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Josh Groban

It seems no one knew what to expect when Josh Groban teamed with super-producer Rick Rubin for the singer’s fifth album, Illuminations – least of all Groban and Rubin. Fittingly, the results both defy and exceed any possible expectations as each of the collaborators stepped out of his zone and together they created an entirely new zone, one where folk meets classical, where art meets intimacy, where immediacy meets timelessness and where, most importantly, Groban was free to express himself more fully, more truly than ever before.

“These are my stories,” says Groban, who co-wrote 11 of the 13 songs on the collection, complemented by personalized if surprising selections written by Nick Cave and the poignant mother-son collaboration by Kate McGarrigle and Rufus Wainwright. “Every one of these songs, someone’s going to know it’s about them. I’m going to get a text message about every one! This is a very personal record.”

Groban had certainly never made a record like this before. But then neither had Rubin, whose nonpareil career runs from the early days of rap with Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys through the hard-edged rock of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica to Johnny Cash’s latter-day life-embracing American Recordings series. What the combination brought out was a new range of expression and emotional connection from Groban, music that taps into generations of Americana and reaches across the oceans and lyrics drawn straight from the heart. In the course of the album, we see aspects of Groban unknown in the acclaimed stretch since he first stepped into the spotlight as a teenager, beyond even the personality and wit he flashed in his much-shared Emmy Awards medley and his noted guest role in last season’s Glee finale. The words he offers in “Hidden Away” could almost address the mission of the album itself:

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