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Having been a die hard Phil Keaggy fan for several years, I’d heard of Glass Harp.  I’d even heard their
Glass Harp Live at Carnegie Hall disc.  But I still wasn’t prepared for Strings Attached.  When the group formed and matured over 30 years ago, they were a trio of great musicians with chemistry together that was (and still is) extremely rare.  So I was excited to hear that the guys had gotten together again and teamed up with the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra for a reunion concert of epic proportions.  On October 22, 2000, Powers Auditorium in Youngstown, OH sold out for only the second time in the building’s history.  Fans from all over the country made the trip to see Glass Harp again.  I was not one of them so I was disappointed to hear that even though the show was being recorded, there were no plans to release it to the public.  But, a week after the show, Keaggy, Sferra and Pecchio were listening to the recording and agreed that it was each members’ finest performance and was worthy of a public release.  Now the rest of us get the privilege to hear the amazing music made that October night.

And amazing it is!  No, amazing isn’t strong enough.  Spellbinding, energizing, fascinating, captivating, exciting and just good fun would help to describe this recording.  Phil’s opening words ring true throughout both discs.  “Hold on to your seats!”  Indeed, this is a musical journey covering over 30 years of musical ground.  There is something for everyone from 1 to 100. The opening track, “Look In The Sky” (a Glass Harp classic) proves once and for all these guys have not lost their touch. In fact, they have only improved! From the soft acoustic ballads of “Song of Hope”, “Southbound” and “Mountains” to the soulful “Child of the Universe” and edgier jams such as “Look In the Sky”, “Never Is A Long Time”, “Changes” and “Can You See Me”, the classic Glass Harp fan will not be disappointed. But Keaggy fans need not worry; there are plenty of Phil’s solo songs to satisfy your appetites. The rocker “John the Revelator” (a natural choice since Sferra played drums on the album version) has its usual jaw dropping interplay between Keaggy, Sferra and now Pecchio. “From the Beginning”, “Chalice” (co-written with Sferra) and “Inseparable” sound as if they were written for Glass Harp and reach an entirely new level when compared to the studio versions on Keaggy’s Inseparable CD. Phil even gives the band a break and picks up his Olson acoustic guitar for the obligatory and always amazing “True Believers” and an equally impressive instrumental titled “Shades of Green”. If you haven’t seen Phil play these songs live, you’d never guess he was the only person playing these tunes. No, there is no band hidden behind the curtain. No Memorex moments here; only Phil’s incredible mastery of his acoustic guitar and Lexicon Jam Man.

But I haven’t even mentioned the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra yet! The new directions and dimensions added to songs like “One Day At A Time”, “From the Beginning”, “Garden”, “Let All The Bells Ring”, and “Southbound” were unbelievable. To hear “Overture” and “Tender Love” with a live orchestra was simply incredible. It was not hard to tell how much effort was put into this event.  The interchanges between Glass Harp and the orchestra were fantastic.  While Glass Harp is always outstanding as a three piece, the extra strings, horns and keyboards fit in perfectly.  All the musicians did a fabulous job, however, standouts included Chris Queen on keyboards and drums (filling in for Sferra during the acoustic set), Matt Corey on sax, Kathryn Umble on flute, Harden Butcher on trumpet, Betsy Jones on Viola, Teddy Pantelas on guitar and Ted “Toto” Pecchio on electric bass.

While it is impossible to pick one or even a few favorite tracks, a few highlights for me include the live version of “True Believers” us fans have been pleading for, “Child of the Universe” written by Daniel for his son Ted (who played bass on this version) and dedicated to his other son Danny (in the audience) and “Days Gone By”, a beautifully arranged and almost hauntingly appropriate ballad honoring this long anticipated reunion of friends.

But live recordings, no matter how excellent the concert, have a reputation for horrible reproduction when released, especially those never intended for anything but use by anyone except friends and family. That is one of the things that surprised me most about Strings Attached.  I’ve never been an aficionado of live recordings; too much audience, not enough bass, poor mixing of the instruments and vocals among other things, have left me disappointed with many live albums.  But not this time; a fantastic editing job by Sferra and Pecchio did the evening justice with a great representation of both sound and spirit.  To be fair, I tried to find something negative about this collection, but I couldn’t. I love it from beginning to end. My only regret is that two CDs aren’t long enough to hold everything! One track “Let’s Live Together” and the humorous exchanges between songs had to be edited to fit on the double CD limit.

My final thoughts echo Daniel’s words during the show. “It still works!” Even after the first song, it was crystal clear the magical synergy the trio had 30 years ago is still in fine form today. “Let’s get a bus and go on tour!” Well said, Daniel!  If Glass Harp comes to a town near you, don’t miss it!  Until then, don’t miss out on Strings Attached.   If you only buy one CD this decade, get this one (or rather two).  You won’t regret it.  Definitely a must have for old and new fans of Phil Keaggy, John Sferra and Daniel Pecchio.   Even the most fastidious of fans will be pleased.

-- by Stephanie Bargenquast

Page Last Updated: September 28, 2001

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