I first heard about Phil Keaggy in something like 1974. Calvin College sponsored the group Wing and a Prayer, an offshoot of the group Love Song – a name that is well known to all who followed the brand-new Christian Music scene in the seventies. I was a student then and was fortunate to be able to spend the day with the band hanging out and setting up. As we talked music together bassist Jay Truax told me that I really needed to check out this guy Phil Keaggy. I kept that in mind when I found his album Love Broke Thru in the bin at a local Christian book store. I bought it and was hooked immediately.
When I got to see him perform about four years later in Colorado it was clear that Phil was a guitar player unlike I had seen before. He could do things few other players could do and he did it with a real sense of melody, elegance and fun. I have followed his career pretty consistently ever since. I’ve seen him in concert around fifteen times or so - I’ve long ago lost count. Keaggy albums are always a surprise because he plays with so many different styles you never know what you’re going to get.
Jammed is the first PK album that I didn’t buy right away because I already had much of it. It is primarily an edited version of Premium Jams which he released in 1999. Premium Jams was two discs full of jams that were recorded mostly (but not exclusively) during the making of Crimson and Blue and 220. It was fun but, frankly, needed an editor. Hence, Jammed had the potential to be a better listen. The good news is that it is, indeed, a better album.
Jammed is not strictly a reissue of part of Premium Jams. Phil rerecorded some parts in it, added a few new tracks and shortened some of the others to make the whole album flow better and keep my attention better. It is still a jam album so if you’re looking for strong melodic hooks they aren’t going to be found in every track – but they will be found in some. The high points are probably the tracks that are less strict jams and actually are instrumental tracks that never got placed on other albums, “Route Canal” (a remix of Premium Jams’ “Lockdown”) and “Joyphil”, a Keaggy-ized version of the Beethoven melody from his 9th Symphony known as “Joyful, Joyful”. This track could have fit nicely on Phil’s 2002 Hymnsongs album – which I believe was the last mainstream CCM release of Phil’s career. The others are fun, bluesy high voltage jams that show Phil’s chops and that he knows how to have fun in an off-the-cuff environment.
Phil Keaggy has now gone independent and it will be interesting to see what happens with his music now that he has more freedom to release what he wants. He’s been critical of the CCM scene lately because after a long successful career he was tossed aside while the companies chased after younger, prettier artists. Jammed is nothing new and earthshaking but it is a fun listen and a good introduction to Phil’s electric playing. You can find it here or get it here on itunes.