Phil Keaggy CD Arrives

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On October 25th, 2007, I posted my impressions from the night before’s Kathy Mattea concert at Joe’s Pub. In that post, I highlighted my amazement at Bill Cooley’s guitar playing, stating that he was possibly the best acoustic guitar player I had ever heard.

That led to a comment by Eric Sink that he would likely disagree, based on his belief that Phil Keaggy was probably the best that he’s ever heard. Eric is rarely wrong, trust me on this one folks! Given the way he phrased his comment, he can’t really be wrong in this particular instance, no matter what I say here. Of course, I too phrased my observation as “probably”, giving myself some wiggle room. 😉

So, after hearing such praise from Eric, I went to Amazon.com and searched for Phil Keaggy. Yowzer! Tons of albums. In fact, I think he has over 50 solo albums! How to choose. So, I sampled the free 30 seconds that Amazon permits on roughly 20 songs, spread across four CDs. Some songs grabbed me in that brief listen, some didn’t. Unfortunately, on each of the CDs, at least one song didn’t, so I couldn’t settle on a specific CD to buy to get to know Phil.

So, I got on to the Phil Keaggy site (linked above), and found out that he was about to release a 30 year anniversary edition of one of his more famous albums, The Master & The Musician. If one pre-ordered on the site, it would come signed by Phil. Cool. I did. That was roughly six weeks ago, and today, the CD arrived (actually, a double CD).

If you’ve read this space before, you know I love classical guitar the most (though I’m really a guitar nut in general). The very first song grabbed me (Pilgrim’s Flight), so I was instantly happy with my purchase. Clearly, Phil is a master (though in this particular album, he means to be equated to “The Musician”, I’m sure). 😉

While the rest of the album is in general excellent, some of the cuts are strange, or even borderline boring. Wherever there is guitar playing, it’s flawless, so this isn’t a commentary on Phil’s abilities as a performer, but more so on either his writing or selecting, etc.

There are a number of other songs that are great, but some of the short ones (thankfully, they’re short!), are at best, silly (e.g., Mouthpiece).

So, how does it compare to Bill Cooley’s CDs? I wrote about them here. Obviously, I enjoyed the Bill Cooley CDs more. To be clear, I think they are (in general) better songs, which highlight his guitar playing, surrounded by complementary instruments.

Phil Keaggy is an amazing guitarist, and I don’t want to try and split hairs on which one of them has better technique, etc. For now, while I will definitely listen to most of the songs on The Master & The Musician many times (skipping the rest!), I will definitely listen to Bill Cooley more, and can’t wait for his new CD to hit my iPod sometime in 2008.

If anyone (Eric, hint, hint) wants to recommend one specific Phil Keaggy CD that I should try that you think will give me more of a thrill than this one, I’m happy to invest in at least one more.

Summary: Phil Keaggy is a brilliant guitarist, and like always, I have no reason to doubt anything that Eric Sink says. But, if I could only listen to one of them, I’d choose Bill Cooley. Thankfully, I can listen to both, even if I weight my listening more toward Bill. 😉