Release Date: November 11th 2016
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
Soul Survivor– Never Gonna Stop (iTunes/Amazon mp3)
Track Listing: [ ] = Original Artist
- The Lion and the Lamb (feat. Tom Smith) [Leeland]
- Never Gonna Stop Singing (feat. Tom Smith) [Jesus Culture]
- This is Amazing Grace (feat. Beth Croft & LIV Choir) [Phil Wickham]
- Praise the Name (Anastasis) (feat. Beth Croft) [Hillsong Worship]
- King of My Heart (feat. Tom Smith) [John Mark McMillan]
- Good, Good Father (feat. Beth Croft) [Housefires]
- Broken Vessels (feat. Tom Smith) [Hillsong Worship]
- This I Believe (The Creed) (feat. Beth Croft) [Hillsong Worship]
- Forever (We Sing Hallelujah) (feat. Beth Croft) [Kari Jobe]
- Sinking Deep (feat. Tom Smith) [Hillsong Young and Free]
As Bethel, Passion and Jesus Culture is to the U.S.A., and Planetshakers and Hillsong are to Australia, Soul Survivor (and more recently Worship Central) is to the U.K. Borne during the 1990s where worship leaders Matt Redman, Tim Hughes and a host of others banded together to form a ministry primarily focused in leading the younger generation into moments of worship and heartfelt praise, Soul Survivor has now become an annual festival where individuals gather, sometimes from around the world, to be equipped via a series of worship services and sermon talks. Annual worship albums (except in 2014) have been released by Soul Survivor, and artists have used Soul Survivor as a platform to launch careers. From Tim Hughes and Matt Redman, to more recent introductions into the Soul Survivor family like Beth Croft, Rend Collective, Ben Cantelon and Tom Smith; Soul Survivor has become a movement where its music, just like its counterparts across the pond, is what has continued to draw individuals to the festivals each year. Now with their new 2016 album titled Never Gonna Stop, this album consisting of worship leaders Beth Croft and Tom Smith, deliver songs full of emotion and passion, as this album is certain to be loved by anyone who adores contemporary worship music of today. While albums previously featured some songs on such albums written by the worship leader (in 2015’s Love Takes Over, Tim Hughes led “Pocketful of Faith” that he wrote himself, and Rend Collective delivered a rousing moment of praise in “Boldly I Approach”, also written by them), the 2016 offering is unique in a way- both Beth and Tom delivered 5 cover songs each to present a 10 track album…yes, both Beth and Tom didn’t write any of the tracks on this new Soul Survivor project. Nevertheless, their album is still emotive and powerful, and is for anyone who loves current worship radio hits over the last few years.
Previous albums had 3-4 vocalists on a 12-13 track album, and while worship leaders like Ben Cantelon, Tim Hughes, Sam Bailey, Tom Field and Rend Collective are absent on this album, what is unique about Never Gonna Stop is this- its 10 tracks- short, sweet, refined, not necessarily long-winded like many live albums are (as much as I enjoy live worship albums from any worship movement, there is always a tendency to have 14-15 songs on the album, at times much more than necessary). There’s only two worship leaders- now depending on how we look at this, it can be a bit of a help and a hindrance at the same time- we have a sense of familiarity in the worship leader as we hear the album, and are accustomed to how they sing and their style of worship within the confides of the songs they lead, yet at times, we can feel like we want to hear someone else lead songs as well. Nevertheless, both Tom and Beth and emotive and encouraging worship leaders; and it shows in the songs that are led by the two of them. With 10 songs, both Beth and Tom sing 5 tracks each. And when we glance through the song list on the live album, we see a trend- all these songs are well known to the church today. None are originals that the worship leaders wrote themselves- in 2015’s annual live album from Soul Survivor, Tom Smith led songs like “Dynamite” and “End of Me”, similarly, Beth delivered with precision songs like “Hold On”, “Love Takes Over” and “Rule in My Heart”. On this offering, it is totally different.
