As readers of this blog might know, I am a super huge big fan of Ben Folds. Recently, Mr. Folds released a compilation album that is a career retrospective of the man, the myth, the legend. It goes back two decades, including some previously unreleased demos from the Ben Folds Five days. As I am sure you were waiting for me to post my thoughts on the collection, here is my review of the 3CD expanded collection.
Disc 1 – The Best Imitation of Myself
The first disc contains 18 tracks, many of which have been included on various other discs. It does, however, include a few tracks that were previously unreleased in any form, including an extended version of Still Fighting It, the song that Folds wrote for his son. I have learned to appreciate this song more lately, and it would be a pretty kick ass conversation to have with my son some day… if I ever happen to have one.
One of my favorite live tracks is also on the first disc. The version of Smoke played with the West Australia Symphony Orchestra is really something else. In retrospect, I may have ranked this one a bit low when I was rating Ben Folds by track, but it could be the album version that I don’t like. It kind of reminds me of my opinion on the song Magic, which I love from the University A Capella album but not so much the studio album.
Also included on the first disc is a brand new song from Ben Folds Five called House. If the rumors are true and BFF are going back on tour next year, I will do almost anything to see one of those shows. Heck, since I should be a little more flexible with my job, I might just follow BFF around for a month or two, writing by day and driving by night, living the rock and roll life style. Or not. But at least it looks like a new Ben Folds Five album will be in the works. #squee
The rest of disc one is a nice mix of BFF and Ben Folds. I can’t really quibble with the selections. I like all of the songs, some more than others. The best Track 1, Track 3, and Track 6 are included. It also has the “strings” version of Landed, which is slightly better than the album version in my humble opinion.
Disc 2 – Live
The second disc has a lot of previously unreleased live versions of songs. Unfortunately, none of the shows that I have been to were included in the mix, but that’s okay. I still remember when I saw the “Way to Normal” tour in Boston. It was truly different from any other Ben Folds show that I had seen. To be honest, I usually don’t like going to concerts when the act just released a new album; I like to sing along like a crazy person. However, I remember this show to be loud and heavy on audience participation.
Among the new stuff on the disc that I like are the Careless Whisper cover with Rufus Wainwright and live version of Just Pretend with he rock super group The Bens. I had heard the album version from The Bens EP, but the live version is much better. Another favorite with WASO was included on the WASO DVD, but I have always liked Fred Jones, Part 2. Overall, a nice mix of songs, included some great BFF performances from way back in the day.
Disc 3 – Rarities
The third disc is made up of (mostly) previously unreleased songs, some different versions of songs available elsewhere. One such track is the demo version of Best Imitation of Myself. This is one of my favorite BFF songs from the first album, and the demo version feels more raw than the album version.
Two new Ben Folds Five tracks also show up on this disc. The first, Tell Me What I Did, possess as a bootleg, though the version I have may actually be Robert Sledge singing. The other new BFF track is called Stumblin’ Home Winter Blues. It sounds like Robert Sledge is playing an upright bass on the track, and I would describe it as a ballad. Between these two songs and House, I think the as yet recorded new BFF album will be super awesome if they can put them all together.
Other favorites from this disc include a new version of Hiro’s Song, a alternate version of Such Great Heights from the Live at MySpace DVD, and the covers Bitches Ain’t Shit and Sleazy. I saw him do Sleazy in New York at the last Ben Folds concert I went to and it sounds just as awesome here as it did then. Finally, a super great song featuring Amanda Palmer, Damian Kulash, Ben Folds, and Neil Gaiman called Because the Origami has been stuck in my head since I heard it for the first time last week.
If you kinda like Ben Folds, or like him a lot, go buy this CD now. Forget digital downloads: you need the little book with Ben telling you about the songs. And the fancy cover art. You can thank me later.
Until next time…