Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Avalon: The Greatest Hits

One constant in a sea of change

Avalon: The Greatest Hits
Artist: Avalon (http://avalon.sparrowrecords.com)
Label: Sparrow
Length: 16 tracks/73:40 minutes

Avalon is a group that I want to succeed. Despite their past accomplishments, this is not a given. A lot has changed in the music world since their heyday. It’s not only distribution, but boundaries between secular and sacred continue to come down. Advances in technology have produced innovative music and better sounding recordings, but quality craftsmanship is paramount regardless of genre.

Avalon’s recent years have seen a number of personnel changes, and lately, it seems like they have been casting about to find the right songs. Rather than reinventing themselves, it might be wise if the group focused on what has been one of their biggest assets—tight vocal harmonies. If they could combine that with a timeless sound, maybe something a little more organic (the change in Point of Grace comes to mind), and fresh songwriting, they might enjoy a resurgence.

Strong songs have also always been essential given the obvious talent of all the different members and veteran producers like Charlie Peacock and Brown Bannister.

The older songs, which make up the majority of this release, are the strongest, even though they now sound a little dated and cliched. I’m sure that others, like me, miss the presence of Michael Passons, one of the founding members. Songs that feature him are among my favorites.

One of them, “Give It Up,” still moves me with its dreamy soundscape and the unmistakable touch of Charlie Peacock.

This release is a little curious. Testify to Love: The Very Best of Avalon, which came out in 2003, has many of the same songs. One notable omission from this track listing is “Always Have, Always Will.”

This CD has the advantage of including songs from The Creed (2004), Stand (2006), and Faith: A Hymns Collection (2006) but nothing from Another Time, Another Place: Timeless Christian Classics (2008).

One bonus is the inclusion of “Still My God,” a new recording featuring the most recent member, Jeremi Richardson. He sounds great with a voice that reminds me a little of Michael Tait (dc Talk).

As Jana Long, the only remaining original member, says in the liner notes, “One thing has never changed … our desire to sing about Jesus Christ and the difference He has made in our lives.” With that as a focus, and the right songs and production, Avalon can continue to influence others.
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