Monday, April 27, 2015

Just Joshing (Music Review: Stages, Josh Groban)

We all know Josh Groban can sing. But has he really released a good album? Individually, there are tracks that are great but in "Stages" he has finally released an album that is cohesive and well-thought out. And the repertoire, though safe and calculated, does showcase a lot of the finest musical theater songs in recent history, though I would have wanted less name-brand songs and less obscurities. But Mr. Groban et al are trying to sell an album and this is what sells. And Groban sings all of these songs well - with soaring heights and every available string is employed in the arrangements, no stone unturned in making them all sound lush.  So why then do they sound so hollow? Perhaps to me all the details are so fine-tuned with no spontaneity, and no soul. Well, except for one track: "If I Loved You," which is a duet with the great Audra McDonald.  Listen to her first note and you can sense the understanding of the material there. I am not kidding when I say that I wept when I first heard the track. The much-lauded duet with Kelly Clarkson in "All I Ask Of You," is nice, sure, but to my ears sounds derivative of every other cover out there. And I am also particularly glad for "Finishing The Hat," and there you can see how Groban does when he tries to go deep in the material - or maybe because the material is challenging that he had no choice but to understand it. The rest, they're fine, but probably better suited as muzak at Border's, if they still existed. 

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