Prime Cuts: Can't Stop My Hallelujahs, Sacred Ground, Lanterns
Overall Grade: 3/5
Comeback albums often come with a tinge of nervousness. This is particularly true of Avalon's first album in 10 years. In the 90s, Avalon could do no wrong. Everything they put their voices to resulted in #1 records. Hits such as "Testify to Love," "Adonai," "Take You At Your Word," "Orphans of God" and others are their testimonials. They were not only riding high on the CCM charts but they were staking their claim on AC radio too. Their effervescent pop was irresistible; and their lyrics are so palatable that churches have used their hit "Go Light the World" as the soundtrack of countless Missions Sundays. 10 years after their final Sparrow Records album "Reborn," Avalon has teamed up with Rascal Flatts' Jay DeMarcus' new label in releasing "Called."
So, how does their much awaited "Called" fare? There are shafts of disappointments and there are some glimmers of hope. Let's start with the disappointments: the first 4 cuts ("Called," "Keeper of My Heart," "Closer" and "Only One") seem to come out of the same cloth of slick, polished and loud (and somehow dated) pop with little or no tonal coloring. Perhaps it's because Jay DeMarcus is on the co-producer chair, this is the stuff of material that once sank the career of Rascal Flatts back in the early 2000s. If you were to scrape the name of "Avalon" and replace it with "Rascal Flatts," these opening quartet of tracks could have easily made it into the canon of the country group. "If Not for Jesus," being a big power ballad, at least breaks the monotony of the first four songs. But the words of "If Not for Jesus" panders too much on overused tropes and cliches.
The album takes on a better turn with "Great is the Lord." Though the song doesn't get any more profound than its titular, it is good to see Avalon tackling the worship genre. Even better is the cinematic "Sacred Ground." The ingenuity of using the changes of chords to signal the changes in scene in the retelling of the resurrection story of Jesus makes this song extra special. Also, the imagery used in "Lanterns" - a call for us to be vigilant in our witness for Christ - is priceless. Unfortunately, the song suffers from overbearing percussion robbing it of its rustic beauty.
Good things come to those who wait. The best offering in the set is the album closer "Can't Stop My Hallelujahs." A First Worship cover that comes from the pen of album's co-producer Don Koch, "Can't Stop My Hallelujahs" is a powerful call to worship with gorgeous lyrics that exalt God's creative goodness in creation and then ultimately in salvation. This is the album's apogee. Though the album generally suffocates from its overcrowding productions and some spartan songwriting, there are still moments of greatness. In the light of such greatness, fans who have waited for 10 years, have not waited in vain.