|GOOD TO BE HOME by Paul Clark & Friends (1975)|
Seed Records - S-1001
Just who were Paul's friends? Love Song members Jay Truax and John Mehler, Clark's longtime pal Bill Speer, and perhaps most consequentially, the inimitable Mr. Phil Keaggy. Good to be Home's front cover featured a Gary Pycior illustration of all five musicians, appearing to be rehearsing in a room in someone's home. Those familiar with the artist's rendering will remember such details as a dart board and a picture of two dogs on the wall; an extra acoustic guitar lying on the floor; and Mehler's open kick drum with a pillow stuffed inside. The boys were photographed by Eben Fowler on the "rocking chair front porch" of the home for the album's back cover. In 2011 Paul Clark said, "Everyone in that picture are still my friends." That is impressive. Also impressive is Clark's claim that he can still wear the vintage 1930s cowboy shirt from that cover photo. And here's an up-to-date pic of Paul in that shirt to prove it!
Recorded in April of 1975, Good to Be Home served notice that Clark's songwriting had matured since his first two albums. Phil Keaggy's presence is definitely felt...and that's a good thing. This record is classified by many as less of a "Jesus Music" release and more of a classic rock and roll record. It felt like a "band" recording.
|Paul (L), and Phil|
Paul Clark and Phil Keaggy met and became friends two years earlier in 1973. Concerning Keaggy, Clark recently said, "There are friends, and then, there are friends. Phil, Bernadette, his bride, and I, have been in the deep end of the pool experiencing everything from unspeakable joy to the unexplainable circumstances of life. It all makes the bond stronger." Phil Keaggy was all over Good to Be Home, contributing his unmistakable guitar work from start to finish, helping out with background vocals, even singing lead on the album's opening track. The project was also produced by Clark & Keaggy.
Holding On To You, a song co-written by Paul and Phil, kicks off the record. Musically, this was rock and roll. It sounds like the guys were just kicking back in someone's living room, having a great time playing together...just like on the front cover! Lyrically, it's a joyful testimony song. The chorus features simple declarations of love and adoration for the Lord that were typical of the era:
Oh, how I love You
You satisfy my needs in every way
Oh, how I want You
To walk beside me every day
But the verses acknowledged frustration, discouragement, and even occasional despair. The song offers a relationship with Jesus as the answer to these temporary afflictions: "I feel much better when I'm holding on to You."
Next up is a Biblical parable set to music - Which One Are You? Based on the story of the "Good Samaritan," this one opens with an absolutely gorgeous twin-lead guitar intro from Keaggy. A strong flange effect on the guitar, an ever-present cowbell, and well-placed vibraslap hits make the song seem somewhat dated, but who cares?! That's a plus, in my opinion! Keaggy's work on Good to Be Home was particularly exciting for listeners to early Jesus Music because he just rocked harder on this album than he did on his own solo material of that time. Stew Langer contributes some nice rock organ work near the end of the song.
|Clark (standing, left) in a picture taken roughly|
from this same time period with Jay Truax (center)
and Tommy Coomes of Love Song
|Paul and Sharon Clark with|
Phil and Bernadette Keaggy
while on tour in June 1974
The tempo calms on All Your Ways, a song that finds Clark imploring the listener to stand firm in the faith, remain true to Jesus, and walk "in the light of the plan He has for you." Again, Keaggy's solo guitar work is a highlight. The song features a dated 70s ending.
Next is a song that has received a lot of critical acclaim. Unveiling is nearly seven minutes long and has been called "one of Clark's most impressive and compelling songs." It's a moody epic that shifts and transitions through both acoustic and electric movements. I hate to keep mentioning Phil Keaggy, but his work again shines on this track. He deserves a lot of credit for setting the tone, creating the atmosphere, and tying the various passages together. Unveiling was one of Jesus Music's earliest forays into progressive rock.
For My Children opens Side Two and is written from the perspective of the Lord Himself:
Children, what is your vision?
Have you made a decision
To accept My eternal purpose
In calling you?
Learn to edify one another
Let honesty be conveyed
Lay your lives down for one another
Let love be displayed
This is My plan for you
The song again features some tasty guitar work. This song was actually my personal introduction to Good to Be Home. It was included on a compilation 2-record set called Jubilation, Too!
It's All Waiting had a light, airy feel, complete with some smooth vocal harmonies. The song offered some fairly straightforward advice to the listener:
Just cast off your sin
And enter in to the Kingdom
Well, there's life abundantly
Just come and see that it's true
And it's all waiting for you
The record's title track is a gentle acoustic ballad that is more representative of typical Jesus Music fare from the early 70s. It's basically a prayer of thanksgiving from Paul's heart. Barry Kelsey provides a flute interlude as Paul sings, "Father, it's good to be home."
Kelsey trades the flute in for a saxophone on Under His Grace. It's another song with a smooth, jazzy feel. Sandy Dryden offers backing vocals on this one.
|A recent photo of Phil Keaggy (L) and Paul Clark playing together|
Good to Be Home concludes with a bona fide classic, a moving statement of faith called Abide:
The more I go on with the Lord
I find that I cannot afford
To stay away from His side
It's in the Vine I'll abide
His words are Truth and Life to me
They cleanse and sanctify me
I know His power can't be denied
It's in the Vine I'll abide
A child of God I know I am
I've been washed in the precious blood of the Lamb
I haven't touched the hole in His side
But in the Vine I'll abide
Paul Clark soon explored jazz, rock and pop, and conquered them all. He would go on to record albums that were light years ahead of this one from a sonic standpoint. His lyrics would also grow and mature as he faced the rough seas and challenges in life that come to us all. But, for some reason, most lovers of Paul's music will smile and tell you that Good to Be Home is their favorite Paul Clark album. There's just something special about this record.