The first rule of Rock criticism: any massively popular CD can't be any good.
However, this notion has repeatedly been proven wrong.
For Rock musicians, it's always a good idea to never read your reviews - not even the good ones. Musicians are insecure and impressionable. There's often a desire (or temptation) to appease the critics but it doesn't work. That "brilliant" album critics "love" can send a group back to "opening act" status in no time. Critics get paid to be snots, everyone else wants to Rock.
That brings us to Creed. They got slammed by critics but rather than ignore them, the reviews took root. Creed's third full-length release "Weathered" hit the streets in '01. The symbolic title, as in "weathered the criticism," should have been a warning - even for a group with a pretty incredible track record.
"Freedom Fighter" was the only track with any teeth. To add insult to injury, the critics weren't all that excited about this "artistic statement" either.
That was near the end for the first incarnation of Creed. Their career had started on a much higher plane.
Vocalist Scott Stapp and guitarist Mark Tremonti were high school friends. A few years after graduation, the two teamed up in Tallahassee, of all places, with bassist Brian Marshall and drummer Scott Phillips.
The group's debut "My Own Prison" played like a greatest hits collection. The '97 release had Alt. hits with the title track, "What's This Life For," "Torn," and "One." Thanks to Stapp's dad, a Pentecostal minister, and Stapp's own religious leanings, the lyrics often dealt with spiritual matters.
As impressive as that was, the follow-up, two years later, "Human Clay," did even better. It topped the album charts upon release and featured the single "Higher." Ten million copies rolled out the door for that one.
The group embarked on a successful '00 tour but lost Marshall, who left to "pursue other interests." Though Marshall's departure was said to be his decision there were other factors.
During a radio interview on Seattle's KNDD, Marshall claimed that Stapp was a better songwriter than Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder. Marshall went on to say that the Seattle band's recent albums had "songs without hooks." It was probably not the most PC thing to say (especially in Seattle) but not the end of the world. There might be a day or two of buzz about the comments but no lasting damage. Right? Wrong.
"There is no excuse for the arrogance and stupidity [of Marshall]," stated Stapp." "I ask you all not to judge Creed as a band, because the statements made were not the band's feelings, they were Brian's. I'm sorry if Brian offended anyone, and he has already apologized for his comments."
Not surprisingly, Marshall left soon afterward. Brett Hestla played bass on Creed's next tour.
The sensitivity was due to the simple fact that Creed was the Nickelback of the '90s - an incredibly successful band that lacked (according to critics) any credibility. So going after a critic darling like Pearl Jam was ill-advised, to say the least.
Though the group recorded another album, "Weathered," with Tremonti handling bass (as well as guitar), the dye was cast. Matters weren't helped any by Stapp's addiction to painkillers following a car accident. Then there was a disastrous show in the Chicago where Stapp was obviously intoxicated.
The group parted ways in '04. Tremonti, Phillips and Marshall (returning) formed Alter Bridge with vocalist Myles Kennedy. Stapp pursued a solo career, after nearly committing suicide and then finding sobriety.
Five years later, the band put the bitter breakup behind them. "We realized what was important, and that was that we experienced something really amazing together," explained Tremonti. Stapp put it this way. "We all realize one little chapter doesn't tell the whole story of what this band was about." The group recorded their comeback album "Full Circle" then launched a tour.
Creed played to a lot of empty seats on the trek - never a good sign. But "Full Circle" made its debut at #2 on the Billboard album chart (behind Michael Jackson's posthumous "This Is It").
'13 saw Alter Bridge unfurl "Fortress" and just weeks later Stapp answered with "Proof Of Life." "This is the most meaningful record of my career," said Stapp. "I've made a lot of messes in my life but I've learned I can take a mess and turn it into a message." Produced by Howard Benson and mixed by Chris Lord-Alge, the lead single was "Slow Suicide."
Had Stapp turned the corner? No. He released a Facebook video in '14 telling fans that he was currently homeless. He said an audit revealed money had been stolen from him and royalties had not been paid.
"There are people that have taken advantage and stolen money from me," claimed Stapp. "They're trying to discredit me, slander me." Stapp's wife, Jacklyn, who recently filed for divorce, claimed Stapp had recently been using drugs and that he threatened to kill himself and hurt his family.
1997 My Own Prison
1999 Human Clay
2004 Greatest Hits
2009 Full Circle
While Creed can Rock, most of their singles (the songs most people recognize) have been mid-tempo ramblings. On "My Own Prison," Stapp and Tremonti compose all the songs with "One" being the most forceful of the lot. "Human Clay" finds Stapp writing on his own and coming up with "What If" and the huge hit "Higher." It's the better of the two. "Weathered" is just one of those third album things (we're on the road, there's no backlog of songs and we have to get a new album out now!). No big deal. Of course, it entered the charts at #1. Led by hits "My Sacrifice" "Bullets" and "One Last Breath," the album sold more than 5 million copies.
"Full Circle" features sparse, often acoustic laced verses that give way to heavy, hard-hitting choruses. It's their version of the soft-loud template. No doubt it works. But it's the songs that break the mold; the title track, "Suddenly," "Good Fight" and "The Song You Sing;" that have the most going for them.