Over the past thirteen years Avalon has become a mainstay in Christian CCM. Their blend of pop, dance, and R&B inflected songs that invariably bring the honor to God are both infective and musically solid. Newcomers to the group can’t go in wrong in starting with The Greatest Hits, a generous sampling of sixteen of their most well known offerings.
Hard-core Avalon fans already in possession of the groups previous hit-filled compendium – Testify to Love: The Very Best of Avalon will find a large amount of overlap between the two discs. As a newcomer to the group myself, each song is fresh and previously unheard, but loner time fans will find only five tracks difference from the previous collection. In fact, the tracks that were recorded specifically for The Very Best of Avalon such as “New Day,” and “Everything to Me” have been taken from that disc directly into this one.
Still, dedicated fans may be able to justify the purchase. A new song, “Still My God,” proves to be a real tearjerker, highlighting God’s unchanging nature through our trials and challenges. The last four tracks on the disc: “All,” “You Were There,” “Orphans of God,” and “In Christ Alone” have been swapped in from previous albums.
“Orphans of God” is a particularly moving inclusion from Stand – a symphonic, tender song of reassurance that celebrates God’s unending grace. “All” is a somewhat more two-dimensional tune, exhibiting a bounty, R&B influence. “You Were There” is an introspective, mellow song with a surprisingly forceful chorus.
“In Christ Alone” draws from the vein that is ever popular amongst CCM artists – covering traditional hymns with their own distinctive arrangements. A beautiful rendition, Avalon’s take on the hymn features heart-plucking harmonies, big, bold vocalizations, and poignant guitar accompaniment in the simpler sections that bursts into an array of strong percussion back up during the chorus.
The classics that were previously included in the last greatest hits collection are clearly appearing again for a reason. “Testify to Love” is an addictive headliner that pops into my head throughout the day and demands to be sung. “Knockin’ On Heavens Door” proves itself as a perennial favourite on account of it’s chorus that depicts the insistent, never-ending prayers of a believer confident in her position as a child of God.
Personally, I could have passed on “Give It Up” from the oldies but goodies section of the disc – somewhere between the heavy reliance on synthesizers and the embellishing “na na na’s” I tune out. Likewise the dance-style rhythms of “Wonder Why” generally leave me cold. “New Day” rounds out the trio of tunes that I wouldn’t have missed if they’d been left out of the compilation.
There are some true Avalon classics included that make the album. “Take You At Your Word” is an insanely catchy, upbeat song that catches me every time and finds me belting out the chorus at full volume. “Can’t Live a Day” makes me cry more often than not as I’m reminded of my complete dependence on Jesus, “The Glory” is a story song that recalls Jesus’ life and sacrifice, and “Adonai” is a slow song with understated accompaniment that nonetheless a heart-rending cry to the creator.
I’ll admit that at first listen, the music struck me as somewhat fluffy, but after repeated listening many of these songs have become woven into my life. I’ve come to appreciate their theologically sound, yet still entertaining perspective (not always present in CCM), the variety of represented moods, and the clear vocal abilities of the group’s performers.
Avalon: The Greatest Hits is indeed a highly pleasing album that provides not only an enjoyable listening experience, but one that leads its audience into an interactive state of worship. I’d be hard pressed to number the times the songs I initially viewed as simple have led me to tears of repentance and rejoicing. This resulting emotional response and turning towards God in a listener should be the highest praise an album can receive.
1. Testify to Love
2. Give It Up
3. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
4. Still My God
5. Take You At Your Word
6. Can’t Live a Day
7. The Glory
8. Wonder Why
10. New Day
11. Everything to Me
12. I Don’t Want to Go
14. You Were There
15. Orphans of God
16. In Christ Alone