Collective Soul

7even Year Itch: Greatest Hits 19942001 (Atlantic '01) Rating: A

Collective Soul are an unspectacular but consistently capable band who for the last 15 years (it's 2008 as I write this) have made modern mainstream radio more palatable. Although marketed as an "alternative" band (who wasn't in the early to mid-'90s?), they're simply a fine straight ahead rock band who have produced a steady stream of tuneful radio hits since they first greeted the public with their smash single, "Shine," which remains their signature song. One of the '90s defining anthems, "Shine" is instantly recognizable, with great heavy riffs, a splendidly singable chorus with cool vocal punctuations, and even an exciting guitar solo. Actually, guitar solos grace several songs here, including ballads, which I for one find to be a good thing as the general disdain for displaying guitar chops was one of the unfortunate influences of Nirvana. Anyway, there are plenty of other stellar songs here, including catchy, hard-hitting, riff-driven, groove-heavy rockers such as "Heavy," ""Gel," "Precious Breakdown," and "Why Pt. 2," beautifully lush and affecting ballads like "Run" (maybe their best song sfter "Shine") and "The World I Know," and intense mid-tempo pop songs such as "December." There are no bad songs here, only good ones that aren't quite as hooky as the great songs. In addition, we get the pretty, string-heavy ballad "She Said" from the Scream 2 soundtrack, plus two new songs ("Energy" and "Next Homecoming") that aren't highlights but which don't seem totally out of place amid such stellar company, either. Really, my complaints about this compilation are extremely minor: perhaps the modern production touches are overly slick at times, I'm not always crazy about the mechanized derived drum beats, and the strings are at times intrusive. Still, group leader Ed Roland is a gifted singer-songwriter who has gathered around himself a sympathetic band, and this 13-track collection hits the high points of the band's first five albums without lingering too long and with only one major omission: "Where The River Flows" from their popular self-titled second album. They've had some good singles since this album was released, such as "Better Now" and "Counting Down The Days," but for those and other songs you can check out the original albums, whose best songs are invariably its singles.

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