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Lonely Avenue

42 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 28, 2010
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Editorial Reviews

'It has its own voice, which comes from some place between the two of us,' says author, Oscar-nominated screenwriter and now lyricist Nick Hornby of 'Lonely Avenue,' his unique, words-and-music collaboration with Ben Folds. Singer-songwriter-pianist Folds puts it more bluntly: 'I felt like I'd found something rare on eBay or something. Nick should have done it before but it's his first big effort and I feel like I really scored here.' Hornby first attracted the attention of music fans - and artists like Folds - with his brilliant, bittersweet 1995 novel 'High Fidelity,' about an obsessive record collector's crumbling personal life that was translated into a cult classic film starring John Cusack and even a stage musical. Hornby has been an admirer since attending Folds' first U.K. shows. In fact, Hornby devoted an entire essay in his 2002 collection of music-themed short pieces, 'Songbook,' to Folds, praising the 'sophisticated simplicity' of Folds' writing. The London-based Hornby supplied the words for 'Lonely Avenue,' a project sparked by the long-distance friendship that developed after Hornby published 'Songbook.' Nashville resident Folds then set Hornby's lyrics to music in the vintage, orchestra-sized studio he'd rescued from oblivion and has been working in for the last ten years. The hero of 'High Fidelity' would have approved: Folds conceived the album as a vinyl release and recorded everything live in analog to two-inch tape, finally mastering the disc at Abbey Road. Joining Folds in the studio at various points were his own band, a string section, and legendary arranger Paul Buckmaster, who, as Folds describes him, is 'the person who makes you feel the goose bumps at the chorus and you don't know why.' (Those are Buckmaster's string charts, for example, on Elton John's 'Tiny Dancer' and The Rolling Stones' 'Moonlight Mile.') 'Lonely Avenue' offers equal measures of humor and pathos in often deceptively cheerful songs. Folds literally gives voice to Hornby's endearingly mixed up, lovelorn characters, who come across as sympathetic even at their most hapless. An aging pop singer has to endlessly and agonizingly reprise his one hit, a paean to a woman he left years ago, to the fans who still attend his shows ('Belinda'). A mother deliberately avoids a stunning view of New Years Eve fireworks as she ministers to her seriously ill child in a London hospital ('Picture Window'). Hornby reconstructs the world of crippled, Brill Building-era songwriter Doc Pomus circa 1962 ('Doc Pomus'), and imagines, with unexpected tenderness, the moment when Alaskan teenager Levi Johnston discovered he'd impregnated the newly announced vice-presidential candidate's daughter, Bristol Palin. The result is an 11-song set that's as playful as it is soul-stirring, and more than a little magical. Says Folds, 'With some albums the comet goes by and you grab it while it's passing and everything you do has some comet dust on it. This is one of those albums.'

Also available in a Deluxe Edition that includes the album on CD, four short stories by Hornby, and 15 images by acclaimed photographer Joel Meyerowitz, all in a hardbound, 152-page book.

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. A Working Day
  2. Picture Window
  3. Levi Johnston's Blues
  4. Doc Pomus
  5. Your Dogs
  6. Practical Amanda
  7. Claire's Ninth
  8. Password
  9. From Above
  10. Saskia Hamilton
  11. Belinda

Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 28, 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B003SS9DPY
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,520 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Platinum on September 28, 2010
Format: Audio CD
I've been a Ben Folds fan since the beginning of his career, and I've got to say that this release is by far his most "different." I mean that in the best way possible. As most of you know, Nick Hornby wrote the lyrics this time around. I personally think Ben's lyrics are just as good as Hornby's, but if there's anything a guest lyricist's contribution did, it had Ben approach songwriting from a totally different perspective. I think Ben is a great songwriter in every single way, but he's been doing it for 16 + years with the same formula. Having to write music around someone else's words seems to have given Ben a reason to really perfect the music. He said it himself in recent reviews; he felt like he had to live up to the quality of the lyrics being sent to him. You can tell extra attention was given to these songs, so that they could reflect exactly what Hornby was trying to get across. I've got to say, it made Ben's music sound fresher than it has in years (and I don't think he's put out a bad one yet.)

