With an established reputation among Christian circles as an accomplished - even legendary -
guitarist Phil Keaggy releases Roundabout, a purely instrumental album
designed to highlight Keaggy's versatile skills as a player and arranger. Predominantly acoustic
in nature, the album's 18 tracks were constructed by looping multiple guitar parts together,
achieving an intricately layered sound that feels almost orchestral in parts.
Overall, Roundabout is well played, showcasing Keaggy as an exemplary musician. It also
manages to wear its influences well, as ample strains of blues, funk and jazz are woven throughout
each track, giving Roundabout a much needed sense of character that instrumental albums must
possess in order to remain listenable. Keaggy's arrangement skills are also greatly displayed here;
each guitar track is layered thoughtfully and beautifully within the mix without it sounding too
Although it is sonically intriguing, Roundabout is, in the end, a novel concept that
appears more interesting than it actually is. The album's 18 tracks feel less like separate
compositions than they do different variations on essentially the same theme, giving Roundabout
a scattershot and unfinished vibe at times. Most of the songs are too short, fading out before
accomplishing anything interesting, and the ones that do take their time lack a strong sense of
direction or melody, sounding more like structureless acoustic noodling than they do actual songs.
Some of the compositions sound promising (like the multi-part opener "Skipping Stones" and a cover of
the jazz standard "Blue Moon") but the rest are mostly a pretty-sounding jumble of seemingly
half-baked ideas and incomplete songs.
Ultimately, Roundabout is an idea that sounds brilliant on paper but less so in
execution. Fans of Phil Keaggy's instrumental work will still no doubt want to check out this
release (and perhaps even those whose interests were piqued by his guest appearance on the
instrumental "Eternal" on P.O.D.'s 2003 release Payable on Death). Though not great,
Roundabout is still a fairly listenable album from one of Christian music's truly gifted musicians.
- Review date: 10/7/06 by Sherwin Frias