It’s about time more efforts were made to preserve the history-in-the-making that is contemporary Christian music. A natural tendency in mainstream circles, several artists have recently scored hits by recording cover albums of songs first popularized in the 1940s (Rod Stewart), 50s and 60s (Barry Manilow), and 60s and 70s (Michael McDonald’s Motown albums). Such a practice feeds artists and audiences alike, paying tribute to an inspiring past while rediscovering the music’s relevance today.
Now, premier Christian vocal group Avalon gives new voice and a debt of gratitude to various landmark faith-driven songs of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s on its ninth studio project Another Time, Another Place: Timeless Christian Classics. And quite serendipitously, the process has blessed Avalon’s members beyond all expectations they had at the outset.
“These are songs that first made us want to do what we’re doing today,” says Greg about their take on the works of Amy Grant (“Thy Word,” “El Shaddai”), Michael W. Smith (“Place in This World”), Steven Curtis Chapman (“For the Sake of the Call”), and others. Melissa remembers singing “The Basics of Life” (4Him) during her high school days and taking her first solo on “Friend of a Wounded Heart” (Wayne Watson).
For Janna, a founding member of Avalon, the memories have much to do with the group’s own story. While Another Time, Another Place focuses most on music that pre-dates Avalon’s existence, the group does cover “People Get Ready . . . Jesus Is Comin,” the 1996 hit by Crystal Lewis.
“We were on tour, opening for Crystal, when that song was so big,” recalls Janna. “It was her encore every night. And during that tour, she won the Dove Award for Female Vocalist and we won New Artist. It was so fun and exciting. ‘People Get Ready’ holds a lot of meaning.”
Even more special is Avalon’s passionately charged-up version of Twila Paris’ “God Is in Control,” a hands-down favorite among the group members. “Our very first tour was opening and singing background vocals for Twila,” says Janna. “It was amazing, having the chance to spend time with her early in our career, to be getting pearls of wisdom from such a seasoned artist.”
Equally excited that the group selected her song for inclusion on Another Time, Another Place, Paris comments, “More than a decade ago, Avalon and I toured together for almost an entire year,” she says. “They sang ‘God Is in Control’ with me, and it hasn’t sounded as good since…until now! I’m honored that they’ve chosen to record it on this new project.”
Another excellent addition to the album is Sandi Patty’s song, title track and radio single, “Another Time, Another Place.” “I am excited not only to have re-recorded ‘Another Time, Another Place,” but also that it is the title of our new record,” says Janna. “This was and is such a beautiful song about the hope of glory we have in Christ. To know that this broken world we live in is not the end for us as believers but merely a ‘passing through’ is very comforting.”
Other standouts on the project, produced by Shaun Shankel (Hilary Duff, Natalie Grant), include “Praise the Lord” (The Imperials),“The Reason We Sing” (First Call) and “People Need the Lord” (Steve Green).
Steve Green remarks on his song “People Need the Lord,” “Even though I’ve sung the song at almost every concert for the past 23 years, it still touches a tender place in my soul. Perhaps it’s the acknowledgement of dependency upon God, certainly for the gift of His grace, but also for every step of this spiritual journey. Hearing Avalon’s rendition was moving. A timeless message to a new generation. Thank you Avalon.”
Janna concludes, “We went into the studio and discovered just how well-written these songs were and how talented the original artists really are. These songs are timeless.”
Avalon formed in 1996, setting a high standard in contemporary Christian music. Reviewing its 2006 project Faith: A Hymns Collection, All Music Guide noted “the vocal efficiency and personalized stylings that place Avalon among the elite singing groups in contemporary Christian circles.” To date, the quartet has sold more than three million albums, charted 20 No. 1 singles, and won an American Music Award plus numerous Dove Awards such as the 1999 Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year for “Testify to Love.” That song, a listener favorite, has also been specially re-recorded for Another Time, Another Place. And when the next generation of Christian performers look back at the artists who influenced their path, perhaps even paying tribute to them on record, look for the name Avalon.