble concert that first roused my interest.

Also included in this new collection is a bonus CD with six songs from his Christmas album, Noël, which was the best-selling album in America in 2007.

All in all, there isn't much that doesn't count as a highlight. Funereal favorite "You Raise Me Up" is, naturally, outstanding, but "Per Te," "Alejate," and "Cinema Paradiso (Se)" are right up there as well, along with the aforementioned "Anthem." If there is one song guaranteed to make a grown man weak in the knees, though, then it's "Alla Luce Del Sole."

There are a couple of missteps, however, like "Weeping," wherein Groban sounds restrained in the presence of the gospel choir, as well as on his rendition of the Charlie Chaplin song, "Smile," which is just unsuited to his vocal style. Glitches aside, though, it's an exemplary collection.

Whether this release will give Groban's career a boost overseas is debatable. There's certainly a market for his style of music — and he's probably the best currently around — but it's a crowded field. His profile over here in the UK is arguably as high as it's ever been, coming off the back of appearances at the Classical Brit Awards, his Royal Albert Hall performances of Chess and Nelson Mandelas 90th Birthday concert; so if he's going to make it, then this will be the time.

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About Stuart A Hamilton

  • Britt

    Very good review. But there is no gospel choir in the song ‘Weeping.’

  • Harriet C.

    There IS a gospel choir on “Weeping.” It’s from Soweto, South Africa, and is named the Soweto Gospel Choir. Also singing with Josh and the choir on this track is the very famous African singer, Vusi Mahlasela.

  • http://www.stuarthamilton.co.uk Stuart A Hamilton

    Thanks, Harriet. Indeed there is, on this live performance.

  • Susan

    Odd, Weeping in one of my top two favorites, the other being Anthem.

  • Al Divo

    It’s official, Josh Groban makes Iggy Pop sound like Tina Turner on a Saturday night. Groban is the best singer in the world. Nice review.

  • Britt

    If your talking about Ladysmith Black Mambazo they sing on weeping, but their more of an a capella singing group than a gospel choir…. and yes there is a difference. That is what I was referencing to anyways. And I completely agree, Josh sounds AMAZING live!!!! It is so rare for someone to sound even better live than they do on their studio albums

  • http://www.the-rocker.co.uk Mr H

    As mentioned above it’s the Soweto Gospel Choir.

  • Britt

    ok relax…

    I’m glad he chose to release this in Europe that was an excellent idea and will definitely boost his career over in Europe. Can’t wait for Chess next year!!!

  • Katie

    Very nice review, however Josh himself has said that he doesn’t consider this a “Best Of” album. Instead it’s an opportunity for him to give people not familiar with his music a taste of what he’s about, It represents his journey so-far and he doesn’t feel like it’s a ‘best of’ as there’s still so much left to do.

    The album contains some of his hand-picked favorites that will give people who don’t know him an opportunity to get to know him before the next album comes out.

    The CD is well worth it for “Anthem” alone.