All That Echoes -- A Review of Josh Groban's new album

Produced by Reprise Records, A Warner Music group Company

Long anticipated by fans, Josh Groban’s sixth studio album, All That Echoes, was released on Tuesday, February 5.  

Don’t you love the title?  I won’t say that Josh has been reading my blog, Wake of Echoes, but I will say that great minds think alike. I got my copy in the mail Monday (happy dance) and have since pretty much hijacked my husband’s fancy stereo.

When an artist has a fan base that ranges from tweens to great grandmas, there’s always a chance that he’ll begin to appeal to one end of that spectrum at the expense of the other – especially when new producers are involved, which has been true of both his fifth album, Illuminations (Rick Rubin), and All That Echoes (Rob Cavallo)*.
 
But not to worry.  Josh is not a wedding singer, an opera wanna-be or a Vegas gonna-be.  He’s not going to press an album every two years filled with easy-listening vanilla, just because it would sell. 

All That Echoes solidifies Josh’s genius as a musician, not a crooner, though his voice is unparalleled. It pushes, explores and creates without alienating.  It draws on all of his strengths, with exquisite orchestration that compliments a voice more tuned to my ear every year. 

The title hints at its content – echoes of all that Josh has done before and all that we can expect in the future.  This long-time fan is excited to see it all unfold on tour soon.  (Please come back to Boise, Josh!) 

Here’s my song-by-song review:

BRAVE  — Bright, genuine instrumentation.  The sunrise of All That Echoes, waking us to our potential. 
“Brave” is the latest addition to a playlist of inspiration that began with “You’re Still You” on Josh’s self-titled debut, and peaked (no pun intended) with Closer’s “You Raise Me Up,” which hit #1 on Billboard’s Hot Adult Contemporary Chart in 2004.  The theme continued with “You Are Loved (Don’t Give Up)” on Awake and “Hidden Away” on Illuminations.  Josh never drops this touchstone of hope that connects him most endearingly to his fans. (Groban/Salter/Kreviazuk)
FALSE ALARMS  —  Letting go means accepting that part of you never will.
Josh convincingly moves to his higher register in “False Alarms,” creating a sense of musical openness that brings the lyrics to life.  (Groban/Mendez)
FALLING SLOWLYAh, Josh.  Take my hand and lead me down the midnight streets of Dublin.  
“Falling Slowly” comes from the Tony-Award-winning Broadway Musical Once.  I’m dying to see it.  I would have liked to hear a little bit of harmony on this one, but I figure he was thinking: Jennifer likes to sing along in the car.  Thanks for leaving a place for me, Josh. (Hansard/Irglova)
SHE MOVED THROUGH THE FAIRGallant tones that make me want to hunt down the family tartan and take a breathless climb up to Dunguaire Castle.
This traditional Irish folk song is a perfect pick for Josh and reminiscent of similar favorites of mine, like “Molly Ban” by Alison Krauss and the Chieftains, and “Parting Glass” on Ed Sheeran’s debut + (a hidden track after “Give Me Love”).
BELOW THE LINELively motivation to act from the heart.
Josh reminds us to “find our strength in love” in this vibrant call to consider the unfortunate in this world.  Musically, the message carries weight by paying homage to one of Josh’s childhood favorites, Paul Simon’s Graceland.  (Groban/Salter/Wilcox)
E TI PROMETTEROIf you think Italian songs carry the weight of rich lasagna, consider “E Ti Promettero” as a fresher dish.  I’m thinking Chicken Marsala. 
Josh’s voice is well complimented by Italian singer Laura Pausini – a perfect recipe.  And now I’m hungry. (Groban/Mendez/Salter/Marinangeli)
THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESSIf “Brave” woke you up, “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” will tuck you in.
This cover (recorded decades ago by both Joe Cocker and Glen Campbell) demonstrates Josh’s soft spot for sad songs, and is tonally similar to the beautiful “Galileo” on Illuminations.  The perfect voice and orchestration to illuminate loneliness. (Web)
UN ALMA MASMmm¡Que maravilla! 
Close your eyes.  Okay, open them again.  You can’t read with your eyes closed.  But imagine this:  Black and white film, a midcentury bandstand.  Josh and the band dressed in white suits with hair slicked back while dancers move across a marble floor.  Then the amazing Arturo Sandoval lifts his trumpet and begins to play along.  Stunning.  (Groban/Mendez/Salter/Brant)
HAPPY IN MY HEARTACHEAmerican.  Lemonade.  Grass between your toes. 
This song is masculine and vulnerable, featuring Josh’s signature piano work as well as a lovely little bit of acoustic guitar (played by producer Rob Cavallo).  Musically, it reminds me of “Simple Love” by Alison Krauss or maybe a nonspecific Don Williams song my parents listened to when I was a little kid. (Groban/Salter)
HOLLOW TALKEchoes, shadows.  This song is. Just. So. Cool. 
Originally performed and written by the Danish band, Choir of Young Believers, “Hollow Talk” has lyrics I don’t understand and music that seeps into my bones.  Josh’s interpretation replaces electronic orchestration with the real deal – and kicks it up with a haunting Zeppelin-esque interlude.  I can’t wait to see it live. (Makrigiannis/Rhedin/Nordsoe)
SINCERAStolen kisses, secret letters, vine-covered towers, a balcony serenade. (Sigh).
Josh has recorded so many songs that should inspire men to mount steeds, storm castles and kiss their women as if there were no tomorrow.  (“Per Te” from Closer and “Straight to You” from Illuminations also come to mind).  Guys, seriously – let this song motivate you.  “Sincera” is now at the top of my swoon list.  Actually, it makes me want to plot novels in the Italian countryside.  (Groban/Afanasieff/Marinangeli)
I BELIEVE (WHEN I FALL IN LOVE IT WILL BE FOREVER) — A concert-ready, full-blown crescendo.
This Stevie Wonder-penned anthem has been waiting 40 years to meet Josh’s vocal chords.  His cover is fresh, lively and hopeful with inspired emphasis on strings and a perfectly balanced choral arrangement. Fantastic. (Wonder/Wright)

