The Creed

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Perhaps the best example of the existence of a Christian music universe that is parallel to the secular pop world is Avalon, a kind of religious counterpart to the purpose-built vocal groups that dominated the 1990s album charts. Avalon even cheerfully admits to employing a songwriting team to create songs with a "specific, vertical message."

But this Christian pop supergroup is, nevertheless, a prime example of all that's good about the genre. The vocals soar, the beats are contemporary, and the production is polished without sounding too smooth. With nine years of performing under their belts and three years since their prior release, Avalon--with the addition of two new members in Greg Long and Melissa Greene--offers up a prime collection of tunes. Standout tracks include the anthemic title track, the cheerful sing-along of "I Wanna Be with You," and the yearning, guilt-laden "Renew Me." THE CREED has the overall feel of both a confident return to form and a coming of age for a band with talent and musical smarts to spare.

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