Early in 2015, Collective Soul will be releasing their ninth studio album, See What You Started by Continuing, their first album since the 2009 self-titled album (also known as Rabbit, to differentiate it from an early self-titled album). So, after eight studio albums, which included seven number one mainstream singles spanning 20 years, does Collective Soul still have it?
“This”: Collective Soul fans will smile with the warm sense of familiarity as the album starts with driving guitars layered with falsetto harmonies over top and colored by the classic ‘Oooh’ backing vocal. It’s as comfortable as the first night back in your own bed after a long holiday.
“Hurricane”: Keeping the classic driving rock sound, Collective Soul begin to show that they have some tricks in their rock bag. In “Hurricane,” they add voice-overs with a crunchy classic rock lead.
“Are You the Answer?”: This is a great pop rock track and is going to be one to lead you into the summer (when it finally arrives?). This track has the feel of “World I Know” from the original Collective Soul Album.
“Confession”: This song could easily fool you. “Confession” starts off with a 70s rock pop classic feel that is spacious and trippy, before another great rock guitar riff leading you into the chorus “You / I want a lover like you / under covers with you.” Then, it calms down to the trippy verse again. It’s unexpected and a little unsettling at first listen.
“Without Me”: I wondered how long Ed Roland’s part time southern sounding band The Sweet Tea Project would take to influence this album; after all ‘you can take the boy out of the South, but you can’t take the South out of the boy.’ Picture a Marc Cohn “Memphis” type feel. Strings at the end of the song give it a strangely 70s feel before breaking into a guitar solo. I wonder if the string solo was a bit much especially if you’re just going to solo over it anyway?
“Contagious”: Ed Roland has really focused on the classic rock sound for this album. “Contagious” is one of those classic-sounding tracks that would fit snuggly on any Def Leppard or Guns ‘n’ Roses or (insert classic rock band here) album.
“Am I Getting Through?”: I wonder if Collective Soul are just preparing for the next round of Guitar Hero games as they open with some more really simple effective guitar riffs that drive through the song. They break this up with horns that surround the guitar riff. This is the best use of a horn section by the band since the 1997 album Disciplined Breakdown.
“Memoirs”: This is the classic slow acoustic based song you would expect to break up a rock album. This track is most like Collective Soul’s own “Run,” from their 1999 album, Dosage.
“Tradition”: Reminiscent of Shaun Mullen’s “Lullaby” from the 1998 album, Souls Core, this track is interrupted by a spoken section that talks about tradition. A strong chorus binds the song together.
“Comes Back to You”: It’s no real secret that Ed Roland is a big fan of Elton John. This is a piano based song that showcases Collective Soul doing their best Elton John impersonation and I actually think they pull it off.
Collective Soul has been around the traps enough and has been through enough hardship to know that they have a sound that people actually like. This album could be titled How to Craft a Classic Sounding Album as Ed Roland and Collective Soul have gone back to the song style that is based on a foundation of great guitar riffs and catchy melodies that made them so popular in their early stages. If you have a winning formula, why change it? It’s great to hear that Collective Soul is finally going back to the raw rock sound, filled with riffs that can only make you smile. Is this a new sound? No, however this is the most Collective Soul-sounding album since we were given tracks like “December,” “World I Know” and “Where the River Flows.” This album is proof that when some older rockers stop trying to be everyone else and just rock like they know that they can, they can reclaim the past and maybe also find new fans who also want to rock.