Reviewed on this page:
Hints, Allegations And Things Left Unsaid - Collective Soul - Disciplined Breakdown -
You didn't have to blow your head off to be a multiplatinum rock act in the 90s - sometimes really good
songwriting was enough. Headed by Georgia-born Ed Roland, Collective Soul has a simple formula, but a sound one: most songs are based on
a grinding, midtempo lead riff, but rather than pound it into the ground, they leave
space open, which makes the occasional full-out distorted solo stand out that much farther.
Roland is just as good at writing tuneful ballads, and the band never descends to lukewarm pap or headbanging idiocy.
On the other hand, there's no message or innovation, one album is pretty much like another,
and in less inspired moments they're just an ordinary pop act.
They do get bonus points for occasionally playing "You Dropped A Bomb On Me" in concert.
Ed Roland, songwriter, lead vocals, guitar; Ross Childress, lead guitar; Dean Roland, rhythm guitar; Will Turpin, bass; Shane Evans, drums.
Childress left, 2001, replaced by Joel Kosche.
Ed-E Roland (Ed-E Roland: 1991)
I can't find much information about this early solo album, except that it's nine tracks written by Roland, and "Over Tokyo" has
occasionally been revived by Collective Soul in live shows.
Hints, Allegations, And Things Left Unsaid (1994)
The hit was "Shine," with a huge, perforated guitar hook that set a pattern for future releases. Roland's retro-corporate rock production is painstakingly precise:
even the country tunes (the slow, jangly "Wasting Time,", not far from contemporaneous Soul Asylum) has smooth vocal harmonies, and the organ backing the
mournful, anthemic "Sister Don't Cry" carefully avoids the spotlight. The hard rockers ("Breathe") get quite loud but shy away from metal. Yet the disc manages not to be saccharine or insincere -
the mildly mopey Roland never comes across as calculating, unlike a coy media manipulator like Billy Corgan.
Not as wall-to-wall catchy as the next two albums - too many listless tunes with perfunctory hooks ("Reach," "Goodnight, Good Guy") - but there are lots of high points: the irresistibly corny
love song "Heaven's Already Here"; the irresistibly prefab fast rocker "Love Lifted Me"... I think I keep using the word "irresistibly" because I wish I could resist the guy's unambitious assembly line craftsmanship.
Collective Soul (1995)
An evolutionary advance over their debut: the mellower numbers are more melodic and well constructed ("December"), while the rockers are more
energetic ("Where The River Flows").
Childress adds blaring guitar from time to time ("Gel") and an Angus Youngesque hammer-on intro to "Bleed," while drummer Shane Evans adds understated backing throughout.
Extremely solid with no real losers, though occasionally Roland fixates on a lame lyrical
concept, endlessly repeating one line like Van Morrison, who Roland sometimes sounds like ("She Gathers Rain"). With more variety this could have been a great
album: as it is, eventually the unvarying tempos and Roland's vocal limitations may get on your nerves.
Disciplined Breakdown (1997)
Stylistically more of the same, with a horn section on "Full Circle" the only novelty.
But this disc may be their most consistently powerful - apparently inspired by a split with their manager -
with standout rockers including the title track and "Precious Declaration," and Roland sounding more like Eddie Vedder
than Morrison ("Blame"). The drumming is more prominent, with Evans adding frequent accents to hip hop-influenced 4/4 patterns ("Listen").
Other tunes evoke a more contemplative mood ("Forgiveness," "Link"), but they're still pretty loud.
Ultimately, though, the consistency works against them: the second record is a better front-to-back experience because it's more varied.
All of a sudden, Roland seems to be running out of enthusiasm, or maybe inspiration: most of the tracks are built on simple drum loops ("Generate," "Tremble For My Beloved"), and his hard rock riffage and sudden stops are
starting to sound awfully familiar ("Slow"). In fact, the verse of "No More No Less" sounds remarkably like Air Supply's AM hit "I'm All Out Of Love."
There are still some powerful hooks ("Heavy") and groovy guitar solos, so the record's not a total loss - there's just nothing putting it ahead of the pack.
Childress got one song in, "Dandy Life," which he sings - it's psychedelic pop vaguely recalling Prince circa 1985.
No prominent guests, though there's a string section on "Needs," where Roland sounds just like Art Garfunkel - the guy deserves credit for vocal chameleon-ness, anyway.
There's supposed to be a bonus track, but honestly I didn't bother to go to their website and get it.
Elton John guests on "Perfect Day."
7even Year Itch (2001)
A greatest hits with two new tracks. (DBW)
From The Ground Up (2005)
An eight-song EP. (DBW)
A live double-CD recorded with the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra.