The Second Disc

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We’ve Been Thinking a Lot Today About Folds’ Retrospective (UPDATED)

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“Soon.” That’s what a Legacy representative told The Second Disc as to when the label’s upcoming Ben Folds retrospective package would be announced. Naturally, such a revelation is nothing short of exciting. Everyone at Second Disc HQ is a major fan of the singer/songwriter/pianist’s recorded works over the past 15-plus years, from the perfect punch of Ben Folds Five‘s three studio LPs to Folds’ increasingly prolific solo career, which has seen him collaborate with such luminaries as Joe Jackson, William Shatner, Amanda Palmer and author Nick Hornby.

We’ve been so excited, in fact, that we decided to put together a post using our powers of research (and our love for educated guesses) priming readers on what to expect when the set is finally announced. Intense Folds-related geekery follows after the jump.

What is this set?

To hear Ben Folds talk about it, as he did in an Australian radio interview, it looks like the set’s going to be a three-disc box. One disc will cover Folds’ greatest hits, both as a member of Ben Folds Five and a solo artist. Another disc will focus on rare tracks, and yet another will focus on live performances. (You can debate the logic all you’d like of including hits next to rarities in a set devoted to a musician with a cult following.) In an interview with The Huffington Post (conducted by Mike Ragogna, friend to The Second Disc and a familiar name to catalogue enthusiasts, having produced a long list of reissues and compilations), Folds also gave away a neat tidbit of information – the set would span both physical and digital components, featuring a large amount of downloadable tracks that would build a package of over 100 songs.

As for official information, though, Legacy’s entitled the set Retrospective: Best Imitation of Myself 1995-2011, and the Amazon page lists a September 13 release date (right about ten years since Folds’ solo debut, Rockin’ the Suburbs, hit stores) and a list price that indicates just one disc. Is this perhaps the first disc to be sold on its own? It would certainly make sense, given the lack of a proper Folds compilation with which to entice new fans.

What rarities should we expect?

Logically, this would be a good place to release as many of the non-LP B-sides not collated on 1998’s rarities set Naked Baby Photos or Epic’s expanded edition of Whatever and Ever Amen from 2005. In particular, that would include a clutch of great B-sides from the end of Ben Folds Five’s tenure as a band (“Birds,” “Leather Jacket“) or the many, many tracks left over from the Rockin’ the Suburbs sessions (“One Down,” “The Secret Life of Morgan Davis,” “Hiro’s Song”). It would also be great to have some of the non-LP tracks from the Whatever era that didn’t make the cut on the reissue. Remixes of “Kate” and “Fair” ended up on a Japanese CD single, and a live cover of Oasis “Champagne Supernova” – recorded in England and jokingly introduced (and played!) in the style of an American country standard – would also be welcome introductions.

As long as the live tracks aren’t anything like the embarrassing disc of live improvisations released with the super-deluxe edition of 2008’s solo album Way to Normal, I think we’ll be alright.

What about unreleased stuff?

Well, assuming Legacy goes before 1995, the year of Ben Folds Five’s debut album, there’s certainly the first album by Majosha, Folds’ college band, or the 1990 publisher’s demo tape that’s often traded among fans. (Folds and his wife, Fleur, the latter of whom spoke on her since-deactivated Twitter account, had stated that they were going through tapes from as early as his teenage years, so it’s a possibility that we might hear things even older than 1988’s Majosha album.)

The silver tuna, though, would be material from Ben Folds Five’s legendary lost fourth album, recorded after the band’s final tour around 2000. The album, which featured songwriting contributions from all three of the band’s members (Darren Jessee’s “Emelia Bright,” which the band played at several of their final shows in 2000, remains a high point of their entire recorded output), was scuttled later that year, and few ever knew how many songs were actually cut. (From all sources, there were at least  six songs: “Emelia Bright,” Robert Sledge’s “Prince Charming” and “Tell Me What I Did,” Folds’ long-unheard but oft-mentioned “Break-Up at the Food Court” and “Carrying Cathy” – the latter of which was recorded for Rockin’ the Suburbs – and a cover of Steely Dan’s “Barrytown,” which ended up on the Me, Myself & Irene soundtrack that year.)

Folds sadly dashed any hopes of worthy outtakes some time ago in an interview, explaining that the only recordings that remained were rough mixes from the recording monitor rather than multitrack masters (he did not, however, rule out including them on a still-unrealized deluxe edition of the Five’s swan song, 1999’s The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner). But in the past year, while rescuing tapes from a flood in his Nashville studio, Folds apparently found multitrack masters for the songs. And further speculation was fueled when Folds tweeted a picture (as seen above) he took of Jessee and Sledge sitting across a diner booth from his perspective. Have the Five gone back into the studio to finalize these tracks? Perhaps discuss a further reunion than their one-off gig in 2008? One can only imagine the possibilities.

Update: In a radio interview with Adam Carolla Folds said three new BF5 songs would be included in the package, along with two tracks from the band’s 2008 reunion show (one from the main set – a complete run-through of Reinhold Messner as broadcast live on MySpace – and one from the unbroadcasted encore). He did not specify if the “new” songs were the outtakes from the fourth album or entirely new tracks; he did, however, a planned DVD of that show was scuttled, as Sony deemed the set unprofitable.

Final thoughts

Of course, until “soon” becomes “now” and Legacy dishes out the full scoop on the set, it’s little more than conjecture mixed with some solid facts from the mouth of Folds himself. But if you’re a true fan of this modern-day piano man and his impressive discography, this set looks to be a great reward indeed.

Written by Mike Duquette

July 21, 2011 at 11:51

One Response

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  1. Waiting for this dream to become reality…patiently, for now…


    July 21, 2011 at 16:32

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