Friday, 22 September 2017

Phil Keaggy - The Master & The Musician (1978)

Thought this might make a good follow-up to the Hackett post - I've been listening to it a lot recently as a companion-piece to both Voyage Of The Acolyte and Please Don't Touch.  Phil Keaggy was (and I gather still is) a Christian-Contemporary singer-songwriter, but took a break from that after his first couple of albums to make this all-instrumental masterpiece that fully showcased his writing and playing skills.

From a couple of videos I've watched (unrelated to this album), Keaggy didn't frequently get nicknamed 'the greatest nine-fingered guitarist in the world' and suchlike for nothing, and although The Master & The Musician only hits cooking temperature at a few well-chosen moments (mostly toward the end of the two long suites, Reflections and Medley), the subtlety of a lot of these tracks makes the material shine all the brighter.  The album opens with a synth sequence overlaid with a nifty E-bow display (Keaggy was an early adopter of the device) before settling into an acoustic pattern that gets gradually overlaid with chiming electric lines.  Following that, the mellow jazz-fusion of Agora (The Marketplace), along with Follow Me Up later on, offers the most upbeat material and memorable, masterful-but-unpretentious lead lines.

For the most part though, it was the acoustic tracks on this album that brought Hackett to mind for me, especially in the choice of flute and other wind instruments to accompany the guitar.  The Castle's Call, Wedding In The Country Manor and Deep Calls Unto Deep all offer memorable melodies and gorgeous technique throughout, and could've sat proudly on a Steve Hackett album (or indeed, an album by that other ex-Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips - whose back catalogue I've yet to take a proper stab at) of the era.  And although there's no lyrics on Master & Musician, that doesn't mean no vocals - Keaggy and his wife Bernadette can both be heard on the cute little beatboxing experiment Mouthpiece, and harmonising sweetly and wordlessly on the penultimate medley.  All in all, an absolute gem of an album for anyone wanting to hear an underrated (in the secular music world, at least) guitarist/composer at his most inspired.



  1. Hi Alan.
    Sounds interesting. Never heard of him, but the comparison with Voyage of the acolyte, my favourite Hackett album, makes me curious.

  2. I've only heard Phil Keaggy via his Sunday's Child power pop record. I'd recommend it to any agnostic that likes the Byrds or XTC. Check out "Talk About Suffering."

    And thank you very much for your blog. I find myself returning to it frequently.

    1. Thanks, nice one!
      The Sunday's Child record sounds good to this Byrds-liking agnostic - I'm sure I'd seen something about it being one of Keaggy's best albums. Consider it added to my to-do list!

  3. This is lovely Alan, just the thing for an early misty autumnal weekend morning. Thankyou so much. Kind of soulful, but maybe that's to be expected. :)

  4. Never heard of this one and according to your description it sounds right up my listening alley esp. since I am a Hackett fan and anything acoustic accompanied by synths is perfecto.
    Btw little known Keaggy album from the 1980s The Wind and The Wheat is a nice mix of progressive rock, acoustic and electronics. Its a hybrid sort of release with regards to instrumentation and compositions but thats what makes it all the more interesting!
    Thanks again for the great music!

    1. Cool - I've seen TW&TW being very briefly described as 'a bit New Agey', but your description is much more considered, so - another one for the to-do list!

  5. I don't know if you do re-ups, but the zippy link is dead. The Mega is hiccuping, but that's probably them, not you.

    Also Keaggy did three albums with a trio named Glass Harp in the 70's, which is how many people know him.