Josh Groban always skirted the edges of middlebrow pop so it's a certain relief to hear the classical singer go all in on 2015's Stages, a tribute to the great songs of the Great White Way. He throws a few movie tunes in for good measure, including the opening "Pure Imagination" from Charlie & The Chocolate Factory and "Over the Rainbow," but the concentration is on A Chorus Line, Les Miserables, The Fantasticks, Into the Woods, and Sunday in the Park with George -- lots of Sondheim, lots of musicals from after the peak of '60s crossover. Nevertheless, in its handsome deliberation, Stages does feel like a throwback to '60s LPs comprised of tunes everybody knows, sung by singers everybody knows. Groban in some ways benefits from a less operatic setting, as it naturally scales back his soaring excess, and the record is also nicely modulated -- a mellow, attractive journey to the middle of the road, a place that seems to suit Groban just fine. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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