Like last week, we take another look at an album from 1988: Phil Keaggy’s Sunday’s Child. Although this is the fourth Keaggy album to be reviewed here, it is the first of his vocal albums that we delve into.
For many of us young rocking teenagers at the time, Sunday’s Child was our introduction to Keaggy, even though he had been making music for nigh on 20 years by then.
If the album’s front and back covers don’t explain it right away, then perhaps the opening riffs and McCartney-esque vocals will confirm that this is an intentionally Beatles-influenced album. In fact, fans will note that the fab four’s influence over the next few albums. And even then, it wasn’t a true carbon copy. Sunday’s Child, in particular, is still full of Keaggy’s hallmark songwriting touch, with dashes of help from Mark Heard and others.
For those with a critical ear, Phil’s guitar prowess can be plainly heard on this album, yet can also be easily missed. He plays artfully, but not showy. After all, Phil had never been an Eddie Van Halen. And this is perhaps a notable point: As much as Phil is known for dancing his nine-and-a-half fingers around the sound hole and fretboard, his albums aren’t all focused around the guitar. His albums can be marked as solid singing, songwriting, performing and production all-around.
And this album is one of the best examples of that, beginning with the bright, poppy album openers, “Tell Me How You Feel” and “Sunday’s Child” (a duet with Randy Stonehill) as well as the more rollicking all-star, “Ain’t Got No” (with Randy Stonehill, Russ Taff, Keaggy and Lynn Nichols) and the energetic “This Could Be the Moment” and “I’ve Just Begun (again).”
In addition, Phil takes to the bass guitar on this album (as well as noted bassist Rick Cua), and lends a more melodic touch to the bass (perhaps just one more McCartney tribute?). Mike Mead’s drumming is worth noting as well. “Big Eraser” and “Walk in Two Worlds” are worth listening to just for the drum tracks alone. And did Mike really play Ringo’s old drums?
Lyrically, Phil kind of sets aside some of the straight-forward preachy lyrics for more poetic, relatable real-life stories from the Christian point of view.
It should also be noted that this is the first in a series of albums on the Myrrh label, and was the first with longtime bandmate Lynn Nichols producing. Keaggy and Nichols’ efforts creatively explored the retro classic rock sound for the next half-decade (save for the beautiful instrumental Beyond Nature nestled in that time span with production by Phil and JB). And as a result, their work arguably resulted in Keaggy’s three best rock/vocal albums.
Even though they borrowed elements that helped make The Beatles successful, Keaggy and Nichols knew how to let it blend nicely with their own artistic flair.
When Sunday’s Child was released, it was unique yet right on time. The 60s retro era was starting to boom in pop culture with Vietnam War movies and TV shows, as well as a surge of 60s music (such as Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones) starting to make their way to the ears of the next generation. And who can forget The Wonder Years?
Today, with Classic Rock being as popular (maybe even more popular) as today’s music, this is a good look-back on what is now a classic rock album looking back on the original classic rock era. The best of both worlds, you could say.