(UK Cover) 

The Friendship And The Fear 
Artist: Matt Redman 
Label: Survivor Records/Kingsway Music(UK)/Star Song(US)  

One of the most influential movements amongst young British Christians is "Soul Survivor." It originally grew out of a popular charismatic evangelical conference called "New Wine," but Soul Survivor has now established its own festival, youth church, celebration events, and magazine, and has a strong reputation for worship music. Matt Redman is the main worship leader involved with the Soul Survivor organisation and has quickly established himself alongside Kendrick et al. as one of the most respected worship songwriters of modern times. 
 
This (Matt's third album) brings us a more mature sound with thirteen new worship songs, many of which have quickly caught on in churches across the UK and further afield. The sound is difficult to pin down, built up on many levels underneath Matt's slightly husky vocals. I have heard the sound described as reminiscent of early U2 recordings, and I can definitely hear that influence. But there are many other sounds present, mainly acoustic guitar-based, with funky electric guitar sounds, keyboards, and a variety of both programmed and live percussion being the mainstays. 

Lyrically this album contains a strong theme of striving for holiness alongside the expected songs of adoration and commitment. The songwriting is a real step up from some of Matt's older material, with a refreshing honesty:  

    I need to get the fire back, 
    Lord, like the first time, 
    I need to get the fire back, 
    You are my first love. 
    The embers still remain, 
    But, Lord, I miss the flame. 
    I need to get the fire back. 
    (from "I Need to Get the Fire Back")
Joining these honest lyrics is the extremely powerful "Once Again." Having heard this song played live in a more stripped down format, I would have preferred that same acoustic form here. The arrangement sounds a little "busy", but the lyrics remain the focal point:  
    Jesus Christ, I think upon Your sacrifice; 
    You became nothing, poured out to death. 
    Many times I've wondered 
    At your gift of life, 
    And I'm in that place once again, 
    I'm in that place once again.
For me, the musical standouts here are "Can We Walk Upon the Water" and the title track. The former builds around a distorted guitar foundation, with acoustic guitar, keyboard and piano mixed around it. There is more energy here than in the rest of the album, and it makes a nice break while still holding with the overall style - granted, it does suffer slightly from its length (as do many of the other tracks), but this is only a slight drawback. "The Friendship and the Fear," one of a couple acoustic tracks, is a very laidback ending to the album - only featuring an acoustic guitar and a sprinkling of synthesiser:  
    There is one thing you have spoken, 
    There are two things I have found; 
    You O Lord are ever loving, 
    You O Lord are ever strong. 
    I am longing to discover 
    Both the closeness and the awe, 
    Feel the nearness of your whisper, 
    Hear the glory of your roar
There is a range of musical styles present, but this album does have a cohesiveness about it. Some people who liked earlier Matt Redman albums have said they are a little disappointed with this one; the musical tone is a little darker, and the lyrics are a little more introspective.  I found this provides a good contrast against many of the more lively worship albums that are currently available and, for me at least, opens up a different area of worship. 

By James Stewart 

1clock2clocks3clocks 
(This review is of the UK version.) 

 

The latest in a growing number of UK based artists to get distribution in the US CCM market recently is acclaimed worship leader and songwriter Matt Redman. This album shares its name with his most recent UK release, but the track listing is somewhat different, combining songs from the UK release and an earlier album, Passion for Your Name.

Musically, the songs here fit together pretty well--they are all fairly mellow, with Matt's husky vocals prominent. There is a definite early U2 influence, which crops up strongly in places with a number of delayed guitar sounds and harmonics. Overall, the sound is fairly middle of theroad, but thankfully retains creativity despite this.

Having heard Matt's UK releases gives me a slightly strange perspective on this, and I was interested to hear how tracks from Passion for Your Name and The Friendship and the Fear worked together, given that the two UK releases have quite different sounds.  I'm not quite sure that "The Cross Has Said It All" fits too well - it's a good song, but is more upbeat (with slightly funky, wah-pedal driven guitar in places), and I would prefer that the two final tracks were switched round ("Better Is One Day" and
"The Friendship and the Fear") as I feel that "The Friendship..." is a better close.  But overall the song selection is good.

The theme of striving for holiness remains from the UK release, but  with a few other songs that look in wonder at the cross ("The Cross Has Said It All" and "Once Again" spring to mind), and a longing for widespread revival. "It's Rising Up" falls into the latter camp and seemed (to me at least) to become an anthem for 1996 when it was released--a mainstay at most UK youth events and summing up the feelings common at the time that revival is imminent.  Those feelings remain in some groups, but I have come to realize that perhaps it became something of an unhealthy obsession for some--revival would be great, but we can't demand it of God. The song remains a heart stirring anthem, although I do prefer it live:

    It's rising up from coast to coast
    From north to south and east to west
    The cry of hearts that love your name
    Which with one voice, we will proclaim.
    The former things have taken place
    Can this be the new day of praise?
    A heavenly song, which comes to birth
    And reaches out to all the earth?
This song was co-written with Martin Smith of delirious?, who co-produced Passion for Your Name. There isn't as much involvement from delirious? as I'd expected, but their publicity man Craig Borlase takes on some guitar duties here. The instrumentalists are all top-class, weaving their playing around each other, and with some soulful backing vocals.

A song from Passion for Your Name which certainly ranks among the best Matt has written is "I Will Offer Up Your Life." The lyrics are simple but heartfelt, and it is given a sympathetic arrangement, building up as it goes on:

    I will offer up my life
    In spirit and truth
    Pouring out the oil of love
    As my worship to you.
    In surrender I must give
    My every part,
    Lord receive the sacrifice of a broken heart.
Overall I think I preferred the UK release of The Friendship and the Fear, but these are still some top worship songs, and this is a pretty good introduction to Matt Redman.  While this definitely doesn't compare to hearing Matt lead people in these songs live, it could certainly be useful for private worship or learning some new song

By James Stewart 

1clock2clocks3clocks 
(This review is of the US version.)