Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ben Folds' Uni A Cappella nearly ready and other weird Ben Folds news from Canada

Ben just updated his myspace blog with a fun read about his recent project University A Cappella, which he's aiming for an April release. Read about it here.

If you hadn't heard about it, it's a album of a cappella covers of Ben's songs by university groups with the album proceeds benefitting VH1's Save the Music Foundation. A interesting bit of news is that Ben himself was politely coaxed into contributing two of his own a cappella re-arrangements for the album, Boxing and Effington:

"My label were very kind to be involved in this but they did insist that I contribute two tracks in order that they could justify the release. I thought, no problem. Big problem. If i wasn't in awe of these singing groups before, now that I've spent tens of hours arranging and recording two songs, I am now. Boxing was scored as a kind of four part jazz invention and was very time consuming. The voices are mostly mine and Jared Reynolds'. Basses were sung by the famous Webb Wilder, local vocal coach John Ray and our own Joe Costa. Effington filled what I perceived as a serious gap in the new wave a cappella arena. While Boxing is a pure and organic arrangement, Effington uses the studio in the way that some of the modern a cappella groups do."

Looking forward to this one, even though I can take or leave most college a cappella covers in general. According to this recent article in the Vancouver Sun, author Nick Hornby will be headed to Ben's Nashville studio in June to start recording their eagerly awaited collaboration.


Shortly after I had written up the blurb above, I caught wind of a bizarre non-event involving Ben Folds and Torquil Campbell of the Canadian indie band Stars stemming from an interview with Ben on the CBC Radio's Q, a pop culture talk show that's normally hosted by former Moxy Früvous member Jian Ghomeshi though guest host Laurie Brown was filling in yesterday. So during the show Brown played a track called Mrs. Morris (Reprise) from The Happiness Project, a conceptual album from Broken Social Scene member Charles Spearin. Ben made some comments (we'll get to that in a bit) including a reference to "bad spa music". After the show, this angry anti-Ben tirade was sent out on the Stars' myspace bulletin by Torquil Campbell, who also performs in BSS:

hi guys...well i know i'm gonna regret this, but i can't help myself. I just heard Ben Folds, who many of you prolly have never heard of because you don't waste your time listening to shitty mid nineties m.o.r. lite grunge, calling my friend Charles Spearins' BEAUTIFUL new record "bad spa music" on the CBC. BEN FOLDS! insulting CHARLES SPEARIN! is he fuckin' nuts? you come to our country and insult a national treasure on the radio? CHARLIE SPEARIN????? the most beautiful talented soulful brother in the whole world? a guy who has written some of the most influential, sublime music this side of heaven? WHo has just completed the Happiness Project, one of the most original and uplifting pieces of music i have EVER HEARD? Ben Folds, ladies and gentleman, is an ASSHOLE for dismissing this extraordinary tribute to life and love as 'bad spa music'. It makes me wanna......well you know.....kick his scrawny, washed up hipster doofus ass....but instead, i encourage you all to write to his myspace (he could use the visits) and imbed charles' music in your message so that every time some refugee from the nineties wants to hear their favourite ben folds ditty, they get charlie instead. i've said it before, and it feels right, so i'll say it again; BEN FOLDS IS AN ASSHOLE.
xo love and hate torq@stars

Whoa there, eh? Soon after this follow-up bulletin was posted:

hello everyone-
we don't know who put up their rant against ben folds here.......could have been anyone i guess.........but we don't know what the fuck all this is about... We do love charlie spearin............don't really know ben folds work...........anyway, i find it exciting that i dont even have to know whats going on to be contreversial..... i am now going to change the password on our myspace......i have to say, whoever you are, you've really got my style down!
wow, torq

So we've got a purportedly fake rant followed by a quick retraction, but not before Pitchfork jumped up with their own Take a Chill Pill, Torquil report, which they've also retracted (at least striked out). Must have been a sloooooooow news day.

By the way, take a listen to the "offending" clip:

In fact, the first thing Ben says is "Yeah, I loved it". See, I can take quotes out of context too.

The full 12-minute interview can be heard if you download the latest episode of the Q podcast in iTunes (search "CBC Q"). I'd upload the Ben portion of the show myself but I'm having major router pains which prevent me from uploading for more than a few seconds. In the interview, Ben chats about the a cappella album, Glenn Gould, and his university days among other things. They actually previewed two songs from disc, but the music is edited out of the podcast unfortunately. Guess we'll have to wait until April.

In other Ben happenings (busy day), his "Stems and Seeds" album is out now on Amazon and presumably elsewhere. When Way to Normal came out, fans were complaining that the mix was too loud and compressed... or something like that. I'm not really an audiophile, my ears kinda suck. So Ben actually listened and put out this two disc set, which contains Way to Normal remastered and resequenced with the fake leaked tracks, the rehearsal performance of You Don't Know Me from Conan O'Brien, and some other unreleased versions-- 20 tracks in all. The real zinger is a second disc of "stem" files that you can open in GarageBand or whatever and tinker with all the songs yourself! If you're a member of his fan club, theoretically this is already in the mail on its way to you (or ahem, me).

1 comment:

Jowey said...

Thanks for the update, Fong, glad to see you posting again! :)

The lastest post on my relatively new blog happens to have been about A Cappella music and mentions the Ben Folds project, though I honestly hadn't seen his most recent post.