A high-quality harvest from Groban

SOUNDS FAMILIAR - Baby A. Gil - The Philippine Star

It has now been over 10 years since Josh Groban became a big singing star. Remember how young and gangling he was while singing You’re Still You in The Ally McBeal Show in 2001? Within that span of time and through six studio albums, countless concerts and a TV show or two, he has developed what may, more or less, be considered a template or formula for his studio albums. All That Echoes, his latest recording, has all the usual elements.

Each of his CDs should include some old songs. In this case, Groban came up with quite a high-quality harvest. One is a composition by the great Jimmy Webb, who also wrote the classics By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Up Up And Away, The Worst That Could Happen and MacArthur Park. Knowing how Josh has this remarkable blend of rock and classical in his voice, I cannot help but think of how natural it would be for him to sing MacArthur Park. Surprisingly though, he chose to do something else, the rarely heard, but so beautiful, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, originally recorded by country music star Glen Campbell. 

Although of a more recent time, Falling Slowly, is also about the same complicated set of emotions. This is the seemingly simple but loaded Academy-winning song by the Irish singer and songwriter Glen Hansard from the motion picture and now also a Broadway musical, Once. Also of the same lyrical mood and also Irish is the folksong She Moved Through The Fair. I have heard excellent versions of this melancholy song from Art Garfunkel, Sarah Brightman and Sinead O’Connor. Groban’s does not lag behind. Then just before you start thinking that he has gotten all-sad about romance, he closes the album with the upbeat I Believe When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever by Stevie Wonder.

A Groban album must have songs in Italian and Spanish, and occasionally also in French. I do not know how much Italian and Spanish influences he had while growing up but this practice began with the debut CD Josh Groban and has continued to this day. For All That Echoes, these entries are E Ti Promettero featuring Italian pop star Laura Pausini, Un Alma Mas featuring Cuban jazz artist Arturo Sandoval on the trumpet and Sincera. Take note that these are not token foreign language songs. They are quite special because Groban wrote them himself. So please add the first single Brave, plus False Alarms, Below The Line and Happy In My Heartache to the previously mentioned titles. Sure, he had collaborators, but it is a fact that he is also a full-fledged songwriter. 

Groban’s efforts at songwriting date back to his second album Closer. This continued through the years, finally exploding with nine originals in the album Illuminations. He has only seven in All That Echoes, but these are his best to date. That blend of rock and classical in the way he sings is now also in his music and he is able to use this effectively with various rhythms. Then because he is in control of the melodies, he is able to take his voice to its best places. Groban here has never sounded better. 

I admit that I was somewhat disappointed with Illuminations and thought that the time has come for Groban to make that all-important call to David Foster, who produced and often arranged the songs in his early albums. I do not know if there was a falling-out between these two but despite a most successful partnership, they have not worked together in years. And Foster’s music is not only beautiful. It is also very commercial. He helps the artist sell. “Please David, produce my albums again.” I thought that Josh should say to his former mentor after his fifth album. 

I think that like most of his fans, I will be dreaming of a Groban CD by Foster again until it finally happens. But I am happy to say that Josh can put off making that call for a year or two or let us say for an album or two. This is because All That Echoes, formula and all, works very well, even without Foster. But come to think of it though, don’t you think that MacArthur Park would be fantastic if sung by Groban and arranged and produced by Foster.











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