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AVALON-Full Speed Ahead

  • 1998 11 Nov
  • COMMENTS
AVALON-Full Speed Ahead
by Mark Smeby for Crosswalk Music

Having just finished up with The Christmas Celebration Concert Tour with {{Crystal Lewis}}, {{Twila Paris}}, {{Anointed}}, and {{Nichole Nordeman}}, we caught {{Avalon}} parked for a brief stop at a rest area along the busy Christian Music Interstate they've been traveling for the past three years.

Avalon, in ancient Greek mythology, was an allegorical reference to Heaven. How fitting for a Christian music vocal group to adopt this title, with its name conjuring up visions of angels and harps, all the while being poetic and graceful in demeanor. It's also a name of a recent line of cars unveiled by Toyota.

It you'll pardon me for a short while, it almost seems that the automobile reference would be a bit more appropriate for this 4-wheeled...er, 4-person modern-pop vocal group.

Jody McBrayer, Janna Potter, Michael Passons, and newest member Cherie Paliotta: These four individuals that make up the voice of Avalon each come from varied backgrounds, but they share a similar calling. A calling to serve God with their music and their voices.

Officially formed in 1996 by industry mogul Norman Miller and Sparrow Records, but starting as a vision in the hearts of each member, the group points to the fact that God's hand has been on every step of the process for Avalon coming to fruition. They feel that there have been far too many extenuating circumstances that would prove otherwise. Jody added, "We are very aware that we have been blessed with a great foundation of people who are truly supportive of us...thus our calling being that much more important to us."

And it's this important calling that has found them racking up the miles traveling the continent almost non-stop over the past three years.

As this new Christmas tour looms over the horizon, Michael feels like it's sort of the group's anniversary. "We've done Christmas tours every year since we started. And we've toured with just about all of these artists previously, so it's like a family Christmas."

The first holiday touring experience for Avalon took place during the 1996 Young Messiah Tour, an annual multi-artist showcase that traveled from arena to arena presenting Christmas favorites by each artist in an informal setting, and then a more formal delivery of ==The Young Messiah==. The group's manager, Norman Miller, was the mastermind behind this tour, last year's Emmanuel tour, the ==My Utmost For His Highest== tour, and this year's Christmas Celebration tour. During the life-span of their first album, {{Avalon}} performed for over 650,000 people.

But exposure alone does not insure acceptance by the masses. You've got to have features that draw in the audience. You know, the power windows, great stereo, anti-lock brakes... In the case of {{Avalon}}, if you can get past the amazing voices, you'll be pulled in by the great songs, filled with hooky musical licks and emotive lyrics. As if that's not enough, you'll be amazed at how entertaining they are to watch. Quite a value-packed package. This is not your dad's Oldsmobile.

The group has managed to score seven consecutive number one radio hits from their first two albums, including the group's signature song "Testify To Love" which spent like a hundred weeks at number one (six, actually). The success of their second album, ==A Maze of Grace==, as well as their receiving of the Dove Award for 1998 New Artist of the Year, have sealed their status as "New Group Most Likely To Be Around In Five Years." Which in Christian artist years is actually more like, say, fifty.

They've been spending most of 1998 on tour with {{Crystal Lewis}}. Between her winning the Female Vocalist of Year crown at the Doves, and {{Avalon}}'s New Artist trophy, it's been one of the most successful tours of the year. In the midst of the spring and fall legs of the tour, they've incorporated a new group member and have begun work on their third album.

Like any good car, certain wheels need changing every now and again. Sometimes they just fall off by themselves. Nonetheless, it's a good idea to find a good replacement before you drive too far. Previous group member Nikki Hassman was offered a solo pop deal by a major mainstream label, (no big surprise, really if you've seen or heard her) and went her own way at the start of the summer. They found an elementary education major from New England who's great with kids and according to Passons, has a great heart for ministry. Oh yeah, and an amazing voice.

While creative mastermind {{Charlie Peacock}} produced the group's first two projects, industry stalwart Brown Bannister is producing their newest album. They say that the sound is being built around the sound of the last record, with its mixture of Euro-pop tunes and inspirational ballads, possibly with a little bit of rock and roll thrown in this time. But Michael adds that there will be a noticeable step up in maturity in the sound and the lyrics, perhaps even delving deeper into certain topics. He also mentioned that many of the songs speak directly about seeking God.

Janna describes two songs that have really affected her during their recording. "If My People Pray" is a call of awakening to the entire country. "It talks about how right now is the time that we need to seek God, as individuals and as a nation."

2 Chronicles 7:14 - If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Janna sang the vocal on the demo two years ago for another song that they recorded for the new album -- "I Can't Live A Day Without You." "It goes back to how you can have everything in life that you wanted," she explains. "But if you don't have the Lord, you really don't have anything. I think sometimes people look at our lives and think that it must be so great and exciting. It is...but, it doesn't mean that you're without the tough times, too."

{{Avalon}} has been on the road for three years straight, driving from city to city collecting fans at each stop, affecting people with the hope and encouragement that their music imparts. All the while keeping their compass pointed straight toward the source of their talents, praying that He'll continue to guide their course. Oh yeah, and that they'll get pretty good gas mileage along the way!

click here!Avalon