Album Reviews

Ben Folds – The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective

on October 25, 2011, 7:59am
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Given that Ben Folds has been in the business for over 20 years – via Ben Folds Five, his solo albums, and touring and collaborating with The Bens (Ben Kweller, Ben Lee, and Folds), Rufus Wainwright, and William Shatner – it was only a matter of time before he issued his own retrospective. Now, that day has come with the arrival of one broad three-disc affair titled, The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective.

This collection isn’t a best of, necessarily, but more of a front-to-back anthology of Folds’ resume. The songs are a representative swath of the acclaimed songwriter’s diverse releases, with the first disc culling together tracks from his studio work with Ben Folds Five, solo efforts, and various soundtracks. This includes hits such as “Brick”, “Annie Waits”, and “Rockin’ the Suburbs”. The songs are straight from the albums for the most part—save for a few, like an extended version of “Still Fighting It” and a cut of “Smoke” featuring the West Australian Symphony Orchestra.

The second disc is all live tracks, and this is the disc that shows Folds at his best, the songs coming alive and morphing into something new and fresh. Folds’ piano and improvisational skills are showcased well here. Rocking tracks like “Army” and “Zak and Sara” explode live, and the recordings do them complete justice. Also included is a hilarious but still amazing duet with Rufus Wainwright on George Michaels’ “Careless Whisper”.

Overall, the release is a must-have for Ben Folds fans, but really only for the live portion and, to an extent, the third disc, which is all demos and previously unreleased songs, including a fantastic 1992 take of “The Best Imitation of Myself”, where Folds’ voice sounds incredibly young behind his thick North Carolina accent. There’s also the enjoyment of two newly recorded Ben Folds Five songs that may be on their forthcoming reunion album, possibly due out next year. Now, there’s a release worth grabbing.

Essential Tracks: “Army”, “Zak and Sara”, and “Careless Whisper”

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Matthew Boswell
October 28, 2011 at 7:23 pm

This is a really well written review! I’m so stoked on this Ben Folds album. I’ve even got some friends who were never big Folds fans hooked from this collection. Definitely should be checked out by anyone and everyone.

Marina Tropeano
October 27, 2011 at 11:26 pm

The live tracks are definitely my favorite part of the box set, too, I’ve been streaming them over and over again on Spotify:

http://open.spotify.com/album/1h4LqT4SV5pTlyW6eonP4S

Charlotte Kim
October 27, 2011 at 1:42 am

Ben Folds is such an incredible musician..  every song on this album brought back so many memories for me, and all the new songs are just as great.  I’m especially liking “House”.  Here’s a cool video of him talking about the song http://www.vevo.com/watch/ben-folds/the-best-imitation-of-myself-house/USSM21101757?source=ap

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