My sisters and I at Josh's "Straight to You" concert in Portland
Bonus Tracks:
CHANGING COLORSYou look at me with uncertainty, You look at me with urgency.  You look at me with fear in your eyes, Like you’re about to fall away…
This song is undoubtedly about the stages of life; it could also be about terminal illness.   But for me, it’s about a parent who is saying “I’m right there with you” to a child with special needs**.  Maybe that’s because I first heard Josh sing it in a live recording from the 2008 Bridge School Concert†.  THANK YOU, Josh, for lending your voice to this special school and supporting those who struggle with communication.  It means a lot to this Spectrum mama. (Dekker)
SATELLITEEthereal, familiar, resonant.
Josh’s unique voice, stellar instrumentation and subtle harmonies honor rather than detract from Dave Matthew’s hit.
GRAZIEHumble appreciation of honesty in a world that deceives.
Josh sings this very personal song of thanks to family, friends and fans in his classical open style.  His humanity and tonal purity shine.  (Groban/Afanasieff/Marinangeli)
PLAY MENostalgic ode to love-struck counterparts.
Josh performed this breathtaking cover as an encore each night on his “Straight To You” tour, explaining that sometimes a singer just has to ask himself, “What would Neil Diamond do?” (Diamond)

*David Foster produced all of Groban’s previous albums.

**I wrote about this in a previous post, “I’m Jumping on the Spectrum.” http://wakeofechoes.blogspot.com/2011/04/im-jumping-on-spectrum.html

†The annual Bridge School Concert, organized by Neil Young, benefits individuals with severe speech and physical impairments. http://www.bridgeschool.org/   Josh Groban’s charity, Find Your Light, also does oodles of good things for kids all over the world. http://findyourlightfoundation.org/

[My only criticism is of the liner notes, where I found a few typos.  Most notably, producer and songwriter Walter Afanasieff’s name was misspelled twice.]




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