Whether you loathe his brand of operatic pop or love him like only a Grobanite can, there’s no doubting the sheer prowess of the 31-year-old Josh Groban. With piles of album sales and high profile placements in the worlds of music, TV and film, the Los Angeles-born singer has been turning heads and opening ears ever since he was introduced to David Foster in 1998.
Groban has come a long way since appearing on Rosie O’Donnell’s talk show and his latest record, All That Echoes, reveals that the journey continues on. It would be incorrect to say that he’s changing the game, but the album is produced by Rob Cavallo (Green Day, Goo Goo Dolls) and it does feature a wealth of road-ready energy.
“When Rob came out to Chicago, he basically shared the same adjectives with me that I had in my head,” Groban says. “I wanted this to be soulful, wanted it to be righteous and dynamic and inspirational and energetic. And mainly wanted to find the sweet spot of my singing voice again. I always find it on tour.”
That “righteous” and “inspirational” bent is revealed immediately with “Brave,” a soaring slab of well-crafted music. Yes, it’s maudlin and sentimental. But it’s also a genetically-engineered beast, designed to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Swelling with strings, thumping drums and a messy squall of backing vocals, this is everything a powerful anthem should be.
Pairing with Cavallo wasn’t the only seemingly unorthodox thing Groban took to in constructing All That Echoes. The core band features the likes of bassist Chris Chaney, guitarist Tim Pierce, drummers Matt Chamberlain and Abe Laboriel Jr., and keyboardist Jamie Muhoberac. With credits ranging from Madonna to Jane’s Addiction, it’s safe to say that Groban’s backing ensemble brings something special.
Also in the mix are three orchestral session musicians (Dane Little, Charlie Bisharat and Gayle Levant) whose presence is felt throughout the record. They hammer home tracks like the insistent “False Alarms,” benefitting from the rock edge providing by the core band.
Groban, meanwhile, sounds deep and energetic throughout the album. He draws on intimacy (“Falling Slowly”), classical knowhow (“Sincera”) and even a little Irish folk (“She Moved Through the Fair”) without missing a step. And even in his most elevator music-inspired moments, like on “I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever),” his earnestness and skill shines through.
All That Echoes finds Groban shifting gears but staying on the same road. He’s writing songs and expanding his possibilities, offering a glimpse of the sorts of things we can expect without abandoning the vocal heartiness and gravity that brought him to the dance in the first place.