If you are a TobyMac fan from way back, maybe you’ve seen my name. I’m Jeff Savage. I had the honor of working with Toby on his first few solo albums 20 years ago. Toby, Randall Crawford, and myself created some wonderful songs like “Irene”, “J-Train”, “Atmosphere”, and even “This Christmas”. I created most of the interludes on those old albums. I did a lot of remixes for Toby, as well as dcTalk. It’s fair to say that music has been a big part of my life from my 20’s.
Sometimes I was referred to as “Savo” on those records, a nickname that came from a misspelling of my last name in the first album review for Toby’s album “Momentum” by Billboard Magazine. Here we are, two decades later. A lot has changed in the 20 years Toby has been making music as a solo artist in both the world and in his personal life.
(Toby and Jeff performing “Irene” at GMA week in 2003, Toby and Jeff at Momentum 2022)
I remember the day I heard the news about Toby’s oldest son Truett. I was living in Florida, working at Walt Disney World as a stage technician for live entertainment. I was at the gym before my shift that day, and a friend of mine sent me the headline. It had been many years since I had seen or talked to Toby. Life just happened. But it hit me like a ton of bricks.
I was instantly flooded with memories, particularly of working in the studio with Toby and Truett for the “Tru Dog” interludes on those early albums and remix albums. I spent a fair amount of time with him when he was a little boy in the studio while his dad was recording. I never saw him past him being in middle school when I moved away from Nashville, so in my mind, all I could see was that kid, and it deeply upset me. Layered with all the years that have gone by, I now have my own wife and children, and I’m thinking about how unthinkable that situation was (and is) for someone who was a friend of mine. It was absolutely horrible news.
A few months after Truett passed, Toby released the song “21 Years” and that was the first time he shared music with the world about his family’s grief. Now almost 3 years since their family’s loss the album “Life After Death” is here. It is a brilliant, beautiful, and devastating piece of art.
I write this review because I hope my insight can have an impact on you that points you to Jesus in the hard times, just like this album will do in people’s lives for years to come.
This album is an absolute masterpiece, but one I wish with everything inside of me, never had to be written or exist.
Where to begin? I’ll start with what I know best…
Production and Engineering
This album is recorded and mixed perfectly. It is a sonic beast. The musicianship is solid. The mixes are on point. There is massive depth of field, and each song is an individual sonic landscape.
I know, from experience, how much energy Toby puts into making his music sound the way it does. He’s a perfectionist, and what I can imagine is that every millisecond of audio was analyzed and thought over personally by him.
Now, for everything else…
This is not the typical TobyMac album.
This album is very real, not that the other ones weren’t. But the aftermath and raw emotion of the loss of his son are all out there on the table. This album puts you on that journey with him, you are going to feel things and ponder things you may have never considered before.
If you have kids like I do, you are going to want to go hold on to them before bed and soak up every moment. I know Toby’s testimony has made me try to pay more attention and be more present with my boys and my girl, something I fail at often as a father.
For those of us that worked with Toby or know him, and for those of us who knew his son, there is a lot of weight there, and it’s hard to listen to some of this album. I hear the pain in his voice. Particularly, for me, I hear it the most on “Faithfully.” This song, in my opinion, is one of the best songs he has ever written.
Even on the happier songs, the melancholy remains. I hear him processing and hurting. But the beautiful part of all of the songs is this, I hear the hope in his voice. Absolute resolve and hope. Check out “The Goodness” featuring Blessing Offor:
Toby needed to make this album.
Even if he just recorded it and shelved the tapes, in my opinion, he needed to get it all down somewhere. He is processing, but like I said earlier, he is processing from a place of HOPE. Stellar production is one thing, but hope is what truly makes this album great.
And for that reason, coupled with great songwriting, I believe that this is the best album he has ever made, and I believe this will resonate more with his audience than any of them. I also believe that this will be the most successful record of his career.
I hope it is. It’s going to help a lot of hurting people.
I am so happy for my old friend for getting back up and still moving forward.
It is worth every listen you can give it.
Hear TobyMac Share About the Loss of His Son on Good Morning America and in an Exclusive People Magazine Interview
If you are struggling to understand why “bad things happen to good people” or you are going through a dark or confusing time in life, we want to help you wrestle through the suffering we don’t understand and how it intersects with God’s word. Tap the button below to hear stories from Christian’s like Joni Eareckson Tada, Casting Crowns, Lauren Daigle, and more. They’ve gone through hard times or walked with loved ones through suffering, but have seen HOPE in the midst of it.
- An Old Friend’s Response to TobyMac’s New Album, “Life After Death” - August 26, 2022