This is, however, an album you need to pay a lot of attention to if you want to get the most out of it. Rockin the Suburbs has some great lyrics, but you don't need to listen to the words to have fun with it. The songs are bouncy and catchy, which is something that can't be said as much about Lonely Avenue. The songs aren't quite as instantly catchy, but I would not put that against the "quality" of the songs at all. It's just a bit more of a grower, mainly because you have to pay close attention to how the music plays off the words to really FEEL the album like you're supposed to. Once it clicks, you're going to find yourself lost in this record. It's the most stylistic thing he's done since Reinhold Messener, way back in 99'.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By S. Messing on September 28, 2010
Format: MP3 Music
I couldn't disagree more from the previous reviewer. I think this release is amazing and has such classics as Levi Johnston's Blues (love the fun romp of this tune), From Above (So freaking catchy and clever), Saskia Hamilton (another romping song). I also love the ballads such as Practical Amanda and Picture Window. I felt the lyrics by Hornby are some of his best. IMO Ben can do almost no wrong but I haven't been so excited for a release like this one. As a fan of Mr. Hornby's this was a dream come true. We can only hope for more in the future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By video voice on March 19, 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Let me start off by saying that I LOVE BEN FOLDS. He is one of my favorite singer/songwriters. I own every studio album he has released and a good portion of his independent EPs.
That said, I want to focus on this album as it stands alongside his other material. Ben's mainstream music remains my favorite. Albums like "Ben Folds Five", "Whatever and Ever Amen", "Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner", "Rockin' the Suburbs", "Songs for Silverman" and "Way to Normal" are all stellar releases and should be in any fans collection. Heck, we'll even throw in "Naked Baby Photos" and "Supersunnyspeedgraphic" because they were mainstream collections of indy EPs.
However, he has released a series of "concept" album projects that only die hard fans will appreciate. These albums (in order) being "Fear of Pop", his William Shatner collaboration "Has Been", and "Ben Folds Presents: University A Cappella". But with "Lonely Avenue", he has taken a concept and made it work for the everyday listener.

As he has progressed, each concept album seems to get better. "Fear of Pop" is almost unlistenable to anyone but die hard fans. It's biggest accomplishment being that Ben worked with Shatner on the track "In Love", which led to their work on "Has Been". "Has Been" was mostly a collection of spoken word pieces by Shatner with music by Folds. Memorable tracks from that include a cover of the song "Common People" by Pulp, and a track called "That's Me Trying" which was co-written by Ben and Nick Hornby (see where this is leading). "University A Cappella" is a series of Ben Folds covers by different Acappella groups (fun, but not outstanding). And finally, we land at "Lonely Avenue".

With this album, concept goes mainstream as Hornby provides the words and Folds the music.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By MattC on June 11, 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I really came to like this album with repeated listenings, not knowing what to expect with lyrics by novelist Nick Hornby. My favorite track is Doc Pomus which is about the life of the songwriter of that name. Other great songs are Picture Window and Clair's Ninth which is about a girl with divorced parents. Looking forward to what Ben comes up with next.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Nate in Nantucket on October 20, 2010
Format: Audio CD
A couple quick notes on this album:

-I loved most of Ben Folds' earlier material, but I must admit that I was so disappointed after purchasing "Way to Normal" I threw it in a drawer and forgot it existed for two full years. His creative spark seemed to have dwindled, perhaps died altogether.

-After hearing the single "From Above" on NPR I was stoked enough to give him another chance. Mainly, I was intrigued by the original concept he and Nick Hornby used to co-create "Lonely Avenue." I'm not a particularly huge fan of "High Fidelity", but I just liked the idea of B.F. essentially being 'commissioned' to write music to fixed lyrics.

-The result works fairly well: the lyrics are definitely fresh (compared to recent B.F. efforts), and the music fits appropriately.

-Musically, several of the songs aren't terribly to my liking, but there were highlights - 'Doc Pomus', 'Claire's Ninth', and 'From Above'. The 'buzzy', distored bass is almost entirely absent from this album, and while synth-ey effects are featured on several songs, it's not as overpowering as on "Way to Normal". Overall, the entire album has a smoother, more polished feel, and is more piano-centric - especially thrilling on 'Claire's Ninth'. Lyrically, it's a bit too gloomy for my taste these days. This has always been his characteristic (and this time he's not the one responsible for the lyrics anyway), so it's more a matter of my personal taste changing than anything.

-In the end, I bought it mostly for the originality of the concept and the hope that it would produce refreshing results, and it is that originality that impresses me more-so than the actual music itself, leading me to give it such a favorable rating. And something tells me this album will age reasonably well, but we'll see...

I hope this is review provides accurate and helpful analysis for you!
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