That’s not to say that I’m complaining- not at all. In fact, I reckon this album will be a blessing to Soul Survivor, as listeners will hear this album full of covers and maybe backtrack and hear albums of previous years. It is also a reminder that a worship song is much bigger than the artist that wrote them. Here on Never Gonna Stop, Tom invites us to praise the King with a synth driven “Lion and the Lamb”, made famous by Big Daddy Weave on their 2015 album Beautiful Offerings and originally written by worship duo signed to the Bethel Music Collective, Leeland (once on Provident Label Group). In fact, “Lion and the Lamb” is one of the most underrated worship songs I’ve heard this past year, and a great inclusion in Soul Survivor’s 2016 annual project. Hand claps and a rousing keyboard undertone are throughout another Tom Smith led track, “Never Gonna Stop Singing”, this time originally from Jesus Culture’s Let it Echo, released in January 2016; while “Broken Vessels”, again led by Tom, gives us comfort that while we were indeed broken vessels, God redeemed and allowed us to become vessels of His grace and love. Let’s just say that I enjoyed Tom’s version of the song much more than Hillsong Worship’s. “King of My Heart” and “Sinking Deep” are some of the hits on radio over the last few years, the former written and recorded by John Mark McMillan and the latter from Hillsong Young and Free’s debut 2013 album. Both these songs are led by Tom with such emotion and fervent intentionality as it is in these two tracks that give me assurance that Tom could be a great successor in leading a lot of Soul Survivor worship services in the future, a mantle that once was held by Canadian/British worship leader Ben Cantelon for quite some time previously.
Beth Croft is the other worship leader on Never Gonna Stop, inviting us first to participate in “This is Amazing Grace”, a collaboration on this album with LIV Choir, special guests from Africa. While I know the intentions of Beth and the choir are great, at times I felt like the choirs additions in the track seem a little forced, even if I know it wasn’t their intention. Nevertheless, Beth is a great worship leader, and the song isn’t as hindered as I initially thought the choir would have on it- similar in style to Phil Wickham’s rendition on The Ascension, “This is Amazing Grace” is one of my favourite songs over the last few years. “O Praise the Name”, “This I Believe” and “Forever (We Sing Hallelujah)” are other songs that have been circulating within churches for quite some time, the former two originally envisaged by Hillsong Worship and the latter from worship leader Kari Jobe. With each of these renditions never straying much from the original recordings, except for some moments in each track for a little bit of free worship; it is the cover of “Good, Good Father” (written by Housefires and given the radio treatment by Chris Tomlin and Zealand Worship, with both versions excelling on the charts) that is a highlight to me. There is something about that track- while Beth’s version is the same as Housefires’, which is the same as Chris Tomlin’s, Casting Crowns’ and Big Daddy Weave’s and every other cover (except for Zealand Worship who quickened the beat and made it more of a CCM pop melody); I have found myself lost in worship in this song, every time, regardless of who is singing it. Beth’s version is no different, and is a definite highlight on Never Gonna Stop!
Though worship leaders and previous Soul Survivor contributors like Sam Bailey, Tom Fields, Jamie Rodwell and Ben Cantelon are all absent from this year’s Soul Survivor festival compilation, what this collection of songs brings is a plethora of proven hits as well as up and coming songs that are certain to be hits in days, weeks and months to come. With Beth fast proving herself to anchor worship and music on Soul Survivor albums in the future, as Tim Hughes moves towards focusing on Worship Central albums, it is once again for me the songs of Beth, particularly “Good Good Father”, that are highlights on Never Gonna Stop. Anyone who loves Christian worship music should check out the album, with songs like “Good, Good Father”, “Lion and the Lamb”, “King of my Heart”, and “Sinking Deep” some of my own personal standouts. A must-have if you enjoy worship movements like Bethel, Jesus Culture, Hillsong or Passion, Soul Survivor’s relevance in today’s music culture is far from redundant, as I’m sure the effects of this album will be felt in years to come! Well done to Beth and Tom for such an awe-inspiring and compelling set of 10 tracks!
3 songs to listen to: The Lion and the Lamb, King of my Heart, Good, Good Father
RIYL: UNITED, Chris Tomlin, Hillsong Worship, Kristian Stanfill, Jesus Culture