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Ben Folds Five Import
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This 1995 debut album is full of Tin Pan Alley showmanship, with a touch of Something/Anything? era Todd Rundgren meets Look Sharp! era Joe Jackson and an alternative rock sensibility. Witty, offbeat, piano-based songs helped Ben Folds Five receive almost universally positive reviews, and spawned five singles. The record failed to chart, but caused an intense bidding war among the majors eventually won by Sony Music. On 180 gram vinyl.
Like the best guitar heroes, Ben Folds, pianist and leader of a guitarless trio called the Ben Folds Five, commands and fuels his small, tightly wound ensemble with an authoritative, nearly virtuosic style. Folds, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, borrows from everywhere but lends new inspiration and insight to the instrument's possibilities--he's the Jimi Hendrix of the baby grand. His frenetic key-pounding eclipses old-time styles from honky-tonk to Jerry Lee Lewis rag, and he outplinks megastars such as Elton John and Billy Joel while sifting them both through the mondo hammerings of classic pop-loving alternative keyboard bashers like Todd Rundgren and Jools Holland. To complement Folds-the-pianist's clean and bright ivory tinkerings, Folds-the-singer's clear and dynamic tenor swirls through Folds-the-songwriter's very capably crafted, sugary pop gems. "Philosophy" starts with a rolling Joel-like intro, slips into a Rundgrenish verse and chorus--complete with the perfect Beatlesque harmonies of bassist Robert Sledge and drummer Darren Jessee--and then breaks out in an overdriven piano quote from Gershwin in the climactic solo. "Underground" Sgt. Peppers us with faux theatrics and then plunges into a soul-gospel groove about the joys of the alternative rock scene. "Uncle Walter" is a character sketch Ray Davies wishes he wrote but couldn't; "Boxing" is an imagined confab between Muhammad Ali and Howard Cosell that Tom Waits wishes he wrote but wouldn't. The rest of Ben Folds Five's debut achievement just does what any other timeless summer record should: it makes you feel sunny enough inside to last all through the year. --Roni Sarig
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Top Customer Reviews
The CD opens up with the jaunty 'Jackson Cannery.' It¡¦s musically solid, and I catch myself singing the chorus line and the tag often. Not an amazing song, but it grows on you. It then moves into 'Philosophy,' one of Ben Folds most impressive piano-focused licks coming in the intro and in the finale of this song, sounding almost like something from Gershwin¡¦s¡¥Rhapsody in Blue¡¦ in the end. Overall, just brilliant song-writing, and one of his most stunning and prolific piano parts. Some other note-worthy songs would be the compelling waltz 'Boxing,' and 'Underground,' which shows off Ben Folds' jazz ability with the tag, a brilliant jazz rift that feels almost like a Scott Joplin rag.
Ben Folds is lucky enough to have some incredible back-up singers (with some surprisingly high voices), but Folds himself carries a lot of power with his ranging voice, spanning great depths of power. Don't get me wrong; they miss in one or two places, ("Julianne" just never gets off the ground) but this CD grows and grows on you, until you eventually get lost in the techinical wizardry of Ben Folds Five.
The first song also happens to be one of the best: "Jackson Cannery". I'm not sure if it's a personalized song, but shouts the line 'big brother got the keys / and I got Jackson Cannery'; some bitterness towards a brother or not it's still a joyous song. "Philosophy" is certainly a song that should not go unheard. It is an excellent song, perhaps the best on the CD and best of Ben Folds Five. Its ending is awesome; from the jamming on the piano to the '1-2-3-4' chant (somewhat uncharacteristic of BBF) that leads right into "Julianne". "Julianne" is one of those 'I'm-over-you-and-loving-it' songs. Hand's down, it's my favorite song on the disc. It starts brilliantly: 'I met this girl / she looked like Axel Rose'. It could be dubbed as annoying, since the end hangs onto the 'anne' a bit too long. But nonetheless it's an exceptional song; one that shouldn't go overlooked. When it comes to "Where's Summer B.?", there is not much that can be said.Read more ›
The rest of the album is good, but it just seems to fall off a bit from the level of perfection attained in the first half. It is a debut, after all. "Whatever and Ever..." is a real 5 star record, a truly great, complete album...but when i go on a trip, "Ben Folds Five" always comes along. If you have any interest in BFF at all, i would pick up this album, which is definitely worth a few extended listens.
Every band on MTV right now, from O-Town to Sugar Ray to everything else that's even slightly poppy pales in comparison to this record, which blends musicmanship with great lyrics and catchy melodies to really make the best pop record i've ever heard. If you've only heard "brick" - you've really heard nothing. Give "BFF" a chance.
Most recent customer reviews
Besides having such energy and good tunes, it seems like BFF probably had a lot of fun making this album. Read morePublished on April 17 2004 by S. B. Smith
The best place to start for wannabe Ben Folds afficionados, the 1995 debut is stuffed with wonderful tunes and winning couplets - and not a guitar in sight. Read morePublished on Feb. 14 2004 by Jimbobski
This is about as punk rock of an album as you can make without a Guitar in sight. But then again, there are touches of Ben Folds' sweet sorrowful side too, which makes it a little... Read morePublished on Feb. 11 2004 by Adam P Boots
I just pulled this out of my collection after hiding it away for way too long, and would have to agree with all the other reviewers...this is a stunner! Read morePublished on Dec 6 2003
i love this album and this is the greatest thing ben folds has ever done in his life, music-wise. if you're out there man, PLEASE GET THE BAND BACK... Read morePublished on Dec 2 2003
I love all sorts of music-- from Daft Punk and Basement Jaxx, to Dave Matthews and Jon Mayer, to Sum 41 and Queens of the Stone Age, to Michael Jackson and Britney Spears, to... Read morePublished on Nov. 12 2003 by D. Shaffner
With Ben Folds' smarter than you approach, he really kicks the door in on alternative music (especially on 'Underground'). Read morePublished on March 12 2003 by A. Rosenberg
I must have listened to this CD over a thousand times, and like all great music, it still feels fresh and lifts my mood. Read morePublished on Jan. 6 2003 by Ryan Armbrust
Wow. This one CD is perfect for everything. When I want to chill out, it's great. When I'm working, it's awesome. Read morePublished on Oct. 6 2002 by Sivan G.