Illuminations

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at 17 November 2010

Category: Review

Tags: ,

I’m a huge Josh Groban fan, so I signed up to get the ultimate package when his new CD came out. I paid extra to get a fancy fabric-covered CD case which held a booklet with photos and lyrics, a DVD of the making of the CD, and the CD “Illuminations.”

I was mildly impressed with the package, and thrilled to get a special code so I can watch either a live streaming concert or the archived version of the concert. I was a little miffed when I started getting free downloads of particular songs on the CD, since I’d PAID to get them, but then I realized it was a marketing strategy — like a preview of an upcoming movie.

I also received an e-mail from Groban’s website, telling when he’d be appearing on different TV shows, including Ellen DeGeneres. My mom saw that performance and wasn’t impressed. “All he did was sing,” she said. “And he looked horrible!”

Hmmm, maybe Groban needs to employ someone to help him with his appearances? He’s enormously talented, and has embraced technology, but, um, shouldn’t there be a standard of how he looks? I’ve seen his video blog, too, and he looks downright scruffy there, too.

(Note to Josh: No matter how rotten you look, you’re still going to be someone’s dream date. Appearing as though you’ve just bounced out of bed and not showered seems disrespectful to your audience.)

A lot of the publicity has been making a big deal about Groban’s work with the producer — someone Rubin. He has worked with rock’n'roll stars and bands, and has apparently done well. I don’t know if I’d recommend him, because I was mildly disappointed by the CD.

I don’t know which songs were ones that Groban wrote himself, but he needs a collaborator — someone to tell him, “Eh, those lyrics don’t really work. Try again.” I just didn’t get a tingle this time when I heard him sing. And I actually thought I heard a sour note. Maybe I was dreaming.

I didn’t hear as much variety on this CD as on “Awake,” where he sings with other people and has more variety in musical instrumentation. I adore his cover of Herbie Hancock’s “Machine.” I enjoy the foreign language songs; somehow they’re more romantic, even though I understand mere bits and pieces of the lyrics.

When I first heard the entire CD of “Illuminations,” I was contented by hearing the free songs again — they’d become old friends. That was a nice bit of marketing. But I wasn’t impressed with a few of the other songs — the lyrics seemed strained, and some of the vocal acrobatics seemed overdone.

I’ll keep listening to the CD — it’s OK — and maybe it’ll grow on me more. But maybe I’ll go back to some of the previous CDs and listen to them again. I don’t know if it was the producer, the vocalist or the choice of instrumentation or arrangements — I give “Illuminations” a letter grade of a mere B.

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