With grunge hitting like a tidal wave in the early 90s – you know the roll call: Nevermind, Badmotorfinger, Ten – all eyes were on Seattle for the next nation-engulfing hit. If they’d just looked a bit further down, they’d have seen it happening right under their noses, in Atlanta, Georgia. But the joke is: when Collective Soul released their debut single, “Shine,” in March 1993, they weren’t even really a band. The songs that made up their debut album, Hints Allegations And Things Left Unsaid, were demos; all frontman Ed Roland wanted was a publishing deal as a songwriter. After college radio put “Shine” on heavy rotation, however, those demos were released as a full-blown album, issued by the local indie imprint Rising Storm, and Roland had to reconvene the group so they could make live appearances.
The New York Times called Collective Soul “Southern grunge” – a handy label at the time, but there’s a key word in their name: soul. If you’re recording in James Brown’s home state, you can’t avoid it. It’s there in the gentle organ that underpins the album’s third single, “Wasting Time;” you’ll catch it in Ed Roland’s impassioned, at times gospel-tinged vocals; feel it in “Shine”’s lyrics, described by Roland’s brother (and bandmate), Dean, as “a prayer.” If it’s not straight-up soul music, Hints Allegations And Things Left Unsaid is downright full of soul. And, to some, it was an antidote to the nihilism of grunge. What other band would be confident enough in themselves to include a two-minute orchestral interlude (“Pretty Donna”) midway through a demo recording?
As “Shine” headed to the top of Billboard’s “Album Rock Tracks” chart for eight weeks, on its way to becoming one of VH1’s “100 Greatest Songs Of The 90s,” the album was reissued by major label Atlantic Records. “We thought it would be great to sell 10-20,000 units,” Roland later recalled. When their debut album went gold, for sales of over 500,000, the group “were sitting there with our eyes wide open.” Going far beyond anyone’s expectations, Hints Allegations And Things Left Unsaid ensured Collective Soul were one of the most talked-about alt-rock bands of the year.
RECOMMENDED READING & LISTENING
The live review that coined the term “Southern grunge.” Ed Roland seems surprised at the band’s swift rise to fame; writer John Parales also draws comparisons with The Allman Brothers Band and Counting Crows.
Ed Roland discusses writing some of Collective Soul’s most enduring songs, including “Shine,” and why recording with a youth orchestra led to their best video.
More insights into “Shine,” and how, on tour, Collective Soul bring new meaning to classic songs, night after night.
DEEP CUTS WE LOVE…
“Wasting Time” - Isolate that opening organ and slow it down – you’ll hear a debt to Percy Sledge’s Southern soul classic “When A Man Loves A Woman.” When “Wasting Time” shifts gear, however, it blossoms into a 60s pop-tinged anthem whose upbeat arrangement belies the darker kiss-off behind its lyrics. Released as a single in April 1994, “Wasting Time” didn’t follow its predecessors, “Shine” and “Breathe,” into the charts, but it remains the hit that should have been.
“Heaven’s Already Here” - Collective Soul were sometimes given the “Christian rock” tag. While Ed Roland’s father was a Baptist minister, the band have always bristled at that perception. “We’re five individual guys with five individual beliefs,” he told PopMatters. “We all believe in a higher being, but we’re not out to profess what it is.” With its acoustic guitars and down-home vocal harmonies, the breezy “Heaven’s Already Here” is a love letter to contentedness that suggests Collective Soul were always as much alt-country as they were alt-rock.
“Goodnight, Good Guy” - Its muscular opening riff suggests a far angrier song, but “Goodnight, Good Guy” finds Ed Roland in a reflective mood. The religious imagery would have fuelled the Christian rock stereotype, but the song’s message is universal: there are considered ways of letting problems be, without exacerbating the issues.
“Breathe” - With its churchy organ and sinewy guitar, “Breathe” was the sort of song that emanated naturally from the South. Nestling just outside of Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Top 10, it also offered something of an early 90s take on The Youngbloods’ classic hippie call for unity, “Get Together.”
DID YOU KNOW?
- Country legend Dolly Parton covered “Shine” for her 2001 album, Little Sparrow, nabbing herself a GRAMMY for Best Female Country Vocal Performance in the process.
- The title of Hints Allegations And Things Left Unsaid nods to Paul Simon’s 1986 hit single “You Can Call Me Al,” which includes the lyrics “There were incidents and accidents/There were hints and allegations.”
- Collective Soul took their name from Ayn Rand’s 1943 novel, The Fountainhead.
- “Shine” was actually written in 1989, four years before it was released. Based on a riff that Ed Roland had been sitting on, he completed the song with his brother, Dean.
- The Hints Allegations And Things Left Unsaid album cover is based on a drawing used for the original 1979 Broadway production of Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street. Instead of a bloody razor, the figure holds a banner proclaiming the band’s name and the album’s title.
Words: Jason Draper