It's a strange twist of Josh Groban's artistic fate that he is now seen as far more charming and adventurous in his extracurricular activities -- fill-in talk-show host, quirky brother on "The Office," comedian on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" -- than in his music.
With "All That Echoes" (Reprise), he hopes to change that. Groban teamed with Green Day producer Rob Cavallo for the new album, and there certainly are new rock-ish trappings here, starting with the Coldplayesque first single, "Brave." The move toward pop and rock seems to be a response to the sales slide of Groban's 2010 album, "Illuminations," his first not to go multiplatinum.
It's a good idea on paper, but in practice, Groban doesn't quite fit in with his new surroundings. On "Brave," his classically trained, powerful vocals compete with the extra drama of the orchestral arrangements. His booming take on Stevie Wonder's "I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)" feels a little forced, though he fares much better on his version of "Falling Slowly," the ballad from the movie and Broadway musical "Once," where his strong voice is the sole focus.
And Groban still does his trademark mix of classical and pop well, especially in the gorgeous "E Ti Prometterò" and the stunningly simple "Sincera." "All That Echoes" may not be the major shift that Groban was hoping for, but it is an interesting first step into styles he can try to master as much as the "popera" that launched him.
"All That Echoes"
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BOTTOM LINE More drama! More energy! Not enough old Groban!