CD Review of "Ben Folds Presents: University A Cappella," by Various Artists and Ben Folds

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— At some point, pianist, singer and music producer Ben Folds realized his pithy pop songs are like crack to college students. The trend, he found, was particularly strong with a booming number of campus a cappella groups who were rearranging and re-recording his tracks.

"Ben Folds Presents: University A Cappella" is a collection of 15 songs, culled from a call for submissions of live a cappella performances via YouTube.

The Ohio University Leading Tones contribute a strong rendition of the Ben Folds Five single "Brick," with a lead vocal performance that could make any Folds fan feel like they haven't heard this song 7,000 times. The group also adds a little R&B breakdown bridge, which comes off significantly less cheesy than it sounds.

The Mosaic Whispers, from Washington University in St. Louis, lend a stirring, well-balanced version of the semi-depressing coming-of-age story "Still Fighting It." "The Luckiest" becomes a musical theater ballad under another Washington University group, and "Magic" sounds like a Philip Glass variation when performed by The University of Chicago's Voices in Your Head.

"University A Cappella" has more variety - and vastly better singing - than the standard Ben Folds record, and it has more consistency than the standard student group CD. If you like Ben Folds or a cappella, this compilation will be a fresh way to listen to them. If you don't, this compilation will be maddening and should be skipped.

Rating: 2.5 stars

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