Monday, May 04, 2009

Flying high on life

From his earliest albums, Ben Folds has always exuded a certain college-rock vibe. (Whatever and Ever Amen provided the soundtrack to an entire month of my freshman year, and I wouldn't have had it any other way.) Capitalizing on that quality, Folds has recruited the help of college students on his latest album, University A Cappella, which is actually a collection of covers of his songs performed by college a cappella groups from around the country.

Groups "auditioned" for the gig by posting video to YouTube - Folds himself picked the winners, who represent UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Chapel Hill, Ohio University, the University of Georgia, Washington University, Sacramento State, the University of Chicago, the University of Colorado, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania at West Chester, the University of Rochester and UW-Eau Claire, as well as one lucky high school in Newton, Mass. Then Folds added two new songs written specifically for the album (he sings all of the parts.)

The result is quirky, it's creative, and it's infectiously likeable, just like the rest of Folds' work. Highlights include "Not the Same," as interpreted by the UNC-Greensboro Spartones, "Landed" as interpreted by the University of Chicago Buffoons and "Fair" as interpreted by the UW-Eau Claire Fifth Element.

If you occasionally find yourself nostalgic (as I do) for the strange tradition that is college a cappella, for that mix of raw vocal power and prankster ridiculousness, then here is the answer.

To hear two songs from the album, visit his MySpace page.

To get an idea of how he recorded the groups and watch a behind-the-scenes look at the college a cappella world, check out this 15-minute "making of" documentary:

Ben Folds Presents: University A Cappella! The Documentary

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