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Josh Groban ()

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Producer, record executive, and songwriter David Foster has a long history of trying to wed commercial considerations to the lighter elements of pop music, and in young Josh Groban, whom he adopted as a protégé in late 1998 when the singer was 17, he is trying to get in on the classical crossover market effectively occupied by the likes of Andrea Bocelli, Sarah Brightman, and Charlotte Church (who duets with Groban on "The Prayer" here). Groban has a rich voice that falls somewhere between a low tenor and a high baritone, and Foster has here crafted or commissioned music that will sound classical to the ears of non-classical fans, much of it with lyrics in Italian to complete the effect. "Gira con Me," for example, is a slow ballad that sounds like it may have escaped from a minor opera, but in fact was composed by Foster and songwriter/producer Walter Afanasieff (best-known for his work with Mariah Carey). Groban is also given some ballads in English, with songwriting credits that include such Southern California pop-meisters as Richard Marx, Albert Hammond, Carole Bayer Sager, and Foster's wife, Linda Thompson. The result is an ersatz classical crossover record that won't fool the experts but easily could find its way into households that welcome Celine Dion and other sub-operatic emoters of her ilk. Groban is certainly not to be blamed for taking his chances with Foster instead of staying in college or pursuing a classical career, and his first album is enjoyable even if it doesn't live up to its pretensions. ~ William Ruhlmann, Rovi Hide synopsis

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