In 1997, PBS began airing Sessions at West 54th, a program far removed from the live music fare aimed at the older set that one usually finds on the network. Instead, Sessions at West 54th brought the hottest and hippest acts to New York to perform live in front of a studio audience. And one of the first acts asked to appear was Ben Folds Five. Which was a very big deal to the leader of the band. “I viewed it as an equal to a classic BBC live music television show,” says Ben Folds. “I walked into it thinking, 'This is the one I leave [behind],' because it felt like some kind of a time capsule gig.”
Now, we at Real Gone Music are thrilled to present the complete performance by Ben Folds Five as recorded at Sony Music Studios (only three songs aired on the original PBS broadcast). This 2-LP/CD release represents the first live album to be released in either format from the “vintage” years of the trio (consisting of Folds, drummer Darren Jessee and bassist Robert Sledge). Among the 15 tunes are three from the group’s self-titled debut, nine from their then-current release Whatever and Ever Amen featuring their hit “Battle of Who Could Care Less,” and three songs that had not been released at the time (“Emaline,” “Theme from ‘Dr. Pyser’,” and their radically reimagined cover of Flaming Lips’ “In She Don’t Use Jelly”). Folds and crew were always a great live band-they even recorded their studio albums in a largely live setting-but this performance crackles with palpable intensity, brought home by this recording’s flawless fidelity. But don’t take our word for it-as Folds says in Bill Kopp’s liner notes that accompany the release, “That gig was pretty special.” Available on CD or in a gatefold white vinyl double-LP limited to 500 copies exclusive to Barnes and Noble!