Avalon has quickly become one of Christian music's most beloved pop groups. And after six studio albums, a best-of project, and even a remix album, the foursome adds Stand to their impressive discography. Featuring the writing talents of everyone from Jason Ingram to Dan Muckala to Ian Eskelin, Ben Glover, and Russ Taff (who makes a guest appearance on the song, "We Will Stand"), this seventh studio album from Avalon is a surefire hit.
Avalon has embraced the sound built upon by their last album, The Creed, incorporating more organic elements, leaving behind more and more of the synthesizers and drum loops heavily used on previous records like A Maze Of Grace and even parts of Oxygen. But while The Creed experimented with some different styles, Stand fits more closely into the genuine pop sound with everything from ballads to upbeat tracks.
Opening with what is sure to be a radio hit, "The Other Side" is a real upbeat hitter complete with electric guitars and the typical blast-it-out vocals we've come to expect from Avalon. "Love Won't Leave You" sounded as if it had been lifted from a Greg Long record, which seems to be one of the biggest drawbacks to him being added into the foursome. Every time he shows up leading the vocals, I can't help but think of his music, which is somewhat similar in style to Avalon. This track is another upbeat one with another power chorus.
As soon as the soft piano opens "Orphans of God," we can quickly expect another 'Janna Long Ballad,' a highlight of most Avalon albums. Janna again gives us her powerhouse vocals, breaking out in the last third of the song to really belt out the high notes. "Somehow You Are" comes next, opening with acoustic guitar and leading into a rather worshipful offering from Avalon. Seeing as they brought Jason Ingram in to help with the songwriting, it's no surprise to find them praising the Lord for simply being. The chorus sounds almost like a repeat of "The Other Side," but is fun nevertheless, and is followed by "Slowly," another collaboration with Ingram. "Slowly" follows themes of watching God turn us around when we start to move away from Him. Greg Long leads on vocals again, but manages to make it sound like an actual Avalon song with backing from the rest of the group breaking into another blasting chorus.
"We Will Stand" is Avalon's second ballad so far, featuring Russ Taff leading on the first verse, and blending in nicely on the chorus with the rest of the Avalon team. Almost reminiscent of Avalon classics like "If My People Pray" from In A Different Light, and parts of their self-titled album from 1996, "We Will Stand" sets the theme for this record: standing on God's promise and reaching the world for Jesus with the body of Christ on each arm. "Jesus" finds Jody McBrayer leading into a slightly upbeat contemporary pop track. "I Survive" follows, making its stand as the stylistically different track, bringing back memories of Avalon songs like "The Move" from A Maze Of Grace. Gritty in sound at times, "I Survive" contributes to the theme of the album.
"When The Time Comes" is the second 'Janna Ballad,' encouraging non-believers to take hold of Christ. The track features one of the best hooks of the album, when Janna bursts into the chorus with "When the time comes / and the games are finally over / There's no more pretending / all charades are done." Avalon always closes things out on a softer note, and this time is no exception. "Where Joy And Sorrow Meet" is almost hymn-like in its delivery, with soft piano and vocals backed with strings and absolutely no electronic programming of any kind, making a lullaby-type ending to another Avalon album.
Stand reaches a good height for Avalon, and will definitely hook in both faithful fans and those just discovering the group. While maybe not the absolute best Avalon album to date, this one definitely lands among the high end of the list. With plenty of radio hits itching for release, Stand makes a worthy listen.- Review date: 1/24/06, written by Shaun Stevenson
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