When Avalon released their self-titled debut album in 1996 on Sparrow Records their roster was: Michael Passons, Nikki Hassman, Janna Potter, and Jody McBrayer. The latter two had been vocalists with Truth. The album was produced by Charlie Peacock. Avalon won ‘New Artist of the Year’ at the 1998 Dove Awards.
Starting things off is ‘Give it Up’ which would become the first of many radio hits over the span of the group’s career. This one was penned by Mark Heimermann, Avalon, and Rikk Kittlemann and is a pop song about going all in for God: “Your choice is black or white, not a shade of gray/Because in love there’s no such thing as halfway/Devotion can’t be swayed, emotions can’t be torn/He’d rather we be hot or cold than lukewarm/Bring the Father all your soul/There’s freedom in the letting go”. ‘This Love’ is a dance song which speaks of God’s transforming power: “This love can change a life forever/The only way to start is giving Him our hearts, yeah/His love will piece us back together/This is the way, this is the life/This love.../So don’t underestimate God’s love/It’s power to heal”.
‘The Greatest Story’ is one of two co-writes by Charlie Peacock and Douglas Kaine McKelvey. This adult contemporary ballad includes The Nashville String Machine and strings arranged and conducted by the now late Tom Howard. These words assure us that our lives truly count for something: “Your life woven day by day is a new design of the glory God displays/On the canvas of creation, through the poem of history/In the pattern of redemption/Running through the tapestry/Your life in Christ can be/The greatest story ever told/You cannot see the hands of God/Or feel the grace that flows/From Him through you to those you touch in ways you’ll never know”. ‘Picture Perfect World’ anticipates heaven: “In a picture perfect world, there would be no crime/In a picture perfect world, we’d be free/In a picture perfect world, we’d be colorblind/But it’s alright, I know we’ll be cared for/All right, a place is prepared for/All right, cause sooner or later we’ll be/In the picture perfect world”.
Dennis Matkosky, Madeline Stone, and Tabitha Fair wrote ‘Don’t Be Afraid’. It’s an inspirational song that finds God speaking words of comfort: “Oh, I hope you will let Me in/That’s when the healing begins/There’s a wall surrounding you/Love alone can make it through/You’re caught up in the circle you drew/And when your world starts tumblin’ down/I’ll pick the pieces off the ground/I wanna be there for you”. ‘Here to Deliver’ is an R & B pop song with Tim Lauer playing the B-3 and Jerry McPherson playing electric and acoustic guitars. It again finds God speaking to His children: “Call Me, I’ll hear your cry/I’m as close as a prayer/And I’m here to deliver/Don’t need to ask Me twice/Cause I’m here to deliver you../Call Me, if you’re in need/I’m as close as a prayer/And I’m here to deliver/Don’t have to beg or plead/Cause I’m here to deliver you”.
‘Let it Be Forever’ is an anthem about the greatest Christian virtue: “Love has come from God and in this love we share/People see an image of Him there/It can be an invitation that leads to deeper truth/The kind of love they find in me and you.../Oh, but we can be a witness right before their eyes/A living love that’s rooted in/The very love of Christ”. ‘My Jesus, I Love Thee’ is a hymn that dates back to the 1800’s. It is performed acapella here and includes these words of deep gratitude: “I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me/And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree/I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow/O my Savior/If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus ‘tis now”.
‘Saviour Love’ is an easy listening song of testimony: “Confiscated from the darkness and placed in palaces of light/You pursued the very part of me/I didn’t want to sacrifice/You’re the muse my heart is after/You have won the passion of my soul/Now, I find it’s me that’s chasing You/And I never want to let You go”. Christian music pioneer Andrae Crouch wrote the last song, ‘Jesus is Lord’, which dates back to 1979. This energetic gospel number declares who Jesus is and what He has done: “Jesus, He was sent from the Father/Jesus, the great Messiah/Jesus, He’s bread for the hungry/Jesus, and He’s water for the thirsty/Jesus, He’s a friend to the friendless/Jesus, and hope for the hopeless/Jesus, He rose from the dead/Jesus, oh, just like He said”. Horns and piano are used.
AVALON is a noteworthy debut album. The songwriting and vocals are both strengths here! The majority of the songs are adult contemporary and inspirational ballads, but there are three upbeat pop songs and one memorable gospel cover. The two main themes on the album are: encouraging total dedication to and reliance on God even in the hard times, and, celebrating God’s love for us and reaching out to others with it. There are also two praise and worship songs and one song about heaven. If you are in need of comfort and encouragement, this album is for you. I’m rating AVALON 90%. For more info visit: www.avalonlive.org.