Home > CCM, Christian Music, Christian Pop, Christian Rock, Greatest Albums, Jesus Music > 84. How the West Was One – 2nd Chapter of Acts, Phil Keaggy and ‘a band called DAVID’

84. How the West Was One – 2nd Chapter of Acts, Phil Keaggy and ‘a band called DAVID’


The 2nd Chapter of Acts, Phil Keaggy & a band called DAVID

There are many reason why a project may be included in a listing like this one; pure artistic achievement, popular and industry impact, originality, etc. As a rule, greatest hits projects are not included because they are not an individual artistic expression but rather a compilation of the artists work over a wide time span. Live records, for the most part, are similar to greatest hits projects and, as a result, this is the only record of its sort included on this list. The only other album I considered was DeGarmo and Key’s fabulous “No Turning Back.”

As a result the review here will not be like the others contained in the Top 100 where the album receives a detailed review. Rather here we will discuss the virtues of the album, the exceptional performance and the impact on the industry as a whole.

“How the West Was One” is an artistic achievement of its own and is deserving of its representation here if only for the remarkable performance of Phil Keaggy. Phil Keaggy, more than any artist in Christian music, has suffered from the limitations of studio projects. Most fans of Keaggy bemoan how his live performances have never been captured in the studio. This is certainly not the case here, but that will be dealt with later.

The first thing to note is the ambitious scope of the project itself. A few years earlier the 2nd Chapter of Acts had released a live album with fellow Jesus Music pioneer, Barry McGuire. That album was a double album and sold relatively well based primarily on the success of Barry McGuire who brought quite a strong musical legacy to Christian music. This project was more ambitious being a very rare three record set with the 2nd Chapter of Acts having to carry the load as Phil Keaggy was a relative newcomer to the market and his following was much more in the rock musician vein. Add to that the fact that the SCOA had not released another album of new material since the previous live album with McGuire.

But the pure passion and quality of the performances included on this project are simply top rate. The back up band, a band called DAVID, contained some of the best musicians Christian music has ever witnessed. The band was not called “DAVID” but rather “a band called DAVID.” The band included Gene Gunnels, former drummer Strawberry Alarm Clock, Peter York and the amazing Richard Souther. Along with Keaggy playing throughout the entire album the musicianship was superior. The live band also made the music of SCOA more authentically contemporary,

Highlights include “Hey, Watcha Say,” “Which Way the Wind Blows,” Yahweh,” and one of the finest versions of “Easter Song” to date. The recordings, which were culled from an 18 city tour during 1977, were incredibly well produced with exceptional mixes.

As much as I am a huge fan of the Second Chapter of Acts this project was truly a coming out party for Phil Keaggy. Previous to this release Keaggy was a bit of a cult hero, but mainstream Christian music had not completely caught on to this amazing master. Underground rock fans were familiar with Keaggy and his previous band Glass Harp, a sixties influenced, psychedelic blues influenced band that released three fantastic projects that saw limited success.

Keaggy’s guitar virtuoso reputation was impressive and many urban legends regarding secular guitar heroes respect for his abilities have continued unabated despite nefarious beginnings. One included a comment from famed guitar “rock god” Jimi Hendrix supposedly calling Keaggy the greatest guitar player in the world. Keaggy denies even the possibility of this by noting that  Glass Harp’s first album did not even begin to be recorded until weeks after Hendrix’s death.

But these legends have continued for 40 years precisely because of the kind of guitar work demonstrated on “How the West Was One.” Both acoustic and electric stylings are represented here and the craftsmanship is simply unbelievable.

Highlights include “What a Day,” the title track from Keaggy’s debut solo record and has remained a staple for Keaggy for nearly 40 years. “Your Love Broke Through” was the title track of Keaggy’s second release and is a wonderful Jesus Music classic penned by Randy Stonehill and Keith Green. It is said that Green was so impressed by Keaggy and his version of the song that he requested that Keaggy release the song before he did.

But there are two songs that simply make this project the true classic that it has become. The first is the nearly 17 minute version of “Rejoice” that shows both Keaggy’s amazing skills and the subtlety of his guitar work. This is not some long rambling “jam” but rather the work of a master displaying diversity, restraint and creative skill. Much of the instrumental spotlight is exclusively the work of Keaggy as the rest of the band simply stops playing and leaves Keaggy and his guitar work center stage.

