Philip Sayce - Innerevolution (Review by Dave Evans)
Philip Sayce is a Welsh born guitarist, singer/songwriter who spent his formative years in Toronto Canada. After witnessing the great Eric Clapton live as a youngster - he knew the guitar was the instrument for him. By his teens he was already a mainstay on the music scene in Toronto. Soon being asked to join the late great Jeff Healey’s band - such was his pedigree. And it was whilst later playing in Melissa Etheridge’s band, Sayce recorded 2005s debut album ‘Peace Machine’.So as you can see for someone still so young - Sayce already has a wealth of musical experience under his belt, and ‘Innerevolution’ is the culmination of all those years of hard work and dedication.
The album itself hits the ground running with the tumbling drum bombast of ‘Changes’, Sayce’s guitar immediately exudes a rich soul sound, subtly echoing The Beatles in places, with just enough of Jimi Hendrix added to the mix. Vocally, Sayce sounds very much like Lenny Kravitz - such is his brooding soulful delivery. This album is dedicated to his mentor, Jeff Healey, and his spirit is sprinkled all over - what is - a very impressive album opener.
Sayce co-wrote a number of the album’s tracks with a variety of collaborators - notably Richard Marx - yes he of the late 80s ‘power ballad’ fame. ‘Scars’ is one such tune to get the Marx ‘touch’, again Kravitz is the obvious influence vocally, while Sayce’s guitar is set to ‘funk’ mode and this really is a fine example of his ability to ‘mix it up’ when it comes to his guitar playing.
Mixing it up indeed is what Sayce does best - ‘Bitter Monday’ - another Marx co-write - announces its arrival with a drum sound evocative of the glam rock era. It’s a brooding yet pulsating track about the greatest blues topic of all – regret - but musically it doesn’t allow itself to wallow in the mire, Sayce’s vocals are as much mournful as they are endearing.
‘Innerevolution’ contains some sublime, tender moments; perfect examples of this are ‘Anymore’ and ‘Daydream Tonight’.
The former is an almost gospel sounding tune, led by some simple piano and organ from Fred Mandel and some simply stunning guitar playing from Sayce, his touch and feel here really have to be heard to be believed. The songs lyrical content may be well travelled, yet it doesn’t fall into the trap of being too ‘sentimental’.
Likewise ‘Daydream Tonight’ is led by a simple piano and strings arrangement, again a song about hope and belief that could easily come across a bit ‘clichéd’, yet with Sayce’s beautiful yet restrained playing it soars, and highlights what a talented singer/ songwriter he really is.
With ‘Take You Away’, Sayce demonstrates the other side to his character, this is a blues funk stomp, that is full of raw aggression and feels like a band pushing themselves to the limit. But it’s all perfectly controlled, Sayce’s guitar gives the impression that it’s going to overdose on the spirit of Hendrix and Rory Gallagher, yet before it all falls off the tracks it is subtly reigned in.
The album’s sole cover version ‘My Pearl’ - originally by Automatic Man - again shows an abrasive side to Sayce’s playing; cleverly dove-tailed with some tender interludes, this is what can best be described as - making a song your own, once again highlights his ability to cover all areas of blues, funk and soul.
‘Tennessee Girl’ is a mid tempo funk stomp that sees Sayce firmly back in Lenny Kravitz territory, his playing takes what is a slightly ‘plodding’ tune to greater heights with some wonderful bluesy soloing.
The album’s final two tracks; ‘Are You Ready’ and ‘Little Miss America’ for me sum up this album, the former sees Sayce restraining his guitar feedback against an ethereal organ backdrop, this really is one of the albums highlights.
Closing track ‘Little Miss America’ rewards us with Sayce’s Hendrix influences worn proudly on his sleeve, the spiralling feel of the guitars and the Kravitz-esque vocals put Philip Sayce into the lead role of ‘funk soul brother’. We are left with another sublime guitar solo that never wants to end - such is the sheer enjoyment Sayce is having. The spirit of Hendrix is very much alive and well and living as part of Sayce’s guitar armoury.
So how do I sum up Philip Sayce’s second album? Well what we have here is a wonderful collection of songs that not only demonstrate his truly amazing abilities as a guitarist, but also as a singer/songwriter in his own right.
Sayce as a musician is not afraid to wear his influences proudly and for someone still so young Sayce has managed to take a melting pot of guitar legends and somehow distil them into his own unique style.
With ‘Innerevolution’ dedicated to his dear friend and mentor Jeff Healey, Sayce has made an album he would have been proud of.
Track-listing: Changes / Scars / Bitter Monday / Anymore / Take You Away / Daydream Tonight / My Pearl / Tennessee Girl / Are You Ready / Gimme Some More / Little Miss America