Collective SoulDisciplined Breakdown (Atlantic 82984)As...

CD REVIEWS

March 27, 1997|By J.D. Considine

Collective Soul

Disciplined Breakdown (Atlantic 82984)

As the success of R.E.M. and other bands has shown, alternative rock definitely has a place in the South. But does Southern rock have a place in alternative music? Until recently, it would have been hard to answer in the affirmative, since recent boogie-oriented bands have all been written off as '70s-rock recidivists (for example, the Georgia Satellites, the Black Crowes, et al.). But with "Disciplined Breakdown," Collective Soul makes a strong case for the view that modern rock has plenty of room for boogie licks -- provided you know where to put them. Ed Roland definitely does, and slips just enough blues bite into "Precious Declaration" and the title tune to give them a bit of hip-shaking sass, but not so much that they become mindless grinds. Instead, he and his bandmates keep things fluid, so that the band's sound is able to incorporate a number of different elements without being dominated by any one. So while some bits of "Blame" suggest Fleetwood Mac, others recall the Allman Brothers, and there are echoes of both the Beatles and Fine Young Cannibals in "Forgiveness." Yet no matter how many outside influences come through in these songs, Collective Soul's sound is too daring and disciplined to seem second-hand. Could this be the next truly great Southern rock band?

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

The Boatman's Call (Reprise 46530)

Having a great voice isn't always a matter of tone or technique. Just look at Nick Cave. No Pavarotti, he; at best, his rough-hewn baritone suggests what Leonard Cohen might sound like with a little more range and control. But what Cave lacks in power and polish he more than makes up in personality. Indeed, what makes "The Boatman's Call," his latest album with the Bad Seeds, so memorable is the way he turns each song into an emotion-charged soliloquy. Whether it's the weary resignation he brings to "People Ain't No Good" or the desperate longing that wells up from the chorus to "Black Hair," Cave brings an awesome degree of emotional involvement to these songs, performing them with such passion that it's hard not to feel deep empathy for his protagonists. Even better, he does it all without resorting to the sort of scenery-chewing theatrics most rockers mistake for intensity, opting instead for arrangements so low-key that they make the Cowboy Junkies seem rowdy by comparison. But it's precisely that sense of restraint that gives Cave's small gestures their power, lending them the sort of real-life credibility a well-sung power ballad could never convey.

John Lee Hooker

Don't Look Back (Point Blank 7243 8 42771)

If Mick Jagger can sound even half as vital when he hits 60 as John Lee Hooker does today, we can expect the Stones to keep rolling well into the next century. Because Hooker (who turns 80 this August) still manages more kick than bluesmen half his age. "Don't Look Back" even finds the old bluesman learning a few new tricks as he follows Van Morrison into the mystic on the gospel-fired "The Healing Game." The Morrison connection is a strong one, as the Irishman not only produced most of the album, but sings or plays on every track but "Dimples," a feisty little rocker produced by and performed with Los Lobos. But as much as Morrison might provide focus and flavor, it's Hooker who dominates, and from the "Boogie Chillun" pulse of "Spellbound" to the fevered exchanges of "Rainy Day," the album finds the old bluesman sounding just as strong as he did 30 years ago.

Morphine

Like Swimming (Dreamworks/Rykodisc 50009)

If there were an alternarock equivalent to film noir, Morphine would be it. Some of that has to do with the pulp-fiction attitude frontman Mark Sandman brings to the lyrics, but mostly it's the band's sound that does the trick. As presented on "Like Swimming," the band is lean, mean and dark as a dead-end alley, offering a blend of bass, drums and baritone sax so redolent of bad nights in low dives that, after a while, even your speakers begin to stink of spilled drinks and stale smoke. All of which adds a certain credence to the chorus of "Early to Bed," in which Sandman insists that "Early to bed, and early to rise/ Makes a man or woman miss out on the night life." Sandman's world isn't all fun and games; there are plenty of dark doings afoot, from the bluesy grind of "Murder for Money" to the ominous moan of "I Know You (Pt. III)." But as with any well-written thriller, Sandman rounds out these songs with enough action and surprises to leave the listener hanging on every note.

Pub Date: 3/27/97

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