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Artist: Avalon
Label: Sparrow
Length: 11 tracks

The Glory

Avalon releases its fifth recording, entitled Oxygen, on Sparrow Records on May 22.  It is billed as the group's most musically progressive album to date. While the CD begins with a little edgier sound than previous albums, it quickly settles into the classic Avalon sound - vocal pop with catchy hooks and singable lyrics.

Producer Brown Bannister uses his phenomenal skills with just the right touch to showcase the vocalists without leaving huge, smudgy sonic fingerprints on the album. Like the master he is, Bannister brings out the best in the artist rather than forcing upon Avalon his own "sound." Aaron Neville also participates in the project, adding his own R&B style to "By Heart, By Soul." The album explores a few avenues that may be relatively new to Avalon musically, but none deeply enough to disappoint longtime fans or draw in new fans from other circles. In fact, there is more stylistic familiarity than difference. On "Never Give Up" the pre-chorus sounds almost exactly like the pre-chorus for "Knockin' On Heaven's Door."

For the die-hard Avalon fan, the new album will be as essential as oxygen, but for the casual listener, it's about as fresh and exciting as breathing.  Nonetheless, when Avalon gets around to releasing a "best of" collection, it will be a must have, and there will be a few songs from Oxygen that will definitely make the cut.  "Make It Last Forever" is the group's nod to the CHR market and actually features a sizzling guitar element. Too bad it's cloaked behind a velvet curtain of intense vocal harmonies and a pumping beat. "The Glory" is the show-stopping chill-bumper. This song is destined to be yet another #1 single to add to the group's towering stack of accolades (they have twelve #1 songs to their credit so far).

"The Glory" is the song you'll be cranking up in the car and singing along with at the top of your lungs while you pound the steering wheel to the soul-moving beat, whizzing down the freeway. Try not to cry too hard, but the lyrics are sure to touch a heart string or two:

 The glory of the Blood
 The beauty of the body
 That was broken for our forgiveness
 The glory of His perfect love
 Is the heart of the story
 The glory of the Blood
"The Glory" by itself is worth having the album, but the line that says, "You are my oxygen / I breathe You in / I breathe You out" from the title track, "Oxygen," is the line that will stick in your head more than any other on the CD. It is like a slogan or jingle in its unassuming catchiness, yet the rest of the song is almost haunting. The title track is the most progressive cut musically, yet still keeps Avalon's flavor for vocal prowess intact.

Avalon is consistently solid in its quality of production and song selection, and Oxygen stretches the band's wings more than just a little.

Zik Jackson
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