Collective Soul are definitely an interesting, if somewhat strange band. Over the course of a seven year career, the band has sold more than five million albums, but you would scarcely recognise any of the band members if you ran into them in the street. How fitting then, that the cover art for swansong best of compilation 7even Year Itch features a completely unobtrusive black background.
The foreboding colour of the artwork may also be significant since the album marks the end of the band's relationship with Atlantic, and even though the band insist they will carry on, the recent departure of guitarist Ross Childress will leave fans of the band with a mood as dark as the CD booklet.
Despite the original line-up of the band no longer being in place, Collective Soul was always vocalist Ed Roland's baby anyway. Although his band played a large part, he was sole writer of every track on 7even Year Itch, and his talents launched the band from obscurity with their 1993 debut, Hints Allegations and Things Left Unsaid and gamely carried them through four more albums, up to the last of those, the more experimental Blender.
The band's collaboration with Elton John (yes, you read that right), "Perfect Day" from that album is not included here, but there is ample evidence that reveals just why Roland's left of centre fusion of heavy guitars, delicate melodies and introspective lyrics achieved the level of popularity it did.
"Shine", the raw-sounding, part grunge, part pop song that kick-started Collective Soul's career unsurprisingly appears and still sounds as good as it did seven years ago. The chorus remains mightily uplifting, whilst the throbbing riff in the song's bridge wouldn't sound out of place blasting out of the speakers of the type of hip nu-metal band that have replaced Collective Soul on the airwaves of rock radio.
If this tune set Collective Soul on their way, their second, self-titled album really cemented their success and is duly represented by the hit trio of "Gel", "December" and brooding ballad "The World I Know".
Although successive albums never garnered as many sales as Collective Soul, the band's later work is arguably musically superior, and as Roland incorporated more acoustic guitar and modern touches to his music, so it became more varied. The gorgeous, lushly orchestrated pop of "She Said" and "Run" from fourth album Dosage are a case in point, as is the quite brilliant "Precious Declaration" from third album Disciplined Breakdown.
The slamming "Why Pt 2" again reveals the heavier side of the band, and although the two new bonus tunes "Energy" and "Next Homecoming" are not classics, they demonstrate Roland's ability to still create songs that leave a distinct impression as well as a stubbornness and refusal to let Collective Soul simply slip away with barely a whimper.
Few would bet on another Collective Soul Greatest Hits package in another seven years if the band continue to make music, but if nothing else, 7even Year Itch at least proves that the last seven were extremely worthwhile and ensures that no matter how inconspicuous Roland and co. were, they will be fondly remembered.