Review by Joshua Maloni
In this iTunes age we're living in, half a record isn't going to cut it. When songs sell for 99 cents online, a musician's $15 album isn't going to move off store shelves if it has six good songs and six throwaways. In this case, quantity and quality go hand-in-hand.
Nobody knows this better than Collective Soul. The Georgia-based rockers have just as many Top 20 albums (seven) as No. 1 hit songs. When the foursome sets out to make a record, the notion of a throwaway song is the farthest thing from their minds.
"Our approach has always been a song-by-song basis," lead guitarist Dean Roland said in a phone interview. "We've never wanted to put fillers on a record. We come from the early '80s and '70s, where you couldn't. ... Where we grew up, the album concept was alive and thriving. People, they made full records full of great songs."
"Our approach is to put the best 11 or 12 songs we have at that time on those records," he said. "We clearly have no intention of putting a filler on there."
When Collective Soul set out to make its second self-titled album (now in stores), frontman Ed Roland said his band had one objective in mind: "We're going to make a true rock record again," he said.
Dean Roland said the idea was to "make it more a rock-riff-oriented type record. But you never know, (because) once you get in there, it starts to take a life of its own. But we stayed pretty true to it, even though our approach was just to get the four of us in a room, and see what comes out of it."
The goal, he said, was "to maintain that consistency. You have the melody. That's the main foundation of this band. This time, we just focused more on the riffs; on the riff-writing."
Behind chart-toppers "Shine," "December," "Listen" and "The World I Know," Collective Soul shot to stardom in the mid-90s. Yet, it's in the past five years that the band has produced, arguably, some of its strongest work. Remarkably, these recent albums ("Youth," "Afterwords" and "Collective Soul") came after a self-imposed hiatus - at a time when the band could've just as easily called it quits.
"I think a lot of it, the break we took off was well-needed," Dean Roland said. "We had spent the first seven or eight years of our career constantly moving and doing stuff.
"I think it was sort of the exhale from the inhale, kind of thing. So, it's like, we were able to take a breather, and we were just re-energized and refocused. And (we) really appreciated the career and the position that we had been put in, to have a career in music.
"And we still feel that. We're vibrant, and the music we're making is relevant. So, we feel great; feel young; feel like we're just starting to do some of our best work.
"It's all a state of mind. As long as we feel that way, we'll keep doing it."
With two-dozen hit songs, and two new tracks currently on radio, Collective Soul has no shortage of material to draw from at each show.
"We know that we're gonna' have certain songs that we're just going to play. ‘The World I Knows,' and the ‘Shines,' and the ‘Decembers,' and the ‘Runs.' Those types of songs that people have heard. And we want to play them; that's what people want to hear," Dean Roland said. "When you have eight records, now, you're able to mix it all in. (But,) that part gets a little tricky.
"For us, as the artists, we're excited about the new music, and want to play more of that. But, we also know that people, a lot of them haven't really heard most of it. So, we don't want to bore them.
"We just try to strike that balance. And then we'll dig into some of the earlier records and songs that were never even released - that some of the diehard fans would connect to."
Dean, personally, is connecting with new songs "You" and "Welcome All Again."
"It really comes to life when we play it live," he said of the former. Of the latter, the new record's first song, he said, "That one's a lot of fun to play. It's more of a rocker-type song."
Though he's performed many of his band's biggest hits for upwards of 15 years, Dean Roland still enjoys the experience.
"We'll do different arrangements on some of the old stuff, too. Like ‘December.' We'll mix it up, and take different approaches," he said. "Each night takes its own life, and has got its own versions - and that's fun. It keeps it fresh."
"Our approach to the live show is the most fun part of our day," he said. "We enjoy it. And hopefully, it transcends to people that are at the show. (That) we get to share our passion, and our gift, is really a privilege to be able to do it. And, hopefully, people enjoy it."
Though Collective Soul has mustered an impressive résumé, the band has yet to achieve the critical or pop-culture status of fellow '90s rock outfits such as Pearl Jam and the Goo Goo Dolls.
That's OK with Dean.
"We're extremely grateful for the recognition that we have, for sure," he said. "I think we're a bit underrated, to be frank and honest. But, I'm not complaining. I think things are the way they are for a reason, and we have a pretty fantastic career.
"To be able to make music, and people come see the shows, they buy the records. It's all great. All-in-all, it's a great thing."
Collective Soul is now touring Canada. Band members expect to return stateside in November, before winding down in December. The band will gear back up in late-winter or early spring of 2010. International dates are expected, as well.