Personnel: Mike Payne (guitar); Bryan Duncan (piano, programming); Ricky Free , Ben Phillips (drums).
Audio Mixer: Barry Weeks.
Photographers: Rev. Josh Hailey; Josh Hailey.
It took emancipation from the very machine that put them together, EMI, for Avalon to finally take the reins and start anew with REBORN, their first independent project. It appears that liberty afforded the quartet an opportunity to upend the entire Avalon record-making paradigm: there is no big-budget producer on deck, not a single power ballad to bet all the chips on, and the group's mug isn't even on the front album cover. All signs that this is not your mother's Avalon but, rather, an entirely refashioned outfit: one that favors take-no-prisoners pop/rock over inspirational sentiment and aggressiveness over adult contemporary sameness. At its core, Avalon are still a vocal pop foursome, so knob-turner Ian Eskelin (Stellar Kart, Everyday Sunday) makes sure to keep his ear to the ground in terms of melodic value and immediacy, while adding an edge and rock sensibility that are very much his. Avalon has never sounded this liberated, this unconcerned with pandering to a formula--they're almost oblivious to the positive-hits mentality that was once their bread and butter. There's nary a dull moment here; things move so briskly and fluidly that this is perhaps the most fun Avalon has had in the studio since 1997's A MAZE OF GRACE. Hands down, REBORN is the best album Avalon has released in the 2000s.