The Josh Groban phenomenon continues with Awake, his third studio album. Both of the extraordinary singer's first two studio discs have been certified five times platinum, with his most recent, 2003's Closer, charting #1 pop. For Grobanites, his uplifting music rises ever higher on Awake. Awake's 13 new songs show off the Grammyr-nominated Groban's remendous growth as a vocalist, producer and songwriter. His hands-on approach in the creative process of Awake is reflected in several Groban-penned and -produced songs, along with musical contributions from Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Dave Matthews, Glen Ballard, Eric Mouquet, John Ondrasik Vandrasak (Five for Fighting), Marius DeVries, David Foster and Herbie Hancock.
Josh Groban is making it hard for anybody who can't say "classical crossover" without smirking to maintain an acceptable level of snobbery. Awake, his third studio disc and arguably his most personal--he co-wrote four tracks and favors his native English over Italian--boasts as many bold names as any tricked-out hip-hop disc: Dave Matthews, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Imogen Heap, and Herbie Hancock contribute in various capacities, and a slew of behind-the-scenes collaborators best known for their work in mainstream pop circles deepen the dimensions of a style widely considered claustrophobic. For all the studio doors that got opened to create Awake, though, Groban's signature sound never once slipped out to take the air; "the voice"--that hypnotic, spun-silk wonder of an instrument--is as concentrated as ever, and Awake, in addition to showing off its many splendors, serves as a vehicle for parading its versatility around. While "Un Giorno Per Noi," the deeply romantic theme to the 1968 film Romeo E Giulietta, delivers the Groban that fueled the sale of 16 million previous discs to soft-hearted fans, "Machine," with Hancock, gives up a new form of funk: dignified, classy, and surprisingly unstiff. --Tammy La Gorce