There are times, as a parent, when your transition from carefree individual to child-serving slave seems especially surreal. For me, one such instance occurred just this morning, when I reminded my three-year-old not to hit his brother with the tail of his leopard costume for the 150th time, all to a soaring soundtrack of Josh Groban's mostly-tenor voice, and it seemed PERFECTLY NORMAL. Because OF COURSE you shouldn't hit others with your tail, especially when you're listening to a classical-sounding compilation of pop anthems, operatic numbers, and odes to the moon.
So. Josh Groban. In a lot of ways, Groban is as far out of my wheelhouse as something like Hatebreed, although for obviously different reasons. The similarity, however, is a crippling one: much as I find it difficult to gauge the goodness of somewhat difficult-to-listen-to metalcore tracks, I also find it extremely difficult to objectively judge what some call the "pop opera" of Groban's work (here's a review on Allmusic, if you stumbled over here hoping for an expert opinion) (also, Groban doesn't like it when his work is called "popera", according to this interview on Details). I can, however, quote the man himself, who told CNN that "This album, in my own humble opinion, is in equal parts a return to a certain style of form that I felt was a real sweet spot for me four or five years ago, but at the same time, there's more of a willingness to explore new avenues than I ever have before." He also claims influences such as Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin, although I'm gonna be honest: I don't hear it.
As far as the album itself is concerned, it's an amalgam of pop anthems and opera-lite, as previously mentioned, as well as a Laura Pausini duet ("E Ti Prometterò") and an Academy Award-winning cut ("Falling Slowly"). Personally, I thought his version of "She Moved Through The Fair" was a pretty good rendition of the Irish folk song, although the tune itself is so good that you would have to be a total clod to fuck it up, and I also noticed "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress", which features a piano opener eventually joined by Groban's voice and strings ("And the moon is a harsh mistress/It's hard to love her well"). Perhaps most intriguing is "Un Alma Mas" featuring Arturo Sandoval, which shows off its Spanish flair with percussion and a flamenco-sounding guitar before Sandoval's jazz trumpeting skills get their place on the stage.
Opinion-wise, well... as charming and funny as I found the interviews with Groban to be (really, I would definitely buy this guy a beer), this album is WAAAAY to serious for my tastes. I also thought most of the poppier songs had a very standard soft-rock feel ("Happy In My Heartache", "Below The Line"). I guess what I mean to say is that this record strikes me as a sure winner for those with a touch of the operatic/cinematic about them, or who sing well enough that trying to match Groban's vocals wouldn't make all of the plants in their house die. As for me, not even my three-year-old lets me sing, and my only interest in the cinematic would be to play a full-costume alien or monster on a Buffy-type show. In other words - I'll stick to kitten poker, and let the rest of you listen to Groban.