Singer/songwriter Ed Roland and Collective Soul have done it again. There's nothing that needs fixin' on Disciplined Breakdown, the third album from this talented Georgia rock band. But its title reflects the rocky year it was recorded in. After selling seven million copies of their first two albums worldwide, the band went through a legal separation with its former manager which forced the band to live cheap and write their new album in a backwoods shack. Says Roland of the experience, "Disciplined Breakdown was all written during a very difficult and stressful time for me—for all of us. I should've had a nervous breakdown, but I wanted to maintain control over my breakdown."
Control is one thing Collective Soul displays in abundance. Crisp melodies, sharp, crunchy slabs of processed guitar and deceptively offhanded background flourishes make every Collective Soul song a treasure trove of hook and delivery. Roland's mastery of studio effects gives the band its distinctive sound, but it is his instantly familiar-seeming riffs that embed the band's songs in your head — and anchored "December" and "The World I Know" in heavy rotation on MTV for months last year.
Roland's just-gravelly-enough vocals lure the listener into a hook fest of a new album that's rich in pop dessert and poor in disappointing aftertaste. "Precious Declaration" opens the proceedings with a crash bang attack of drums and guitar and graduates to a finger exercising caress of a six-string chorus. "Listen" follows, with a repeating guitar hook and a plaintive vocal:
"why can't you listen
why can't you listen
as love screams everywhere."
"Maybe" follows in the sweet melancholy mood of the band's 1995 hit "The World I Know" as Roland croons:
"maybe is all that you can offer now
where am I to take refuge
when the storms of pain release
The quietly funky riffing of "Forgiveness" also leads into a personal moment of revelation, as Roland sings of moving beyond the quicksand of the past and opening the heart to love again. Another moment of note comes in "Full Circle" which the band augments with a flourish of horns that adds a different flavor to the usual Collective Soul mix.
Overall, Disciplined Breakdown holds a lot of similarities to Collective Soul, the band's last disc. The songcraft is tight and filled with wildly catchy little vocal and guitar twists and tricks. The sound, an instantly identifiable blast of garage energy and tactical harmony, remains the same. And the simple, meaty guitar hooks which hearken back to the best rock bands of the '70s (Zeppelin, Aerosmith) manage to come off sounding modern, despite their obvious roots. But if the band doesn't sound any different than they did two years ago, the members of Collective Soul know how to ride a good groove into pop single heaven. And they do it over and over again on the new disc.
Disciplined Breakdown offers a dozen new reasons to leave Collective Soul sealed inside your car tape or CD deck for the summer.
Styx, Chicago & Comedy
The 1997 Styx tour came to Chicago's Rosemont Horizon on June 6 and found the band in fine form, opening with a grand "illusion" and a visual joke about last year's tour. The set list didn't vary largely from 1996's "Greatest Hits" tour, which is not surprising, since the band is on the road in support of its double live Return to Paradise album, recorded at the Horizon last September to close out a highly successful reunion tour. The double live CD offers 17 of the band's best oldies, as well as three new tracks, including "Paradise," a track lifted from DeYoung's musical version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (a show due to open in Nashville this fall) and a Tommy Shaw tribute to late Styx drummer John Panozzo called "Dear John." The three new studio songs (which went over well at last Friday's Horizon show) serve as a good teaser for the next Styx studio album due to be recorded this fall. Pat Benatar, touring in support of her new Inamorata album, opened for Styx and proved with a "Greatest Hits" set of her own that PTA moms can still rock! Internet surfers can find out more about the new Styx and Benatar albums through the CMC International Records web site.
...Speaking of Chicago bands and hits, and hits, Reprise Records has just released a greatest hits of Chicago album titled The Heart of Chicago 1967-1997. The 30th anniversary disc of Chicago's most famous horn-based band offers two new songs courtesy of Lenny Kravitz and Glen Ballard amid oldies like "You're The Inspiration, "If You Leave Me Now," "Make Me Smile" and "Hard To Say I'm Sorry"
...Arista has digitally remastered and reissued (for the first time on CD) four Monty Python albums. Their swan song 1980 Contractual Obligation Album, their very first album Matching Tie and Handkerchief and the live albums Live At City Center and Monty Python and the Holy Grail include a host of memorable skits from the world reknowned British comedy troupe, from "Cheese Shop" and "Crunchy Frog" to "Pet Shop" and the "Lumberjack Song"
...if you're more inclined to seek out modern American comedy, TV's "Saturday Night Live" alums Julia "Pat" Sweeney and Chris Rock both have new albums out. And Eddie Murphy has just released a Greatest Comedy Hits album.