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.Powered by Sidelines