2 October 2015

Ben Folds - So There

I never know what this man is going to do next, but once he says what his next project - it always makes total sense, as if 'oh yeah, why did he not try this earlier'.  Last year, I had the pleasure of see Ben Folds perform at the Sage in Gateshead with the Royal Northern Sinfonia and it was one of the best concerts I have ever attended.  I took Mrs Carter with me, she had never been to a gig at the Sage and I had kept going on about it for ages.  Now before she went into the show, she was not too fussed on Ben Folds and his music was not to her tastes.  After the show though, she was a converted fan (not as big as me, but that is not a surprise) and she has been wondering what else he has been doing.  Well as well as taking his Orchestral Experience around the world and saving the RCA studio in Nashville, Mr Folds has been composing this album which comprises of eight songs wrote with yMusic as well as his concerto for Piano and Orchestra which is performed with the Nashville Symphony and is conducted by Giancarlo Guerrero.  Now, the idea of Ben Folds composing a concerto is not far fetch (obviously as it is here), but these types of pieces take a lot of work and it is different from writing a four minute pop song.  So I think that adding the chamber pop songs at the beginning is almost akin to a pair of stabilisers, he is not quite ready to unleash the full orchestra experience - but it could be different, I am not the creature of this album.  Maybe he wanted to test the water first with something that would not alienate the casual fans, maybe this record has been made to slowly introduce those fans to this type of sound.  Speaking of which, time to have a look at the record....

"Capable of Anything" is the first song of the album and it sort of deals with the point of view of was discussing before, Ben Folds is doing this for himself firstly and hoping that people will come along for the ride.  It can also be viewed as a prep talk to show people that they can be capable of much more.  It is the type of song that Ben Folds can make so easily, yMusic as a brilliant backing band for this track.  It is something that sounds as if it could have been wrote for the 'Lonely Avenue' project that he created with Nick Hornby, it has a wonderful storytelling feeling about the song and the music is brilliant - a beautiful opening.  "Not a Fan" is a tale of someone comparing themselves to a lover who is a fan of things that they do not quite get; some people put a lot of stock that you have to like the same thing, but I have never understood that.  Mainly because I like Frank Zappa and some of his stuff is well harsh, making people look at me strange anyway.  The song itself is a very gentle, lamenting about the differences which can drive someone away.  It is another beautiful number, all the way through to the final fuck you at the end.  The third track is the title track "So There", Mr Folds has created another world where theme seems to be starting and moving on to new pastures.  It is a theme that has been treaded many times over the years, quite a lot by the young fellow I am writing about now.  The music supplied by yMusic is beautiful and the lyrics are a great example of what Ben Folds when he is on his a game, it is one of the best tracks of the pop song section of this album (to be honest, they have all been brilliant).  "Long Way To Go" is another song which will make the heart swoon and the eyes moisten with joy and sadness, like the love song in a romantic comedy you are invited into a world where everything is not perfect; but the journey is still to come and we are viewing a very small window in the events of these people's lives.  It reminds me of "Smoke" from Whatever & Ever Amen, a beautiful song that melts the heart.

"Phone in a Pool" is the fifth song of the album, it was the first song I heard from the album and it is one of my favourite songs of 2015.  It has pretty much been on repeat since it was added to Soundcloud and even after all the other great numbers on this record, it is still my song of the album.  A song about explosive relationships and drama queens, it just makes me laugh out loud in places as I have seen people like this in the public (side note - the best one was two people arguing in my street:  The boy - But I love ya Tracey. Tracey - So why did you fuck Sharon!!!!).  You cannot help but be impressed by the music and lyrics on this number, just genius.  "Yes Man" is a great song - the main person has gained weight, he is angry of the people around him who tell him that he has gained some timber.  He is also angry that other things might have been held from him, it is a slow mournful number and whilst the lyrics are a little harsh (us chunky monkeys have feelings too), it is also well performed.  "F10-D-A" is a song about notes, with some obvious innuendos.  Obviously the lyrics are not the star of this performance, but the way that the notes are used to match the words is really clever.  I effing loved this song, even when it is being eff'd with a big fat D! The humour is brilliant and the music is as beautiful as anything else on this album.  Ending the baroque pop section of the album is "I'm Not the Man", another lamenting track with the subject being about the legacy which someone will leave behind when they take the next journey.  The urge to want to stay and never pass is obviously a very real for some people, a lot of people are scared of the grave and what it represent.  This fascinating number gives those fears a voice, it is something that I can relate to a little too easy if I am honest and I love this song.  It is another song that showcases Mr Folds at his very best for me.

The next three tracks make up Ben Folds first steps into the classical, it is entitled Concerto for Piano and Orchestra.  It is something that he has obviously been working towards for many years, a bit like when Frank Zappa released his first classical based albums (especially the London Symphony albums).  It is sometimes hard when a person is known for one thing (clever and witty pop songs) to be taken seriously in the classical world, which can be a bit stuff in places.  Whilst it is split into three separate and distinct sections, I think it is best to view it as a whole piece.  Whilst I am no expert in classical music (some people would rightly say I am no expert in music at all), there are a few passages in these pieces which feel as if they have been taken from a Hollywood musical number; other sections contain wonderful interplays between the piano and the orchestra.  The conduction by Giancarlo Guerrero of the Nashville Symphony completes Mr Fold on the piano exquisitely and it is a piece that obviously has taken a lot of work by Ben Fold.  

This is truly an album which contains two separate (but equally important) halves.  On one hand you have Ben Folds the songwriter and satirical genius of pain and love.  This side is something that everyone is very familiar with and something I feel he will always do.  Then you have the musician Ben Folds who has this serious piece to get out, by serious I do not mean that his other works are child's play - it is a big step to release a concerto in this day and age.  I think both can co-exist and should both be cherished, this album shows that Mr Folds is more than capable of this.  However, I will add that I would like to hear a classical work from Mr Folds on its own; I do not think he needs his songs to support the classical side of his work - it will stand up on its own two feet.  For that reason, the album is not perfect as it is trying to appease two sides of the musical community and I think that whilst it does an admirable job - it would have been better as two separate records.  But what beautiful music we have been introduced to here; well played Mr Folds, well played.

8.5 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Top track - Phone in a Pool

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Ben Folds Website here

You can follow the activities of Ben Folds on Facebook here

You can stream the album on Spotify here

You can stream the album on Deezer here

You can stream the album on Tidal here

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