Songs For Silverman

Ben Folds

Sony, 2005

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


It was about one year ago that I discovered Ben Folds, specifically his 2001 solo effort, Rockin' The Suburbs. Since that point, he has released a solo live album as well as a few EPs, but Songs For Silverman is his first true album in four years. The question is; was it worth the wait?

Don't get me wrong, …Suburbs was a terrific album, but its sound was not as fleshed out as it had been when Folds played with the Five. That one, minor quibble has been rectified, as Folds returned to the trio format for Songs For Silverman. The result is a harder, more powerful sound resembling those great, early albums. Check out where "You To Thank" provides glimpses of "Fair" off of Whatever And Ever Amen, or the Jackson Browne-sounding ballad "Give Judy My Notice." That second track was already recorded for one of the Folds' EP's, but here the band shows off not only their group harmonies, but a definite sense of "connectedness." These guys have bonded, and it's reflected in how each member works with the other. Hopefully, Folds has decided to stick with this band for a while; it would serve him well.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Some critics have said this is Fold's most Billy Joel/Elton John-esque album so far in his career, but I beg to differ. Yes, the influences of Joel can be heard in Fold's narrative lyrics, especially on such tracks like "Gracie." There's not too much different between that track and Joel's "Lullaby (Goodnight My Angel). Melodically, Elton John's music seems to have guided Folds as well. "I've Landed" (especially the string version) could have been taken from a number of early John albums.

What Folds accomplishes is more a synthesis of his two idols, rather than derivative slop. Of course, Ben still manages to create his own unique sound with each passing album. Take "Prison Food" for example; Joel and John never sounded like this, instead one could swear they were listening to Pink Floyd (Folds himself acknowledges this on the DVD side of this Dual Disc). "Jesusland," a tale of the Bible Belt, glides along smoothly while imposing a sense of sereneness fitting given the subject matter, as well sporting some absolutely gorgeous harmonies.

Lyrically I have always been in awe of Ben Folds; I'm not going to call his ability Springsteen-esque but he can create characters so well. They aren't clichéd, idealistic expressions of the artist, but rather just normal people like you and me (well, maybe just you). "Late," Folds' tribute to Elliot Smith, is not some sappy, melodramatic ode to a dead artist, it's just a matter-of-fact expression of the feelings Folds felt when he heard the news. To me, this take on the subject of death is infinitely more moving than, say, some of the songs that were wrote in honor of John Lennon after his death. (Special Note: If you are interested, check out Elton John's tribute to Lennon, "Empty Garden." For those of who you hated "Candle in the Wind 97," this should be quite a treat.)

In answer to the question that closes the introduction, the answer is a qualified "Yes." Folds has returned to form, though again …Suburbs was by no means a poor effort. This is a mature work from an immature kid who has finally grown up. Folds always made that immature bit work, and it's a testament to his skills that his music is just as effective now as it was ten years ago.

Rating: A-

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© 2005 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sony, and is used for informational purposes only.