Nine years, numerous hits and many bumps in the road have made for an amazing journey for Avalon. And now the foursome picks up where it left off, with their first studio album in three years, The Creed. This project is appropriately titled, for it is as much a declaration of who the members of Avalon are as what they believe.

And who they are is a group that doesn’t pretend to reinvent the wheel. Bold, stirring ballads mixed with fresh, up-tempo pop have been staples of the group since its inception. However, the treatment given by producers Brown Bannister, Charlie Peacock and Tedd T. on this set of 10 tunes takes these songs to the next level by the “new and improved” Avalon. Not that there was anything wrong with the old one.

Original member Michael Passons has departed and newcomer (but no stranger to Christian music) Greg Long joins the group. His easily identifiable, slightly vibrato tenor is a surprisingly seamless transition to the harmonies of one of Christian music’s premier pop machines, anchored by Melissa Greene and remaining founding members Janna Long (also Greg’s wife) and Jody McBrayer.

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From start to finish, there is no weak link in the chain of The Creed. The first track, “All,” an energy-driven pop tune, jumpstarts the project. “All” may remind some of the group’s first hit back in the mid-90’s, “Give It Up.” Other standouts on this project include “Far Away From Here,” a Peacock-produced pop tune featuring a stark piano bridge reminiscent of Coldplay’s “Clocks” and Janna Long providing lead vocals on the power ballad, “Abundantly,” with the Bible verse John 10:10 as the lyrical centerpiece. McBrayer’s stirring rendition of “You Were There” is a musical footnote of sorts to the film “The Passion of the Christ,” providing the listener a glimpse into the depths of Jesus’ suffering and His love for us.

The Creed easily ranks with Avalon’s best work.