I’ve written about Ben Folds before, specifically his album with Ben Folds Five entitled The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner. Reinhold Messner was a terrific album, but it wasn’t until Ben’s solo work that I really realized just how talented Ben Folds on his own. I hate to say that his solo work showed us that he was, indeed, the talent behind the band, as that would insinuate that Darren Jessee and Robert Sledge were just along for the ride, but damn was Ben not a huge part of why Ben Fold Five sounded so incredible.
Why This Album?
When the Five Broke up (for the first time) some time in 2000, I’ll admit, I was a bit bummed. Here was a band I had only fairly recently discovered only for them to end their career, albeit on a serious high note. Fast forward one year later and we were granted a continuance of the genius that is Ben Folds with his first solo album, Rockin’ the Suburbs. Ben was amazing, having just come off a solid stint with the Five, it seemed he had something to say and let it loose to everyone’s delight. Then, nothing. For a bit there, it seemed that Ben Folds would vanish from the world, I didnt have the access to the web as much as I would have liked and Smart phones were still a few years away so I didn’t know that Mr. Folds had started work on what would become one of my favorite albums he has ever released.
In 2005 an album hit the racks in my local record store and, of course, the album would soon grace my collection. Immediately I could tell that this album was something special. Gone was the rock tuned Folds and in his place was an introspective more ‘mature’ performer who had a lot to say. The album he gave us was full of life, love and his patented deep emotions about, well, everything. Each song, from the intro Bastard to the final notes of Prison Food, blend into one another in a way that would make my childhood mix tape making self jealous.
There are not many ‘perfect albums’ in existence but this one, this one sure is a contender for that title. I don’t think there is a bad song in the 11 incredible tracks that make up Songs For Silverman which ultimately set a bar that, even though he has gotten close, he has yet to surpass. It feels personal, fun, and deep, almost as if he opened himself up to the world and said ‘look at me, this is who I am like it or not’. And frankly, there is a lot in this album to like.
Man, the first track that really hits me is Jesusland. In many ways this tune feels like Ben Fold’s own Penny Lane. Describing the idyllic town that he describes as Jesusland. It is a beautiful place that, while it claims to be created in the name of Christ himself, underneath it is nothing but a mockery of what He actually stood for. The song is a clear observation of the hypocritical nature of our very own home towns. Jesusland is as honest and upfront as the happiest place on earth is.
Track 5 is a song written for Folds own daughter. Entitled Gracie, it is one of the most heartfelt tunes I have heard. I could only wish for someone to write such a lovely song about me as Ben wrote for his own child. There is nothing more touching and it might just bring a tear to your eye.
Finally, Late. Late is a touching tribute to the singer songwriter Elliot Smith who Ben was friends with. It’s a tune that really dives into the small things you find you miss about those that have passed on. While I didn’t know him personally, I miss Elliot too Ben, thank you for this.
Ok, Where do I get it?
You can pick this one up pretty cheap these days and, if it is still available when this article is published you can grab a used copy here for around $5. If not, wait it out, they show up every now and then. Until then, give it a spin on Spotify.
I had the pleasure of seeing Ben live some years back and I highly recommend it if you get a chance. This guy sounds good on an album but you really haven’t heard him until you have heard his music in person. Man, it is pretty amazing. He tours quite a bit so check his site out to find out where he is going to be next. Trust me. Well worth it.
Till next time,
Late to the Game 1/7/2020
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