Josh Groban blurs the boundaries between classical and pop, but unlike the production-line vocal groups most of them not so much three tenors as four farthings and lissom lady violinists so aggressively marketed in recent years, his success lies in locating the mid-ground between genres by applying classical technique to popular music forms. His US chart-topping Noël is the sole new solo Christmas offering of 2007, and its sales have expanded to fill the vacuum; it has become in a few weeks the biggest-selling Christmas album ever, shifting nearly four million copies.
It's an overly sombre affair, swathed in lush orchestrations, with the Magdalen College Choir offering high-register counterpoint to Groban's booming baritone on "Silent Night", and an "Ave Maria" that reveals the vocal similarity that once enabled him to serve as Andrea Bocelli's rehearsal stand-in. His plummy solemnity is most effectively used on a "Little Drummer Boy" driven by an understated acoustic guitar motif; less welcome, though, are the messages from faraway GIs that punctuate "I'll Be Home For Christmas", a cringeworthy touch of excessive American sentimentality.
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