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Ajalon: On the Threshold of Eternity

Playing bass in Neal Morse's band must have made an impact on multi-instrumentalist Randy George. On the Threshold of Eternity, the second album from George's Christian progressive-rock trio Ajalon, swirls with beautiful melodic turns of phrase, Spock's Beard-like vocal passages and songs that are plain and simple easy to fall in love with. Lo and behold, Morse even contributes vocals to the epic 16-minute title track.

Not that any of this is a bad thing. On the contrary, On the Threshold of Eternity is a moving, vibrant and feel-good album punctuated by George's accessible music and vocalist/bassist Wil Henderson's lyrics. In fact, Henderson's friendly and warm voice was meant to sing these songs, which address hope in an uncertain world. Ajalon takes its name from the Bible's Book of Joshua, meaning "grace in the midst of the fire," and the band's music certainly exhibits a graceful touch that accents the often-subtle lyrics. In addition to Morse, Rick Wakeman who discovered the band and released Ajalon's first CD, Light at the End of the Tunnel, on his own Hope Records label adds flourishing keyboard solos to the sprightly "What Kind of Love" and the acoustic-turned-symphonic "Forever I Am," and guitarist Phil Keaggy lends his tenor and acoustic guitar to "Holy Spirit Fire," a catchy pop-rocker. A bonus track features Ajalon's tasteful rendition of The Moody Blues' "You and Me."

Like the music of Morse, Wakeman and Keaggy, On the Threshold of Eternity has the potential to emerge as one of those records you can return to time and again without ever really tiring of it. Can I get an "Amen!"?


Track Listing:
1)Anthem of the Seventh Day
2) The Promised Land
3) Sword of Goliath
4) Holy Spirit Fire
5) Psalm 61
6) What Kind of Love
7) The Highway
8) Forever I Am
9) On the Threshold of Eternity
10) You and Me (Bonus Track)

Added: September 8th 2005
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Score:
Related Link: Official Ajalon Web Site
Hits: 7253
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Ajalon: On the Threshold of Eternity
Posted by Steve Ambrosius, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-09-08 10:51:33
My Score:

Let me say that I don't believe that Ken, from Ken's Novel's The Guide exists, yet I can seriously get into the stories about him. The same should hold true for me about Ajalon. This is a band that has a single theme to its music and whether I follow that belief system or not, should not interfere with my enjoyment of the music. So I went into this review listening for the musical content, not the spiritual content. That said, if overtly religious themes turn you off, this CD will not appeal to you.


On The Threshold Of Eternity is melodic, progressive rock, boarding on pop. The layered harmonies, both vocal and instrumental, give this a commercial feel, but the excellent rhythm section keeps bringing it back to progressive territory. Both the key signatures and vocals give this album an overtly "happy" feel. There really isn't any edge to this CD, which is my biggest negative. Every CD needs it's moments that snarl and growl. Ajalon doesn't contain a nasty streak at all.


Highlights of On The Threshold Of Eternity are the instrumental opener "Anthem Of The Seventh Day" and the bass/keyboard interaction on "What Kind Of Love". Overall Ajalon provide us a pleasant, almost saccharine sweet, offering that will appeal to any fan of Cryptic Vision or Neil Morse. Let's hope that the next offering will have the band flex their muscles a little more. Turn the other cheek is a fine motto to live by, but maybe not to compose music by.


Ajalon: On the Threshold of Eternity
Posted by Duncan Glenday, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-08-25 00:38:55
My Score:

In a conversation with Neal Morse, I asked if he was on the verge of inventing a new genre called 'Christian progressive rock'.  He pointed out that his bass player Randy George already had an excellent Christian prog band called Ajalon. On the Threshold Of Eternity is Ajalon's second album, and along with luminaries like Rick Wakeman and Phil Keaggy, Morse is a contributing artist to this very strong body of work.

Now before you go too far you have to understand that this is a Christian album.  If that turns you off, that's fine. But if you're open to the overtly religious theme, or if you can simply appreciate the music for its own sake, there's a good deal of high quality music on this record. Some tracks have an approachable prog-AOR quality to them and are led by the vocals.  But in the instrumental opening track "Anthem Of The Seventh Day" and particularly in the 16-minute title track, we have good quality modern American prog in the vein of Spock's Beard. It isn't necessarily the most complex music you'll hear, and these tracks lean toward a neo / symphonic style with a full sound, lots of 'tron-like sampled sounds, and compelling guitar solos from George and Keaggy.

According to the band, 'Ajalon' takes its name from the Bible's Book of Joshua and means "grace in the midst of the fire".  My research, however, suggests that it is 
actually a town and valley originally assigned to the tribe of Dan, called the 'place of deer' - and has come to mean 'strength', as in the strength of a stag.  Regardless of biblical history, this is a three-piece outfit with all three members sharing writing credits. Randy George is an accomplished guitarist, keyboard player and bassist, yet the bass player on this album is Wil Henderson who also penned most lyrics and sang most of the songs.  Rick Wakeman took Ajalon under his wing, and their 1996 debut album was the first non-Wakeman album on his Hope label, which he runs from the Isle of Man. High praise indeed.

"What Kind of Love", with it's brilliant but somewhat out-of-place Rick Wakeman Minimoog solo, is an anthemic piece of neo-prog with a sunny, feel-good ambience.  Opening track "Anthem Of The Seventh Day" is a rich 4-minute symphonic rock instrumental featuring Wil Henderson's Irish Whistles that give it a Celtic atmosphere similar to fellow Christian proggers Iona.  But the 16-minute epic is the crown jewel of this record.  The song is largely instrumental, and the vocals feature Henderson and Neal Morse in a duet - with Henderson playing a man who has lost his way, and Morse as the voice of God.  There are huge musical and lyrical similarities to Morse's song "Cradle To The Grave" on his One album. Despite the big differences between the melodic pop songs and the symphonic prog tracks, the common threads here are the upbeat tone, the high standard of musicianship and the remarkably crisp production.

The final track on the album is a cover of the Moody Blues song "You And Me", which should - frankly - have been left off entirely.  The album ought to end with the wonderful wall of sound at the end of "On The Threshold Of Eternity" ringing in your ears.




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