Collective Soul has been away awhile, but with the release of Youth the Georgia-based band returns in fine form. It is their first release since parting ways with Atlantic Records and in many ways serves as a distillation of their trademark sound – thick, chiming guitars, dramatic sonic shifts and, central to the whole endeavor, singer Ed Roland’s radio-ready voice, always rough, yearning and oddly familiar.

For Youth, Collective Soul wants you to know that they’re in a good place now. They’ve got a new guitarist on board, not to mention freedom from major label meddling. Instead of string arrangements, the thumping opening cut "Better Now" is garnished with saxophones.

Of the 11 tracks, only one dares to break the four-minute mark – "How Do You Love?," a breakup song full of big questions, clocking in at 4:20 – and on the whole, there’s not a lot of new or interesting ground broken here. It’s essential Collective Soul, produced better than they have been in years, trying to survive in the post-alternative rock landscape.

Yet despite being a fairly rock-by-numbers venture, most of Collective Soul’s latest release is a foot-stomping, head-bopping, hand-clapping good time.

Grade: C+

Youth is currently available.