The Many Facets of Phil Keaggy: By Philip Mayabb
There are some names that are instantly recognizable in almost every professional field, and contemporary Christian music is no exception. While some artists may be recognized by a small number of fans, others are instantly known by multitudes of people, even folks who aren't necessarily fans. One of the names in the latter category is that of Phil Keaggy, who has certainly earned his status as a CCM legend. He has released a total of over 60 albums as a solo artist, and several more that are collaborative efforts with other artists, and has developed a following of fans from all over the world.
There are many facets of Phil Keaggy's ministry...he is a great songwriter, a pretty doggone good singer, and he is a world class guitarist, in fact, he just might be Christian music's most prolific axeman. His talent has been recognized and talked about by several mainstream musicians who are quite well known themselves...the Motor City Madman, Ted Nugent was quoted as saying I don't know what happened to that Phil Keaggy, he could have saved the world with his guitar in an issue of Guitar Player magazine*. So that is proof that Phil is a musician's musician, someone that other professional guitarists enjoying listening to. Thankfully, he has used his God given talent and abilities for the glory of God, and for that many CCM fans (myself included) are very thankful.
One of the most amazing things that I have discovered about Phil is that it took 16 years, and 10 albums before he was given his first Dove Award by the Gospel Music Association, and the recording that clinched the award is our Vinyl Revival feature LP this week, it is the 1987 instrumental classic The Wind And The Wheat. This was not Phil's first journey into the world of instrumental albums...his first was one of his all time best known albums, The Master And The Musician which came out 10 years before this one did. Unfortunately, at the time there was no Dove Award given for instrumental albums, because Master would have probably won it easily. But as the old saying goes better late than never, and at the 1988 ceremony, Phil Keaggy won his first Dove Award. Now as a musician myself, I find it very fitting that a phenomenal guitarist like Phil would win his first major Christian music award for an album that showcases his musical prowess, because too often musicians are overlooked for their contributions to successful albums. The Wind And The Wheat is a very unique recording because it does not feature much of the rock influxes that Phil Keaggy is most known for...instead, it is a very soft, mellow album meant more for meditation and reflection.
In the mid 80s, Maranatha Records began a successful, long running series of instrumental recordings known as Colours, that featured many different styles of music, spotlighting mostly keyboards, guitars, and saxophone. The series was meant to be a Christian alternative to Windham Hill Records' brand of New Age jazz, with a focus on music for personal reflection, meditation, prayer, and daily devotional time. The Wind And The Wheat was Phil Keaggy's contribution to the Colours series, and it is a home run from the first notes of the album's lead off track March Of The Clouds to the final fade of I Love You Lord. The album is 51 minutes of stellar guitar playing, with 10 flawlessly sequenced songs, each one meant to lead into the next. This is one of those albums that is literally meant to be listened to in sequential order, even though there are a number of songs that you could just listen to on their own. In the album's liner notes, Phil himself described the album like this...As I hear it, The Wind And The Wheat reveals a great longing for paradise, that longing of those of us who have reached deep within ourselves to believe in the promise of eternal life, which God wants to give us.
These days, this kind of music would most likely be labeled as Smooth Jazz, which is perfectly fine with me, because I happen to be a HUGE Smooth Jazz fanatic, but no matter how you label it, there is some seriously great stuff on this LP. Phil and the studio musicians who created this work of art did a masterful job of crafting an album that the listener could use for just about any purpose they want. If you have had a bad day, this album is a soothing piece of music. If you like to listen to easy sounds as you pray or read your Bible, this album is perfect. For anybody who loves easy listening, contemporary jazz, I whole heartedly recommend The Wind And The Wheat. If you are a musician yourself, and appreciate great arrangements and execution, you will LOVE this album. I would go so far to say that even fans of Phil Keaggy's rock influenced work should be able to appreciate this album, the guitar playing is just that good.
This is our very first all instrumental album we have featured on Vinyl Revival, but I'm sure it won't be our last. I have a very deep love for albums like this one, because I have played music since the age of 7, and I have a pretty good idea of the amount of work that goes in to creating a piece of music like this. I will not bore you with long descriptions of the ten tracks on this album, I will just let the music speak for itself, but I will say this...I bought this album right after it was first released, and I still listen to it quite frequently. There isn't a bad track on this recording, some of my favorites are the aforementioned March Of The Clouds, which opens the record, Paradise Dream, which is probably my most favorite track on the album, Where Travelers Meet, which is an absolute joy to listen to, and Prayer which is a really nice, Smooth Jazz number. The truth is, I enjoy every track on the album, and sometimes I will listen to some or all of the album just as a way to relax, and let's be honest, as crazy as the world is these days, couldn't we all use some relaxation from time to time? I sincerely hope that everyone enjoys The Wind And The Wheat, and if you are just an average CCM fan, like I am, I really believe you will. Phil Keaggy has won several more Dove Awards for his instrumental works in the years since this album was released, but this is a true work of art, and I think it is quite appropriate that this album was his first award winner, because it is one of Phil Keaggy's finest.
Side One -
1. March Of The Clouds
2. Paradise Dream
3. The Wind And The Wheat
4. Where Travelers Meet
5. From Shore To Shore
Side Two -
2. The Mission
3. The Promise
4. The Reunion
5. I Love You Lord
All songs written by Phil Keaggy, except I Love You Lord which was written by Laurie Klein
* taken from http://www.ddvmusic.com/famous-musicians/phil-keaggy.php
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