Ansel Adams, one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century, once summed up his complex artistry in the simplest of terms: “A good photograph is knowing where to stand.” Once you get that part down, he said, the rest comes by seeing and by feeling.
Take the camera away, and the same can be said of life itself. Living it well, breathing it in, keeping it in perspective and even moving forward depends, first and foremost, on where and how you stand.
For AVALON—Jody McBrayer, Melissa Greene and Janna and Greg Long—the last couple of years have found them standing in the middle of incredible opportunity. They’ve performed in front of 500,000+ fans, hit the 3 million sales mark, watched another radio single jump to #1 (their 20th to date), and have recently been welcomed into the Women of Faith family. They even landed “Group of the Year” kudos three years in a row with the 2002, 2003 and 2004 CCM Reader’s Choice Award.
Three-fourths of Avalon also experienced unprecedented personal change—the irreversible, unimaginable kind. In May of 2004, Janna and Greg welcomed their first baby Lillian. Jody and his wife Stephanie followed suit in May of 2005 with a McBrayer first, Sarah Clayton.
STAND AND DELIVER
Now, almost nine full months in the making, the newest AVALON baby is due to arrive January 24th. STAND, the group’s 7th studio album to date, is the full-circle recording fans have been waiting anxiously to hear. Four unmistakably unique and powerful voices belting out the encouraging truth of God’s love and grace with passion, confidence and conviction. Produced by Shaun Shankel, Bernie Herms and Mark Hammond STAND delivers excitement and joy we’ve come to expect from Avalon. A bold and colorful reflection of a season of excitement and growth.
With this record, Jody says, “We were ready to let our hair down a little bit. The Creed was a little more serious, and, though we’re serious about the message of every song on STAND, we were just ready to have some fun. …I think even though we love a great ballad, and that’s sort of what Avalon is known for, we’re also known for great up tempo stuff, high-energy stuff, and that creative energy and passion is something that we really wanted to bring back. “
With a steady balance of heart-racing pop-rock anthems and heart-stirring ballads, STAND definitely holds its own in the energy and passion departments. “’STAND’ is such a huge reflection of where we are as a group,” echoes Melissa Greene. “We wanted this record to be very authentic, with a little something for everybody and perhaps a little bit more of a Rock and R&B edge to some of the music. It’s just so great when the songs allow everyone to bring their own strengths to the table. When we come together, you get this unique blend that you don’t get anywhere else. And everybody really shines in his or her own way.”
From the driving opener “The Other Side,” STAND bursts with exuberant joy, a celebration in song:
There is glory in the night / So beautiful and bright
A glimpse of You / Coming from the other side
In a way, Jody says, “that song is kind of ironic because we’ve been through that dark night, and we’ve come out on the other side with a whole new reason to celebrate. So there is a reason to have joy, knowing no matter what your circumstances are, Christ is there waiting, and He will be the strength that sees you through.”
“Love Won’t Leave You” follows, with Greg Long’s signature smooth tenor pushing through the jangling, crunching guitars. A song about the faithful, unconditional love of God that cements STAND’s intent as a declaration of God’s goodness in our lives.
“Orphans of God,” a heart-wrenching ballad, especially for a new mom like Janna, is the kind of unforgettable song that some artists wait a lifetime to find. “I look at the way I feel about my child and it’s almost breathtaking at times, the way that I feel for her,” Janna says. “And to think that somehow what I feel for her is just a smidgen of what God feels for me, I can’t even comprehend it. What a beautiful song this is to express the truth that because He loves us so much, ‘there are no strangers, no outcasts, no orphans of God.’”
“Overall, the theme of this record is that pure and simple joy,” Greg says. “Over the past three years, we’ve all been through a lot, but now the transition is done. We’re all here now. There’s a history here. And we’re all encouraged and excited about finding our way together. We’ve experienced one of the most joyful things you can experience in this life—two babies being born. And so it’s like Melissa says, ‘Joy has come in the morning.’ It’s morning. It’s spring. The songs are a definite testament to where we’re standing now.”
One of the most surprising choices on STAND—and the song from which the project takes its title—is a stunning remake of “We Will Stand,” arguably one of the most important contemporary Christian songs ever written. The original writers of the song, Russ and Tori Taff and James Hollihan, agreed to write a new bridge for the cover of their classic. As if that wasn’t enough, Russ graciously lent his powerful voice as guest vocalist on the track. “It’s so interesting to hear this song after, what, 20+ years since it was written, and to see how even more timely it is even now,” Greg says. “That is one of the great things about Christian music in general. Beyond Avalon, beyond Christian music, we’re beginning to see glimpses of the kind of unity ‘We Will Stand’ sings of, we can see it happening in the church. I think you’re seeing the walls come down and people reaching out to help and to love one another. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was such a great testament to that. Thank God! We’re just happy to be a part of that.”
One by one, the songs on STAND are as compelling as songs get. There’s not one forgettable song in ten. From “When The Time Comes,” a song about surrender, to “Slowly,” a testament to the process of growing in relationship with Christ, to “Somehow You Are” the powerful declaration of God’s presence in creation and in our lives, to the straight-up, heart-on-your-sleeve worship ballad, “Jesus,” a very personal expression of love and adoration for the One who makes everything possible—STAND takes the listener on an unforgettable heart journey, straight to the heart of God.
“The song “Jesus” encompasses what we are as a group, why we make music,” Jody says. “We sing these songs every weekend to let people know about Christ and the price He paid for us and how much He loves us, no matter what we’ve done or where we’ve been. So I think it’s appropriate that it is on this record right now.”
From the beginning to the benediction of “Joy and Sorrow,” a song about hope in the midst of trouble, STAND echoes the sounds of a group simply having the time of their lives. And for Avalon, 2006 promises even more opportunities and many joys, including 24 conference dates with Women of Faith.
Grateful for the new season God has given them, Avalon is poised and more-than-ready to stretch and grow where they are firmly planted. They’re bursting with energy and passion that comes from knowing and being known by a loving, merciful God, in whose shelter and by whose grace, they stand.
“We’re especially grateful,” Janna says, “to be at a place in life where God is allowing us to be part of something bigger, to see a bigger picture. That’s one of the reasons we’re so excited to be included in the Women of Faith conferences. Anytime you have a chance to bring in new people, to embrace a new group of people with your music, it’s pretty exciting. 20,000 women in one place who have never heard of us or our music…it’s just amazing to be part of that.”
“Finding out where God is, and what he’s doing, Greg says, “That’s where Avalon really wants to be. We’re nothing, He’s everything, and what He is doing is changing the world. We’re ready to stand wherever or go wherever or do whatever we can to be a part of that. “
Date: 03 January 2006