Thursday, April 19, 2012
Classic Album Review - Phil Keaggy - Find Me In These Fields (1990)
Time for another Classic Album review! There are only nine of these “perfect 11” albums left and since two of these are Phil Keaggy albums, I thought I’d chip one off the list.
My first experience with Phil Keaggy was when my ol’ pal Roger Shuman gave me Keaggy’s Sunday’s Child album. Being a Beatles aficionado it was right up my alley. In my “why, yes, I AM a dork” music database I have that album rated as a 10. Great stuff there, especially for the new Christian, letting me know that there was good Christian music with heartfelt, honest, non-cheesy lyrics out there and not everything was Carman and Degarmo & Key. However it was the follow up, Find Me In These Fields, that really spoke to me. Freed from the confines of having to sound like a 60s album Keaggy let loose with a string of amazing songs, ranging from rockers to soft confessionals. This album was produced by Lynn Nichols and had much of the same “all-star” supporting musicians as Sunday’s Child and their cohesiveness shows. This album is another shining example of the importance of matching the right producer with the artist, someone who knows how to push them in just the right way to get them to reach beyond their usual abilities. Keaggy, while an amazing guitarist and songwriter, needs such a producer. His self-produced albums run the range from bland to very good but his albums where he is produced by someone else are often outstanding.
Listening to the album again I can’t put my finger on exactly why the album is so good. The songs are all solid and amazingly performed with various nods to The Beatles and other influences but nothing so overwhelming as the previous album. I think the main thing that resonated with me were the lyrics in that they are very affirming and comforting, just what I needed at the time. For a new believer who had plenty of hang-ups and garbage and hurts these words were like balm for my soul, echoing my longing to be free from the past. “This Side of Heaven” is a prime example of how Keaggy managed to wrap this longing into a timeless and upbeat song, throwing in some very intoxicating vocal harmonies amid lyrics such as “Why settle for less here at the wrong time? / There are better worlds yet to come.” And when the chorus arrives? Sheer bliss! This song was followed by the vulnerable “Find Me In These Fields”, a gorgeous song featuring acoustic guitars and a cello. The times this song ministered to my aching, lonely heart are legion. Likewise “Calling You” is another song of yearning, feeding kindling to my newly ignited soul to dig deeper for more of God in my life.
With a nice combination of fiery rockers and earnest ballads but lyrics that seemed tailored for my life, Find Me In These Fields was just what I needed. The entire album exudes a confident maturity, both in the music and the lyrics, that is a rare find. Twenty-plus years later I can still put this album on and enjoy every song. What more can you ask?