Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Song Within – Phil Keaggy

I got a copy of The Song Within that doesn't skip now and I have been able to hear the whole thing a number of times and it is simply the best Phil Keaggy album in years. Phil's albums are all over the map stylistically. One never knows what you're going to get when you hear that Phil has a new album coming out. Just recently he has released an album of electric jams (Jammed!), acoustic improvs based on loops (Roundabout) a vocal album of original songs (Dream Again) and an album of cover songs with guest vocalists (Acoustic Café.) And all of this is just 2006 and 2007!

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!

1 comment:

Natsukashi said...

This Phil Keaggy CD continues to show the mastery of the musician in clean, bright, uplifting and crisp melody driven songs. These are the sort of melodies which lift you up and stay with you throughout the day. The McPherson Guitar comes through with its unmistakable voice, single note clarity and versatile expression. I truly love The Song Within and look forward to Phil Keaggy's tour next year of the Master and The Musician celebrating it's 30th Anniversary.

As a side note, if you loved The Song Within I would also recommend the CD by Tom Hemby, Chasing The Wind which is also put featuring McPherson Guitars. It's a real treat that takes you on a fantastical musical journey to lands faraway and back again. As The Song Within a sheer delight.