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Ben Folds Five
Naked Baby Photos
label: caroline
released: 01.13.98
our score: 5.0 out of 5.0

Have They Reached Paradise?
by: kriste matrisch

The first time I ever heard of Ben Folds Five, contrary to most of the world, was from a CMJ magazine/CD. I bought it originally for the article on Ani Difranco since I was a new fan and all. Inside was a CD and one of the songs featured was Ben Folds Five's "Battle of Who Cared Less." While I dug the song, it didn't prompt me to buy any of their stuff, even though I'm a sucker for the piano and Ben Folds is a very talented pianist. No, what prompted me to buy a CD was the release of "Brick." Damn the radio stations!

I thought "Whatever and Ever Amen" was an awesome CD, but I wasn't a true fan until I (tada!) read Bill's review of BFF's debut (here). He convinced me that it was worthy of buying. So, I did. Wow! It's their best release, in my opinion. One can NOT be depressed listening to that album. Then, The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner (their final album) was released. I should've jumped at the opportunity to hear their new stuff, but I didn't. I waited a good year or two before I bought it. I think it was because I was a bit apprehensive about the term "rock opera." I was pleased with it, nonetheless.

Then, I found Naked Baby Photos.The rest is history. This is going to be a classic for any BFF fan. Most of the songs are the original demos of their debut; others are live versions. In the live version of Underground,for example, Ben sings, "I was never cool in school… I'm sure you don't remember me." Then, someone from the audience shouts, "Who the f**k are you?" Audience claps, screams, and laughs to which you can hear BFF trying to compose themselves and finish the intro of this song. It's quite humorous.

There are a few songs which never made it to their other CDs, but they are worthy to be here (including the only Ben Folds Five song to feature guitar - "Emaline"). They are probably the gems of the album; songs that are recorded in one session, totally spontaneous are often the best stuff. Or, just can stand on their own and make you wonder.

Some of these songs will indeed make you laugh, "For Those of Ya'll Who Wear Fannie Packs" is one of those. It's definitely interesting BFF do piano-rap.

The one thing that I loved about BFF was their chemistry in the songs. They just worked great together and this album captures that.