The Phantom Tollbooth
Revival Generation: 12 Songs That Rocked a Nation
Artist: Various
Label: Worship Together
Length: 12 tracks/ 66.01min.

Marketing usually makes or breaks an album. Sometimes marketing gets lost in its own hype and misleads people. That's what I fear has happened here. An album of twelve worship songs which have proved popular within the British church, and have merit in themselves as some of these artists's strongest writing, the album is sold as a lot more than that, as a group of songs which have sparked off a revival. For the record, while there may have been a renewal in worship music (and that's debatable) in the UK in recent years, and several groups within the UK church believe that a revival is imminent (I must admit I don't agree with them), it is doubtful that there are any documented revivals attributable to the material on this project.

A collection of live versions of these songs, the album opens with delirious?'s classic track, "Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble" from Live And In The Can which recently received its US release. Matt Redman's recent material is also well represented as is Paul Oakley. Kevin Prosch, Stuart Townend/Dave Fellingham, and Noel Richards complete the collection of songs. The selection of songs is good, with a fair cross-section of the key tracks included. Unfortunately, while at points the live recording captures something of the feel of a number of worship events, studio versions would probably be better introductions to the artists and work better together as a whole.

I have never been particularly taken with Noel Richards.  His strength as a vocalist is certainly up for question and the musical simplicity and triumphalism of his material certainly become trying. No album can be stronger for a ten minute plus rendition of "We Want to See Jesus Lifted High." It's a fun song, but far too simple lyrically and musically to be stretched out to this length. Live albums and compilations are both difficult things to get right, and while this combination of the two starts off fairly strongly, the attempt to patch the songs together does not work.

There are a number of fine songs in this collection, marred by their packaging and promotion. Maybe worth a listen for some, but certainly not for anyone who is at all familiar with modern British worship music. Despite the overtly Christian lyrical content of this album, the marketing approach leaves me questioning whether consumerism isn't a more apt ideological pigeon-hole for this album.

By James Stewart (12/6/98)