Collective Soul has released a new acoustic EP called “From the Ground Up.” Four songs (or half of this EP) are taken from the band’s most recent effort “Youth” but inexplicably the song by that name did not come from that album and is the only previously unreleased song on this package. “Dosage” and “Collective Soul” each place one song, as did the band’s contribution to the “Scream 2” soundtrack.
This is Collective Soul Unplugged… without an audience. And too often it is Collective Soul without Collective Soul. Several tracks sound like polished acoustic demos featuring only Ed Roland and acoustic guitar. Roland is not a bad singer but neither his voice nor his phrasing is engaging enough to make those songs compelling listens. Songs like “Compliment” and “Under Heaven’s Skies” come off sterile and boring in this stripped down setting.
Casual listeners will be most interested in the acoustic reworking of the hit, “December.” They need not be. It does not work well- at least not in this arrangement. Roland’s high-low vocals of the original are not replicated here and it is a shame. The single vocal line left in its stead is not nearly as interesting. The shuffle-beat of brushed replaces the nimbleness of the original with lethargy. When all the varnish is removed from “December” there is not much left. Acoustic and laid back does not have to be boring. “December” unplugged is.
Is there anything to like about “From the Ground Up?” Yes, provided you are patient enough to get to “She Said” and “Counting the Days.” These two songs sound less like Roland demos and more like band recordings and are all the better for it. “She Said” has multiple acoustic guitar lines and audible bass throughout. Roland’s vocal sounds stronger as a result of the energy in the music. “Counting the Days” is likewise a winner for the same reasons. “Perfect to Stay” adds piano and light percussion to the acoustic guitar and also makes for a pleasant listen.
“From The Ground Up” is in no way revelatory and as such will not be of much interest to anyone who is not already a devoted Collective Soul fan.