Monday, March 10, 2008

Another Time, Another Place: Timeless Christian Classics - Avalon

Still testifying to love

Another Time, Another Place: Timeless Christian Classics
Artist: Avalon
Label: Sparrow
Length: 15 tracks/67:34 minutes

Another Time, Another Place by Avalon is a good way to revisit some of the greatest Christian songs of all time. "We Will Stand," "Friend of a Wounded Heart," "El Shaddai" and others can easily be regarded as some of the most memorable and enduring compositions ever performed by Christian artists. Here they are interpreted for a new generation by one of Christian music’s premier vocal groups.

Those familiar with the songs may be surprised at how revved-up they sound. Some have a rock edge like "For the Sake of the Call," which actually sounds better than the original. Modern production and arrangements have revitalized the songs so that they are not as sleepy as the originals might sound to today’s generation.

None of this should be taken to mean that the songs are significantly different. The excellent "People Get Ready" has the same strong gospel vibe. "We Will Stand," another highlight, features guest vocals by Russ Taff and a choir. "People Need the Lord" is as beautiful as ever. "Place in This World" is still moving after all these years. It’s also great to have a new version of "Friend of a Wounded Heart," a Wayne Watson song that is probably underrated.

Most arrangements work well. Two possible exceptions are "Thy Word" and "El Shaddai," which are more experimental in the hopes of making these familiar songs sound fresh. Some may find the prominent programmed percussion on "El Shaddai" bothersome. "Thy Word" is better with a loop that is more subdued.

Sadly, due to a heart condition and a recent vocal ailment, this will be the last recording to feature Jody McBrayer, one of the original founders of the group. Jeremi Richardson has taken his place. Janna Long, the last original member of the group, said that the group has no plans to disband, "We will continue to move forward in our ministry as long as God opens doors for us to do so."

The last track is an update of the group’s signature song, "Testify to Love." It’s a fitting conclusion, and it may be the best track on the recording.

They still have strong voices, excellent harmonizing, intricate arrangements and a modern pop sound. When you combine that with the group’s strong ministry focus, there’s a lot more testifying that they can do.
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