The Phantom Tollbooth
Now to Live the Life - Soul Survivor Live '98
Artist: Matt Redman/Martyn Layzell/Tim Hughes
Label: Kingsway Music (UK)
Time: 13 tracks / 54:02
 
The Soul Survivor event continues to grow. This year, 13,000 mostly young people gathered over the two-week event in south-west England for a time of worship and some teaching. The event has always been known for its worship music, mainly due to the influence of Matt Redman, who now at the hoary old age of 24 is joined by two younger worship leaders on this album. At the event the music actually tended to get rather repetitive, as the same slightly simplistic and repetitive songs were repeated night after night and at great length, but thankfully the album is more balanced.
 
A selection of the tracks are taken from Matt Redman's latest album, Intimacy, along with six newer Redman tracks. The driving electric guitar vibe of "Saved" contrasts nicely with recent Redman songs, but unfortunately one or two of the others, such as "Sing Like the Saved,"  suggest a creeping-in of self-plagiarism and over-simplicity as Redman continues to write songs at a high speed.
 
Musically, the feel is not that different from last year's Soul Survivor album. The musicians are all technically competent and there are some sterling performances from backing vocalists Beth Redman (Storm), Cathy Burton (Blueberry), and Esther Alexander. Tim Hughes and Martyn Layzell actually sound somewhat similar to Matt Redman when leading worship, to the degree that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish them without paying very close attention -- this was a shame at the event but makes for consistency on CD.
 
It would be nice to hear more of Terl Bryant's seventeen Psalm Drummers who showed up at the event to join the worship team on stage. They do appear to be present, if not terribly prominent, on "O Come Let Us Adore Him," but even that's an improvement on the event, where they were inaudible.

In some ways the Soul Survivor worship phenomenon has gotten too big for my tastes. At the event this summer they seemed to be feeding off previous success rather than truly innovating, and that lack of innovation continues here. Nevertheless, this continues to be one of the definitive collections of popular worship songs for the year and is worth a look if that's what you want.
 
By James Stewart (12/17/98)