Avalon – FAITH: A Hymns Collection
3 out of 5 stars
With other Christian pop artists like Sandi Patti, Amy Grant, and Out of Eden recording whole albums devoted to remaking great old hymns, it was only a matter of time before one of Christian pop’s biggest vocal groups jumped on the bandwagon. Avalon releases Faith: A Hymns Collection, a compilation of ten favorite old-school hymns, two modern worship tracks that are past off as hymns, and one patriotic stand-up-and-salute song. Avalon fans should like this album. Traditionally hymn lovers will have a coronary. Everyone else will leave shrugging their shoulders and asking “so what?”
Avalon has been off their game for the past few years. Stand didn’t do that well, members have been focused on growing their families, and with all the more mainstream rock acts taking over the Christian music scene lately, it hasn’t been a good time to be a Christian pop artist. Furthermore, Avalon has not found their musical niche ever since Michael Passons left the group in 2003. The group seems to be wondering around aimlessly and is not in a groove that creates the sheer strong pop music that harkens back to the days of Testify to Love, Can’t Live a Day, and Undeniably You.
The way to fix this is to use the following formula: Janna – lead and adlibbing, Jody – lead and adlibbing, Greg – harmony, Melissa – high notes. Somehow You Are, All, and Far Away From Here have all had this formula and are by far the best songs on Stand and The Creed. On the new project, In Christ Alone carries this formula and proves to be the strongest offering on the entire album. Total Praise is also a great track all building up to Melissa hitting the last note and leaving the listener with chills and wanting more. Luckily, Avalon decided to give more by including For Freedom on the album which was previously only released on the Spiritual Warrior CD. However, that is where the high points end.
The rest of the hymns on this project are simply musically awkward. Holy, Holy, Holy starts out great and serves as a great lead-in for Blessed Assurance, but why was this combination not the first and second tracks of the album where it would have fit much better? Everyone thinks of the Sister Act 2 version of Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee including the band as it is mentioned in the liner notes. If there is already a widely popular version of a song in existence, that only begs the question, why chose this particular hymn to record? The one sitting take of I’ll Fly Away is fun but it is lacking either a black gospel choir or a banjo. Then of course are all the Avalon-isms that inevitably cheese up an album. Ad libs like “I’m a leanin’ on Jesus” and “I know that” only further echo sentiments that Avalon is not in touch with its audience and is trying too hard to appeal to a younger demographic. There are just too many times when Avalon is striving to make a “cool” version of old songs and they miss the opportunity to really show how great their chops are.
Overall, Avalon needed a big hit with this album after missing the mark on Stand and encountering other life circumstances that took them away from music. They missed. While there are some high spots, let’s hope that Avalon goes back to the recording studio and comes up with a solid album by focusing on what they do best…singing.