So now we get The Song Within which I almost didn't order because I heard that it was made specifically for McPherson Guitars. Now, don't misunderstand my hesitation – I have nothing against McPherson Guitars. I've never played one but I understand that they're great. I just figured that this would be an album in which Phil sits down and just plays whatever comes to him which is great in concert and in small doses on recordings but having just bought two of those in a row (Jammed and Roundabout) I wasn't ready for another one. But I read a good review of this album and decided to give it a go – and, truth be told, I haven't failed to buy a Keaggy album yet so the question wasn't if I would buy it as much as when I would.
Much to my surprise, this is the most composed Keaggy instrumental album in quite some time. My all-time favorite instrumental albums of his are the ones that are most composed and arranged, The Master and the Musician (which has a 2-CD 30th anniversary edition just available!) and Beyond Nature. The Song Within has some echoes of those two albums along with a nice warm sound of it's own. The concept of this album is that Phil has rethought some of his own past music and has used these familiar chord progressions and riffs to make completely new instrumental versions. For example, from his very first album, the chord progression for "What A Day" becomes the progression for a new song, "Water Day." On first listen I didn't catch the similarity (nor the punny title) but, after hearing something sort of familiar, I realized what it was. Similarly, Phil quotes himself in song after song, and part of the fun is finding the song hidden within the new song. (Get it? The song within!)
But that's only part of it. Phil plays beautifully and his arrangements are always tasteful and at times breathtaking. He is augmented by a percussionist and keyboard player and that's where I hear echoes of Beyond Nature, one of Phil's career highlights. Because I listen to so much music I rarely play new albums over and over and over – this is one that I have done that with. It's that good. Well done, Phil!