Flashback Favorite - Collective Soul's Self-Titled

They came from Georgia to conquer the charts in 1995


A man was at the end of his rope. He glanced down sadly at all the passersby from atop a high office roof, briefcase tossed aside. It was all too much to bear. Modern life – or perhaps a crumbling marriage, a cancer diagnosis, a drug addiction – had gotten under his skin. He was through.

Until a miracle occurred. Just as he was about to foist himself off the building, a pigeon landed on his arm. Chuckling at the wayward bird, he began to see the beauty all around him.

Businessmen scurried like ants, and the gray skies turned a radiant hue. “I laugh at myself while the tears roll down, ‘cause it’s the world I know,” went the lyrics describing the scene.

“The World I Know” became a defining song in the career of Georgia boys Collective Soul. Its heartfelt music video and message of never giving up cemented the newer grunge band in ’90s Rock history. And it was among good company— the sweeping ballad appeared with other chart-toppers like “December” and “Where the River Flows” on Collective Soul, which celebrated its 20 anniversary in 2015.

Second the best

In many interviews, main songwriter and singer Ed Roland has pegged Collective Soul as their first album. (Predecessor Hints Allegations and Things Left Unsaid from 1993 was really a collection of demos, including the head-banging classic “Shine.”) After toiling for years in bands prior to this multiplatinum outfit, Roland embraced a collaborative atmosphere.

Lead guitarist Ross Childress had a big hand in forming the weepy “The World I Know” and “Simple”—which christened the album with a tongue-in-cheek homage to early hip-hop radio. It then tumbled into full-throttle rock, punctuated by hearty “hey-heys” from Roland and bassist Will Turpin.

Roland left it to brother Dean to pile on the guitar overdubs, allowing the ultra-gifted Childress to run rampant with solos.

(How he never gets mentioned on Best Axmen countdowns is beyond us. Just give a listen to the subtle harmonics chugging through “Where the River Flows” or the Van Halen-like trills of “Gel.” Tell us those don’t make you weak in the knees.) Drummer Shane Evans gave the album a sturdy backbone— though he went on a literal vacation when it came to the verbose, snarling “Smashing Young Man.” The other members used a guest percussionist and synthetic beats here.

Allegations and things left unsaid

That song, by the way, is said to be about Smashing Pumpkins front man Billy Corgan. In the mid-1990s and as recently as 2012, he decried “Shine” as a rip-off of one of his band’s songs. Collective Soul trounced that allegation when Roland ponied up a 1987 demo of the song. “Smashing Young Man” rolled its eyes at the situation, with lyrics like “Success is so tragic/Pain is your gadget.”

Of the album’s four radio releases, “The World I Know” and “December” had the most staying power. The latter had a coolness to it, like a ’90s version of Led Zeppelin’s “Dancing Days.” The traditional rock instruments were beefed up by strings, which at times had a Psycho quality to them. And with Roland’s masticated words “Turn your head, now baby, just spit me out,” you had the biology of a perfect alternative song.

“December” spent nine weeks on top of the Album Rock Charts.

Collection of goods

With Collective Soul, the Rolands, Evans, Childress and Turpin moved beyond the grunge banner and became full-on pop maestros. “Bleed” borrowed equally from David Bowie, the Who and the group’s contemporaries. The rock riffs came on hard and heavy, but they also mastered dramatic balladry. (Album closer “Reunion” took listeners straight to church, with its heavenly organs and emphatic choir.) They leaped over the sophomore slump and snuggled among the ’90s big-name acts. In 1995 and 1996, the world Collective Soul knew was one of endless opportunity.

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Bobbitt, Melissa. "Flashback Favorite - Collective Soul's Self-Titled." ThoughtCo, Feb. 21, 2017, thoughtco.com/flashback-favorite-collective-souls-self-titled-11093. Bobbitt, Melissa. (2017, February 21). Flashback Favorite - Collective Soul's Self-Titled. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/flashback-favorite-collective-souls-self-titled-11093 Bobbitt, Melissa. "Flashback Favorite - Collective Soul's Self-Titled." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/flashback-favorite-collective-souls-self-titled-11093 (accessed October 23, 2017).