Collective Soul: Vibrating (Fuzze-Flex Records, CD, 42 min.). The Georgia band offers 10 songs that positively pulsate with its usual boundless energy, post-grunge rock. Now nearing its fourth decade, the band, whose debut was released in 1994, still includes original members Ed Rowland, the frontman and chief songwriter; his brother, Dean Rowland on rhythm guitar and bassist, Will Turpin. The band also includes Jesse Triplett on lead guitar and backing vocals and Johnny Rabb on drums and backing vocals.

The album opens with the raucous kiss-off of “Cut the Cord,” the album’s second single, which is all power chords. Also pulsating is the next track, “Reason,” which has a slightly softer vocal. The first single was “All Our Pieces,” which has a late a cappella section.

Starting with the fine, melodic “Undone,” which features a Mellotron, there is a group of mid-tempo ballads. These include the love song “Rule No. 1,” which has nice guitars and some strings. Others include “A Conversation With,” highlight “Just Looking Around” and “Back Again,” a lovelorn ballad.
The closing “Where Do I Go” is very emotional with its backing choir building on its ending.

“I think we’re on a roll,” said Ed Roland in a press release. “We’re not afraid to stretch the boundaries, but we do know how to stay in our lane when we need to. Sometimes, though, we just have to go faster.”

As with many things, the album’s release was delayed by the pandemic and the band reworked it from an originally intended two-disc release. A booklet contains the lyrics.

Rowland continued, “Our fans have been waiting for ‘Vibrating’ for almost three years now, and I can’t wait for them to hear it. They’re excited because both ‘See What You Started’ and ‘Blood’ set such a high standard for where we’re going as a band, and it’s only going to continue getting better with ‘Vibrating.’ I really do believe that.”

“Vibrating” is the follow-up to their critically acclaimed 10th studio album, “Blood,” which was released June 21, 2019. It garnered impressive debuts on various Billboard’s charts, including No. 3 on the Alternative Albums chart, No. 4 on the Independent Albums chart and No. 5 on the Rock Albums chart. Grade: A-

The Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera Anthology box set is opened up. Courtesy of Grapefruit Records

 

Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera: Long Summer Nights: The Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera Anthology (Grapefruit Records, 3 CDs). I would be surprised if you have ever heard of this British early psychedelic group, who issued two albums that were critically well-received but were commercial failures in the late 1960s. However, two of the band’s songwriting members, bassist, John Ford and drummer, Richard Hudson, would make their mark afterwards, as they both moved to the Strawbs in 1970 and then formed Hudson Ford in 1973 and had successful singles in “Pick Up the Pieces” and “Burn Baby Burn.”

This is the first complete career anthology of Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera. It includes the stereo and the rare American promo mono versions of its 1968 debut album, plus the post-Elmer follow-up album as Velvet Opera, several studio outtakes, demo versions, non-LP singles and 50 minutes of mostly unreleased live BBC recordings from three sessions. There also is a new 6,000-word essay on the band by David Wells and many rare images in the 32-page booklet.

While supporting Pink Floyd on tour in 1967, the band decided to go the psychedelic route. In addition to Hudson and Ford, the band included lead singer Dave Terry, lead guitarist Colin Forster and keyboardist Jimmy Horrocks.

On the eponymous pre-prog debut album, leader Elmer Gantry (aka Terry, who had started wearing a cape and a preacher’s hat in the style of the character in Sinclair Lewis’ novel) introduces his bandmates on the opener, similar to the start of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Next is “Mother Writes,” which is akin to such heavier songs as “Manic Depression” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience or “Summertime Blues” by Blue Cheer. Then it is back into Beatles’ territory for the Baroque “What’s the Point of Leaving.”

The two singles were “Flames,” with its highly contagious chorus, and “Mary Jane” (drug reference intended), both standout tracks. The resonating “Long Nights of Summer” has superb lyrics. The band covers Oscar Brown’s “(But) I Was Cool” and sticks “Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey” in the midst of the instrumental “Walter Sly Meets Bill Bailey.” “Reactions of a Young Man” tells the dilemma of a young male attempting to end a romantic relationship with a much older, married woman.

In addition to the 13-track stereo album, disc one has 12 bonus tracks, including both sides of the two singles, including excellent B-sides “Salisbury Plain” and “Dreamy.” A terrific track is the pure pop of “The Dreamer,” while the bluesy “Talk of the Devil” shines too.

Disc two has the American promo mono version of the album, plus 15 bonus tracks, all recorded at three BBC sessions, including a pre-album, November 1967 taping for “Top Gear.” Here, they cover Country Joe’s “I Feel Like I’m Fixing To Die Rag,” Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” (twice) and Eddie Cochran’s bluesy “Something Else.”

After the first album, Terry and Forster left, and the remaining members put out a second album, “Ride a Hustler’s Dream,” under the name Velvet Opera and with Johnny Joyce as the singer. This 1969 release makes up disc three, along with four singles tracks and three numbers from another BBC session. The new lineup embraced blues, folk, country/bluegrass, and early prog. The lively single was “Anna Dance Square,” included here in both the album and single formats. Also solid is a loud cover of “Statesboro Blues.” “Black Jack Davy” is an adaptation of the traditional Scottish border ballad. Hudson plays sitar on the instrumental “Raga,” while “Money By,” with jangly guitar, and “Warm Day in July,” with flute, are both folkish. The disc ends with a rock instrumental version of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.”

However, sales again were disappointing, and the band began to break up, with Ford and Hudson leaving first. Grade: set A-

Tom Von Malder of Owls Head has reviewed music since 1972, just after graduation from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He has reviewed videos/DVDs since 1988.

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