The Phantom Tollbooth
Life on the Edge
Artist: Various Artists
Label: Focus on the Family/ForeFront Records
Length: 13 songs

Life on the Edge is a compilation of recently popular singles by CCM artists.  Produced by Focus on the Family (FOTF) and ForeFront, its purpose is to complement FOTF parent/teen seminars being held across the country from September 1998 through November 1999. In the spirit of building a foundation of love and respect between teens and their parents this CD is meant for both groups to enjoy together.  It is also enhanced with Zondervan's NIV Teen Study Bible; those with CD-ROM capabilities can now have the Bible on their computers. There are no big surprises in the line-up, though some "lesser known" bands are included, e.g., Seven Day Jesus, The Waiting, and Smalltown Poets.

The line-up, in order:

Audio Adrenaline, "People Like Me"
Seven Day Jesus, "I Will Find You"
Newsboys, "Entertaining Angels"
Eli, "Life on the Edge"
Rebecca St. James, "You're the Voice"
dc Talk, "What Have We Become"
Smalltown Poets, "Who You Are"
Avalon, "Testify to Love"
Big Tent Revival, "Lovely Mausoleum"
The Waiting, "Never Dim"
Margaret Becker, "Clay and Water"
Steven Curtis Chapman, "Let Us Pray"
Geoff Moore and the Distance, "No Need to Explain"

The selection of songs is basically solid. "Clay and Water" and "No Need to Explain" are performed with a reserved passion, and it is nice to see that some of the songs, such as "You're the Voice," "Who You Are," and "Never Dim," offer insight into the character of God.  Many of the other songs speak to individual situations, which are likewise refreshing.

One of the major flaws of the project is that several songs have been around awhile. For example, dc Talk's "What Have We Become" from their Jesus Freak project is a great song with a powerful message about reconciliation, but it is also several years old.  It would have made this particular effort more current to include a song from their most recent Supernatural project which was released at the same time by the same label.

The contribution by acoustic solo artist Eli is a song written specifically for this project titled "Life on the Edge."  Curiously, it is the fourth cut on the CD; it seems that first would have been more appropriate in setting the tone of the project.  Lyrically, it is sound, though it is not quite of the same caliber as the other songs.  It speaks to the choices we are called to make in our lives, how those choices put us on the "edge," and that God can help us make the right choices so that we have no regrets:

Tempation surrounds me, I try to resist; I may end up winning or end up caving in.
This is life on the edge.
Yes, I am meant for more than this. I move farther and farther from regret.
God pulls me from living on the edge.
The theme, Life on the Edge, is a pretty basic one:  our sinful nature, how that plays out in our relationships with others and with God and in our choices, and the character of the Saviour-God.  The songs do not make an obvious connection to the theme; that is for the listeners to make, based upon their own experiences.  The objective seems to be one of encouragement to the listeners, to let them know that they are not alone in their human condition and that the Creator-Who-is-There can pull them from the edge--yet also walk along the edge with them.

Elisa Musso 9/19/99