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LABEL: Sparrow Records
GENRE: Christmas/Pop
SPECIAL EFFECT(S): The London Session Orchestra weaves their magic throughout this disc; other contributions include a boy choir, a children's choir, and an adult choir featuring Darwin Hobbs and Nicol Smith.
PRODUCER(S): Brown Bannister

Produced by Brown Bannister, Joy sports 10 tracks (including traditional songs, medleys, covers, and originals), and with the exception of the album opener ("Joy") and an extremely busy big-band interpretation of the classic "Winter Wonderland," this recording mostly contains laid-back, holiday cheer of the sentimental variety. "Light a Candle" is a call to remember the less fortunate during the holidays; "Don't Save It All" (co-written by Celine Dion) reminds the listener to quit with the busyness and enjoy the small things of the season. It's on these more mellow tunes that listeners are treated to heaping doses of the group's biggest asset: that is, their exceptional solo voices. Janna Potter-Long shines on the jazz/R&B tinged "Christmas Song," and Cherie Paliotta showcases her velvety voice on "Jesus Born on This Day." Jody McBrayer and Michael Passons deliver their precise, lush vocals on many occasions as well.

However, while listening to the aforementioned upbeat tunes ("Joy", "Winter Wonderland"), I couldn't help but feel a bit of sensory overload. Drumming dance beats, endlessly wandering background vocals that are harmonized to the hilt, walking bass, doodling piano, syncopated rhythms, and blaring brass are all good things. But when you put them all together with four powerful vocalists, it can be somewhat overwhelming. Less would've definitely been more on those two tracks, but perpetual busyness certainly hasn't hurt Avalon in the past. Overall, this is a pleasant collection of Christmas songs--old and new. If you've liked Avalon in the past, I highly recommend Joy.

--Laura Harris