Monday, August 8, 2011

Ben Folds 3: Naked Baby Photos

The band’s original label decided to cash in as best they could on the sudden if moderate success of Whatever And Ever Amen with what amounted to a rarities collection. Granted, there were various live tracks and B-sides already stockpiled, but the timing was about as questionable as the dance remix albums earlier in the decade from Paula Abdul and Milli Vanilli. Chances are, though, the band would have loved to be in such company. (Ben even went so far as to write up some notes for the package.)
Naked Baby Photos is split between studio and live material, and both angles run from the sublime to the ridiculous. Three outtakes from the first album—the poignant “Eddie Walker”, the jaunty “Tom And Mary” and the acoustic guitar-driven “Emaline”, which is what kept it in the can—sit alongside the homemade single version of “Jackson Cannery” that got them signed. Then there’s “For Those Of Ya’ll Who Wear Fanny Packs”, a six-minute jam that skewers funk and hip-hop, and is only slightly funny the first time through.
The live half offers straight covers from the debut, plus a version of the ever-evolving “Song For The Dumped” and a lovely cover of “Twin Falls” by Built To Spill. But there are also two near-metal pastiches that were, again, probably more fun at the time for the people involved.
That said, Naked Baby Photos served as a decent stopgap while the band prepared their next real album. And their increasingly rabid fan base was happy to buy anything they put out. Anyone else would be advised to stay away. (Footnote: Recorded around the same time was a band performance on the PBS series Sessions At West 54th, which was subsequently released in full on DVD, and finally appearing twenty years later as a standalone CD. The first two albums are liberally sampled, along with “Theme From ‘Dr. Pyser’” and the Flaming Lips’ “She Don’t Use Jelly”.)

Ben Folds Five Naked Baby Photos (1998)—3
Ben Folds Five
The Complete Sessions At West 54th (2018)—

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