There’s a long historic tradition of purely vocal music, beat boxing, choirs, the recent resurgence of sea shanty’s, babershop – after all beside maybe percussion the voice is the one instrument we’ve always had. But who are we kidding, amongst all this, the most recent love of a cappella music is firmly routed in that god awful American TV Show Glee, maybe if you’re stretching it, the Pitch Perfect films. Which gives me a natural instinct to want to dislike it. But come on you can’t can you? There’s a strong hypnosis to well done vocal harmonies and great acoustic arrangements, it can be such a powerful sound. If you combine that with some songs you already love then surely you’re on to a winner?
I’m honestly not sure where I first heard about Ben Folds A Cappella album, a collection that was born out of a university choir cover the song “Brick”, but I remember queueing up that first track and the opening “no,no,no,no,no,no,no,no” of “Not the Same” was mesmerising. It’s a triumph of an opener and a throughly great version of an already great track. The album runs along nicely through with some fantastic reimaginings, “Jesusland” propelled along nicely in the opening that leaves you almost surprised at how good it sounds as the opening lyric kicks in. The album then meanders through some of Ben Folds solo and Ben Folds Five best tracks, the biggest slips coming as the pace slows down – the fantastic emotion of one of my favourite tracks “Evaporated” doesn’t fare well in it’s slow downed choral version.
Getting people to sing along a cappella style has long been a staple of Ben Folds live shows, Ben on stage conducting the audience along, and the album brings back memories of some great live shows – even if the album performance of “Army” does leave a little lacking from the joy of the sing along live version. The album as a whole though is fantastic, it surprises in how it takes some tracks that you already know and repackages them in a way you maybe wouldn’t expect but bring something new and enjoyable. It’s not all hits, I’d say there’s a few misses on the album as a whole, but it is a great, fun and interesting listen and thankfully, it’s much better than watching an Episode of Glee.