Album Review: “All At Once” by Phil Keaggy

THE SHORT:

Celebrated guitarist Phil Keaggy releases his best, solo, vocal album in 23 years. Not since his masterpiece “Crimson & Blue,” has he produced such a joyful and bluesy romp on the fret board. Buy it! Now!

THE LONG:

“All at Once” is the vocal album Keaggy fans have long been waiting for. The last twenty-five years of Phil Keaggy’s extensive discography have featured many fine moments; however, most of the top moments have been instrumental, and most of the top vocal moments have been collaborative efforts. “Dream Again,” released in 2006, was his last solo project of all original songs, and it was, regrettably, forgettable. Honestly, it’s an album I never listen to and had even forgotten existed. Before that, similar things could be said about “Inseparable” in 2000. “Phil Keaggy,” released in 1998 was an overall solid effort with many well-crafted tunes, but it lacked the aggressive guitar licks and fun that one expects from a Keaggy release. You really have to go back to “Crimson and Blue,” that beautiful opus to blues rock that made the listen sit up and take note and wonder how and why this album didn’t conquer the world. I traveled eight hours in the spring of 1994 to see Phil and band on the Crimson and Blue Tour, and it is, was, and will ever be the greatest show I’ve ever seen. By my count, Phil played eleven songs that night with a running time two hours. Yeah, it was mad-jamming, and I could barely breathe when it was done. It was phenomenal. These magical moments on his solo albums over the years have been few and far between. But not anymore.

“All at Once” kicks off with two great blues rockers “Mercy” and “Undertow,” but it’s on the third song that you start to get the feel that something special is cooking on this album. “Call the Doctor” is a catchy, jazzy, blues tune with some great backing vocals. I’ve been telling my son to “Call the Doctor” all week until he’s sick of me. This song would feel right at home as one of the best tracks on Keaggy’s 70’s release “Emerging.”

The title track is a terrific ballad which continues to showcase his wonderful playing. What becomes evident at this point, is that the music of this album is put together in a purposeful way to maximize the collaborative efforts of the amazingly talented musicians that Phil is playing with on this album.

One of the best things about a Keaggy concert, besides the ridiculous guitar playing, is Phil’s fun-loving, playful personality. This comes across clearly in several tunes on the album, including the upbeat Beatlesesque love song “La La La Love You,” the tongue-in-cheek and totally awesome “My Guitar’s in Love” and the all-out blues love-fest “Stay Home Baby.” Toes are guaranteed to be tapping!

“Fearless Love” begins with an inticing piano intro and then the guitar kicks in sounding like something off Keaggy’s electric instrumental album “220.” But this is an upbeat vocal track hightlighting both guitar and piano. The instrumental middle segment is one delicious guitar riff giving way to a piano solo. The piano and guitar trade off with each other, prodding each other with an inprovised feel that you’ll want to listen to over and over.

Keaggy taps veteran Ashley Cleveland to sing the tune “Ezekial,” and her deep, full-voice is a terrific complement to this familiar feeling blues song.

“Breathe” is the only instrumental track on the album. It’s a beautiful piece which starts out with an ethereal acoustic feel, until subtle layers of electric guitar give way to Keaggy’s signature guitar riffs. This is clearly reminiscent of his other masterpiece “The Wind and the Wheat.” I love this song so much. I fell asleep to it the last couple of nights. It makes me want to sit on a mountain top and think about the realities of life. Terrific.

The album ends with a classic, guitar rendition of the hymn “I Must Tell Jesus.”

Lyrics: The album’s lyrics are encouraging and uplifting, focusing on issues of Keaggy’s Christian faith and on human relationships.

The Band: Simply top-notch.

Production: All the songs sound warm and alive. Absolutely terrific sounding.

Bottom line: This is an album that any Keaggy fan will treasure. This is also an album for anyone who appreciates blues/pop rock and top-of-the-line guitar playing.

BUY IT!

WHERE? From what I can tell, “All at Once” is only available in CD and Vinyl from Phil Keaggy’s website. Phil Keaggy Store

For some reason, it isn’t available (or at least not yet) for download on any site.

But don’t let that stop you. Plop down the $15 and enjoy yourself some intelligent and fun music.

Guaranteed to get your mind off the presidential race!

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