Keaggy Cover 90An album of love songs from Phil Keaggy was inevitable. That half of them are covers is a surprise. Still – all you need is love, and here's the album that proves the point....

Cover of Love

Phil Keaggy
Strobie Records
12 tracks / 48:13

When the liner notes feature the artist thanking George McDonald and 'The Fabs' for inspiration and 'those great old records' you can narrow down the field a bit. Of course when you read down to the names Bernadette, Olivia, Alicia and Ian any fan of the musical movement that grew out of the Jesus People era have already figured out that we're talking about the great Phil Keaggy. Here we are, decades later – and a new release by the guitar master is still an event that excites Phil's fan-base everywhere.

The Cover of Love is both an inevitable and unusual addition to the artist's considerable catalog: inevitable because a 'love song' themed album just fits so well; unusual because many of the songs are, as the title implies, covers. Still, being the prolific writer that he is, Keaggy co-wrote four and claims sole-authorship on two of the twelve tracks.

Phil covers Brian Wilson and Mike Love (of The Beach Boys) on the iconic "Good Vibrations," the Moody Blues on Justin Hayward's "Voices in the Sky,"and Sir Paul himself on no less than two songs – the melodic "Somedays," and the spiritually-aware "Motor of Love." Of course it wouldn't be a Phil Keaggy album without homage to The Beatles – at least in spirit – and that's here on several delightful parts of the project. "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You," an early Elvis hit, sounds more like it came right off of Meet The Beatles, and "Where the Morning Dawns" closes the album in magnificent Beatle-esque glory, recalling "Strawberry Fields," "A Day in the Life," and "Penny Lane" all at the same time.

The Cover of Love opens with the energetic Badfinger-influenced sounds of "Between Wyomings," which features Phil's daughters Alicia and Olivia on background vocals and a wonderful Harrison-like guitar solo. Radio-ready, as the saying goes. The 2011 song is followed by "Good Vibrations," which was essentially recorded by Keaggy almost a decade earlier for the Making God Smile project. Several of the songs were done for earlier albums ("Motor of Love," for instance, was recorded in 2002) but Keaggy's artistic consistency, as well as his penchant for playing almost every instrument on a given track, allows for the spread of years between some of the recordings to happen without noticeable variation or dating.

As just stated, the guitarist/singer often adds his own bass, keyboards and occasional drums to the songs, although there's some fine drum work scattered throughout the tracks by Steve Brewster, Ken Lewis, Jon Sexton, Mike Radovsky and, of course, John Sferra. For those that have been wondering what former Russ Taff side-man James Hollihan, Jr has been up to, here he is on trumpet and string arrangements on the final song.

Once again, Phil's in fine voice on lead vocals and smooth harmonies. Yes, there are some fine guitar solos ("Grow With Me") and some beautiful acoustic work ("Somedays"), but really, it's the love song that's the star of the show here. Is the collection missing anything? Well, I would have loved at least one standard along the lines of "My Funny Valentine," and I certainly was hoping for at least one of the two finest pop love songs I know: The Beatles' "Real Love," or Phil's own distant cousin to the same – the stunningly beautiful pop masterpiece, "Love is the Reason."

The Cover of Love leans more towards mellow pop than rock, and is infused with a sense of family, affection and, of course – love. ...and I think somebody once said all you need is love.

-Bert Saraco

Four and a half tocks.
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