73. Phil Keaggy & Sunday’s Child – Phil Keaggy
PHIL KEAGGY & SUNDAY’S CHILD (1988)
I guess this album was the result of “if you can’t beat them, join them.” Constantly compared to Paul McCartney during his career, why not just do a Beatles album?
What was actually supposed to be a possible semi-regular group, Phil Keaggy & Sunday’s Child only ever released this one album. But what an album they created! Making up the rest of “Sunday’s Child” are Rick Cua on bass, Mike Mead on drums and Lynn Nichols on guitar and vocals. It also may go down in CCM history as the single nicest group of musicians to record a record together.
There is this one odd thing about many Keaggy albums. Those with great songs have a tendency to lack the guitar prowess that many clamor for, while those with great guitar work have tendency to lack quality songwriting throughout. This album is all about the songwriting and is clearly some of Keaggy’s finest work in the regard. And true to form the album is not filled with blazing and intricate guitar work, though many tasteful and enjoyable examples can be found.
There album is also the most “band” sounding in his career outside of the Crimson and Blue recordings. But that band is supported by a Hall of fame list of musicians including Steve Taylor, Mark Heard, Randy Stonehill, Alwyn Wall, Derri Daugherty, Russ Taff and the always impressive and often overlooked James Hollihan on guitar. Many of the guests also provided songwriting help.
The Beatles comparisons are not subtle. They were clearly the inspiration and that adds to the sheer joy of the album. In fact, according to the liner notes, Ringer Starr’s drum kit was used on the recording. Older amps, instruments and recording processes were employed to give the album the rich, analog sound.
The album kicks off with the mid-tempo rocker, “Tell me How You Feel.” This tone setter reveals what will follow with the head side bopping beat and Keaggy’s higher end vocals at times reminiscent of McCartney with abandon. But there is also a clear nod to the Byrds here and throughout.
The title track, co-written with Stonehill, was a hit, and for good reason. This song is memorable and smart at the same time. I believe I hear Stonehill’s vocals in there as well. The two released a wonderful album a year or so ago that employed some of the same musical stylings.
A personal favorite, and one of the better rockers on the album is “I Always Do.” Starting slow before kicking halfway through the verse into a killer rocker that is more reminiscent of Glass Harp’s poppier side. The song also features one of the more upfront guitar solos and the best hook on the entire album. Without blazing fingers and extended riffs, Keaggy here shows the power of a well controlled, melodic and tasteful rock solo. It should be noted this is a Mark heard penned tune.
“I’m Gonna Get You Now” is more early 70’s rock and sounds the least like the Beatles as any on the record, excepting the song that follows. But it should be noted that it also provides some of Keaggy’s best rock vocals. Co-written by Lynn Nichols, the songs edge gives Keaggy the change to explore some vocal styles he hadn’t previously.
If someone mentioned that Steve Taylor co-wrote one of the songs, my guess would immediately be “Bless Be the Ties,” and that would be correct. More psychedelic than the rest of the album, this slower, dare I say darker (?) song remains one of the best as well.
“This Could Be the Moment” returns to the more fun rock and roll. This is a good old-fashioned, put the top down on the convertible and hit Pacific Highway. The chorus is a monster with some great harmonies. The instrumental break just pounds with Mead’s great driving beat and Keaggy’s subtle and building guitar work. Even Cua gets a short solo here! This was a great song live I should add as it was extended to include solos from everyone.
Side Two kicks off with the loudest guitars and a song co-written by Stonehill called “Ain’t Got No.” But this Stonehill is Sandi, the then wife of Randy. Oddly enough, it sounds like something randy would have recorded himself.
It’s hard to decide which song stands out as the “best” on such a great album, but “Somebody Loves You” would have to receive recognition. The acoustic driven rock song is pure Keaggy and one of the songs Keaggy penned entirely by himself. Keaggy here shows his guitar prowess is not just limited to electric and solo, but tasteful and smart acoustic rhythm work as well. This alone gives it more of a Byrds feel.
Another of the darker feeling songs follows with “Big Eraser.” Another Nichols co-written tune, it is perfect fit for something on the Chagall Guevara debut. The vocals are clouded amongst a large rock vibe and huge drum sound. This would make sense given Nichols involvement with the group.
The Mark Heard penned “Everything is Alright” is a true dichotomy. A dark and almost atmospheric verse structure followed by a pop and memorable hook driven chorus. This is also around the time of Ideola, and the style shows through.
“I’ve Just Begun (Again)” brings the album back to the joyful musical expressions that dominate the vast majority of the album, while the following “Walk In Two Worlds” represents the darker, rougher edge. One would have hoped future releases would expand upon this sound as it worked so incredible well here.
The album closes with a wonderful version of the traditional spiritual “Talk About Suffering.” Staring nearly in an acapella (drums only) before adding the band, this version is both beautiful and unforgettable. A fitting ending to a great album.
This may be Keaggy’s finest hour as a songwriter, though another album of his will appear much later in the countdown, it is a real shame this ended up being only a one-off and no further collaborations between these men exists in this format.