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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews


  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2006 1 Nov
Sounds like … Phil Keaggy's trademark acoustic and electric guitar style, applying instrumental solos over his live looping techniqueAt a glance … Keaggy's fluid guitar skills are remarkable as always, but it's ultimately still another album of improvised playing that's only so memorable and meaningfulTrack Listing Skippin' Stones Blue Moon Is It Going Cayenne Loop 2nd Avenue South of the Boredom Happy Feet J-Loop Loop Frog Cousin Nit Loop a Loola Steel Engine Troops Helix the Cat Hoopy Zooloop Last Mile Merry Go Round

Sad that segments of Christian culture have become so defensive and confused when it comes to instrumental music. "How do we know it's Christian without any lyrics?" The same way that we're inspired by a sunset or a random act of kindness—as the old saying goes, "Preach the gospel at all times, use words if necessary." Perhaps the CCM genre needs to be defined not by lyricism, but by the heart of the artist, and more importantly, how the Holy Spirit uses such music to affect our own hearts.

Nevertheless, while there's no denying that veteran guitarist Phil Keaggy is loaded with God-given talent, it's hard to call Roundabout a spiritually inspired effort. It is what it is—a series of recorded soundchecks from before his shows, each recorded in a different city. While it might have been nice to know which cities, Keaggy's brief liner notes instead go into detail about what effects pedals he uses—perhaps indicating the real target audience for instrumental projects like these.

What sets Roundabout apart from Keaggy's other instrumental efforts is his use of "looping"—recording short foundational parts, then letting those repeat while he solos over it all. An impressive technique fascinating to behold in concert when you see it all done by one person, but on a CD, it's simply minimalist improvisation, and since it's all recorded with simple 2-track stereo, the quality isn't exactly first rate.

The album's listenable as background music, but is it memorable? Half of these improvised tracks are less than three minutes, and half of those are less than two. Most of it is the usual jamming, though one standout is the gentle loop of "Last Mile," which yields more of a haunting, atmospheric pop ballad. Keaggy's fluid skill on the acoustic and electric are sufficient enough for diehard fans and guitar aficionados to appreciate. The rest may have to look forward to the January 2007 release of Dream Again, Keaggy's first vocal album in six years.

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