217. Glass Harp – Glass Harp

GLASS HARP (1970)

The single greatest and most often repeated “urban legend” in CCM history involves a supposed encounter with Jimi Hendrix and  Johnny Carson  in which it is claimed that Jimi Hendrix claimed that Phil Keaggy was the greatest guitar player in the world. Or maybe it was Dick Cavett and Eric Clapton or perhaps Jimmy Page and…

It’s important to note that the only reason the fabled legend has continued to exist (despite Keaggy’s constant denials) is because Phil Keaggy is one of the greatest guitar players in the world. In fact, the proliferation of such a myth can only seem plausible because o0f Keaggy’s sheer mastery of the instrument and his incredible creativity.

Now it should be noted that even though the album in question was recorded in the famed Hendrix stomping grounds, Electric Lady Studios, the legendary guitar player passed away two weeks before Glass Harp began recording and Keaggy does not believe Hendrix ever heard Keaggy play.

In spite of the legends questionable validity, it must nopt be discounted what amazing music Keaggy created as part of Glass Harp. One of the original “power trios” in rock music they are often labeled as a psychedelic or progressive rock band when in fact they are closer to a “jam band” popularized by  The Grateful Dead, Cream, Blind Faith and most recently Phish. Noted for musical stylistic fusions and original improvisations, Glass harp would and should be considered one of the pioneers of the movement.

Built around three very strong musicians, most notably Keaggy, the three albums created by Glass harp are astounding works of creativity, originality and musical mastery. The debut stands out for the more aggressive rock sounds and for leading off with what should be considered the “Stairway to Heaven” of Christian music, Can You See Me. Starting slow and building into two separate instrumental breaks lead by Keaggy’s sizzling and soaring guitar work. It can not be understated just how great this song is and how well it should be regarded by CCM music historians.

The whole record is brilliant and moving. It was also very, very “Christian” in its content. There are bold declarations of faith and and Biblical themes despite the placement on a secular label. Oddly enough, this album is often overlooked when people refer to that which can be considered the first “Christian Rock” album.

The band would record two more album and right about when many thought they were going to “break through” Keaggy left to concentrate on writing more distinctly Christian songs for the burgeoning Christian music industry. The band has reunited on a few occassions over the years, including one night immortalized in the song, Wish You Were There, from Keaggy’s Town to Town LP.

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  1. Shawn McLaughlin
    December 2, 2010 at 4:29 am

    You’ve been awfully busy today, David. Nice work! Love, Love LOVE Keaggy. This is a great album. Recently picked up Live at the Beachland Ballroom which was a live show recorded in 2008. It shows a Glass Harp that has lost very little over the years. It really reminded me what great players Pecchio and Sferra are, as does the debut.

  2. Oden Fong
    December 2, 2010 at 9:40 am

    I started that rumor…. didn’t I?

    It’s true. Phil is one of the most unique and dazzling players that I have ever seen and heard.
    But what impresses me most about Phil Keaggy is Phil Keaggy. He’s a beautiful, humble man of God.

  3. Shawn McLaughlin
    December 2, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    It’s lovely to have Oden commenting on this blog. And you are right sir…..Phil is a Mensch. One of the sweetest guys you’d ever want to meet. With a talent like his, you’d have to be blessed with supernatural humility just to survive. Phil certainly knows from whence his talent springs and who holds his tomorrow.

    • low5point
      December 2, 2010 at 2:02 pm

      Anyone who has met Phil can attest to the same. I was with Phil backstage with Steve Taylor at Estes Park and he was just distraught that someone thought he had not been kind to them at some event earlier that day. I mean he was really upset about it. Every time I have met Keaggy I was always amazed by how genuine and nice. In fact, I have this running joke when I talk about someone who has been really nice to by calling them “the second nicest person in the whole world.”

  4. Shawn McLaughlin
    December 2, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    I recently was talking with both Phil and Rick Cua at our CMS conference in Washington. Talk about a historic summit of nice! I was SWIMMING in nice. Phil and I talked to each other in the greenroom about 20 minutes before he did a 1 hour session. During the session he looked straight at me and asked “Are you Brad?” I stood up and said, No, Phil….it’s Shawn……he then put his glasses on and said “So it is…Nice to see you again!”. Then….back in the artist/clinician area, he saw me and just apologized profusely….he was so upset he mistook me for someone else. Rick is genuinely the kindest fellow I’ve ever met. We see each other 2 days a year, only for the last 5 or 6 years but he treats me like I’m one of his most cherished friends whenever we see each other. Guys like Rick and Phil are what is right in Christian Music today….and there isn’t a lot right about CCM these days.

    • low5point
      December 2, 2010 at 5:16 pm

      I add Michael Tait to this list as well. For more modern artists I found all of the guys from Thousand Foot Krutch to be genuinely warm of fun. Really great guys!

  5. Shawn McLaughlin
    December 3, 2010 at 1:17 am

    Paul Baloche is a wonderful dude as well. I don’t know this guy at all, but since he started this whole thing…..I hear from everyone i know who knows him that Oden Fong is a true gentleman and wonderful man of God.

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