Welsh-born Philip Sayce applied his trade as a blues guitarist in Toronto clubs where he grew up. It was here he was discovered which led to recording and touring with singer songwriter Melissa Etheridge, and also with the much-missed Blues guitarist Jeff Healey. He attacks his 6th solo album, and his 5th on the Blues specialist Provogue label, with a mixture of covers and self penned material with confidence, energy, and zeal.
He showcases many varied styles within the Blues framework but his standout influences are Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jeff Healey, with nods to Buddy Guy and B.B. King. So it is no surprise he is at his best when he lets fly riffing out in Heavy Blues Rock style as with ‘Out of my Mind’, which has Jimi Hendrix firmly perched on his shoulder. ‘Easy on the Eyes’, ‘Evil Woman’ and The Sonics ‘I’m going home’ are all roaring rockers and are sure to be future live favourites. ‘Easy on the Eyes’ lets rip with fine killer hooks, and female backed vocals add fuel to the exuberant heart-racing tempo of the song to complement the subject matter – lust.
He slows it down but keeps the heaviness when he turns Little Richard’s ‘Green Power’ into a soulful groove rocker with its Hendrix style wah wah pedal riff. He adds Psychedelic Blues to the heavy groove of ‘Light ‘em up’ which burns with a mighty riff and he manages to avoid cliché (unlike me) with the la, la, la, sing along section adding to the song’s immensely catchy nature, and it proves to be one of the many album’s highlights.
This album does have its variation of styles and he slows it down on a couple of songs. The Rock Ballad is a pet-hate of mine and unfortunately it is represented here with a cover of Graham Nash’s ‘Better Days’, which avoids cheesiness status but does foray into Lenny Kravitz territory. The vastly superior ‘Fade into you’ captures the dark atmosphere ‘I have been winter, I have been darkness’, but it has a striking beauty excelled by Philip’s momentum building let rip guitar solo at the end. It surprisingly brings to mind Rainbow’s ‘Catch the Rainbow’.
There are a couple of other covers with varying degrees of success. I only really like covers if the artist can put their own identity on them and for the majority of the songs he achieves this. The best is Little feat’s wonderful ‘Sailin’ Shoes’ which Philip does successfully impose his own authority on it by giving it a fuller band sound.
The lesser of the covered songs on the album is ‘Peace in the valley’. Even with the organ as the driving force of the song, so Philip can solo around, it never ignites the full emotional pull of the song like Johnny Cash’s tender country version on his ”Live at San Quentin” album.
Special mention should also go to all the musicians on the album, and to producer Dave Cobb (Rival Sons, California Breed, Jason Isbell) who manages to give the album a contradictory sounding grittiness and shine to proceedings. Overall, this is a well-crafted and fully rounded electric Blues album. And it rocks.