The other highlight is quite possibly the “Stairway to Heaven” of Christian music. The song, “Time” is a 10 minute tour de force of rock at its finest. Where “Rejoice” shows the innovative, creative and quieter side of Keaggy’s work, “Time” just flat out rocks and contains the finest rock work of Keaggy’s career. The song shows the blazing speed and tasteful lead work that always seems to be missing from his studio projects. The back and forth playing between Keaggy and keyboardist Richard Souther is a sheer rock and roll joy.

“How the West Was One” is a snap shot in time and, in some ways, spelled the end of the Jesus Music part of Christian Music’s history. Things seemed to get “bigger” after the release of this project and two Jesus Music’s leading performers would become significant cogs in the bigger music medium of the 1980′s. But for that moment in time, this wonderful album remains a reminder to what was as it, at the same time, pointed to would be.

  1. Don
    April 13, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    Well said. I am sure there is info that can be added to what you wrote, but I have nothing to add. The Keaggy stuff was for me the reason to buy the record (twice) but SCOA was pretty good on here as well.

  2. Don
    April 13, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    The live version of Rejoice seemed a little long and aimless at the time I first listened. But, my tastes have matured now and I don’t think that anymore. There is a long guitar and then keyboard solo in this song, but it is very good.

  3. April 13, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    The pinnacle release of the Jesus Music days. The landscape started to change after this release.

    • low5point
      April 13, 2011 at 9:59 pm

      Agreed. I would actually have placed it much higher if not for my own restrictions against “best ofs,” which live albums tend to be. But both this and D&K’s “No Turning Back” are stinking brilliant. It really was produced incredibly considering the limited quality of live recording production equipment at the time and (I am assuming) the mediocre quality of live concert sound equipment at many venues at the time

  4. Don
    April 14, 2011 at 12:37 am

    Off topic post:

    Interesting bit about the D&K live album. I usually ignore live albums, with HTWWO being one of few exceptions. I have lived with their early albums for years, and only occasionally heard the live album on the radio back when I lived near Boston. I should check it out.

    • low5point
      April 14, 2011 at 12:55 am

      It marked the end of the Dana key guitar driven sound for the next several albums, and dude went out kicking and screaming. The solos on songs like Emmanuel are just amazing…

  5. Don
    April 15, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    Hmm – someone put this as the 27th best CCM album in the Greatest Christian Albums link above. I must have forgotten the distinction between that list and this list.

    • low5point
      April 15, 2011 at 8:34 pm

      The other list allowed for one release per artist and this album was ranked higher there based on the combination of Phil Keaggy and Second Chapter of Acts togther as their only albums listed. That list also took the impact on the industry and the musical landscape more heavily weighted while this list is more artistically evaluated

  6. Don
    April 15, 2011 at 9:04 pm


    That makes sense.

  7. May 8, 2011 at 6:25 am

    Wasn’t the bass player in A BAND CALLED DAVID,
    Michael Been (from THE CALL)?!

  8. Don
    May 8, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Wikipedia says: “the original members of the band were bass guitarist Herb Melton, keyboardist Richard Souther, guitarists Rick Azim and Paul Offenbacher, and drummer Gene Gunnels, who had played with the psychedelic bubblegum band Strawberry Alarm Clock on their hit record “Incense and Peppermints” in 1967. (He left Strawberry Alarm Clock for two years and rejoined them from 1969 to 1971.) Azim and Offenbacher were replaced by Peter York. Gunnels left the band in 1980 and Jack Kelly joined as a member until the 2nd Chapter of Acts stopped touring in 1988. Kelly had previously substituted for Gunnels, when Gunnels took time off from touring in 1975. Richard Souther left in the early 1980s and was replaced by Greg Springer.[2]”

  9. Don
    May 8, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    It appears Been played on “In the Volume of the Book” and “With Footnotes” (see #123)

    • low5point
      May 8, 2011 at 2:49 pm

      Been first met 2nd Chapter of Acts when they were all working o the first two Barry McGuire releases. Been played bass on both and the “kids” made their national singing recording debut on the album “Seeds.”

  10. Kit
    November 29, 2011 at 5:54 am

    My parents played this pretty religiously for me in the mid/late 80s. I tend to enjoy the Phil Keaggy songs the most today.

  11. Greenchili
    January 12, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Enjoyable album all the way through!

  12. Ecron Muss
    January 24, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Phil Keaggy has never hit the heights he did with this and the Love Broke Thru album.

  1. April 13, 2011 at 4:42 pm

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