Born in Wales, singing guitarist Philip Sayce grew up in Canada which is where he first exercised his art in the Toronto club scene before relocating to the States ten years ago. With two albums to his name thus far, 2006's 'Peace Machine' and last year's 'Innerevolution', here we have his third, 'Ruby Electric'. Divided into two halves, volumes one and two, with the first containing studio recordings, and the second live, my initial reaction is one of cynicism in that it appears, on the surface, to be a short studio effort padded out with random live filler. However, that's before I listened to the actual thing. Judgemental me! What 'Ruby Electric' actually offers is a neat contraposition between what Sayce is capable of in both studio and live environments. For the studio tracks, recorded at Sunset Sound and Lion's Share, Sayce utilised an array of vintage equipment and instruments which is not only apt for the retro nature of his compositional style but also helps explain the organic sound of the material (obviously enhanced by the production talents of Dave Cobb who also co-wrote some of the songs and performed bass on 'Set Us Free'). Stylistically, we're primarily talking retro blues rock, albeit hard-edged which propels his music into the twenty first century. Further, all too often will you find a skilled axeman, invariably virtuosic, who will take to the mic with a below par vocal performance that abates the effect of their playing. Sayce, however, has a refreshingly amazing voice that matches, and does justice to, his fretboard talents. Soulfully warm in tone he's able to express himself emotionally through a fantastic singing performance that accentuates the affective depth and profound emotions inherent in his rhythm work and abundance of leads. And yes, those leads... just incredible. Sure, the songs pertain to a formulaic verse-bridge-chorus template with solos bunged in at key points but jeez, is he able to convey so much feeling and expressively sincere passion through his licks. No wonder he's been likened to fretboard luminaries such as Steve Ray Vaughan and, in some extreme cases, Hendrix. The volume one tracks feature the talents of some of Sayce's favourite musicians and friends, including famed American singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge, someone Sayce has collaborated with since 2003. She duets with him on opening song and first single from the album, 'Let the Love In', and their voices complement each other to great effect. The live tracks that comprise the second half of 'Ruby Electric', recorded in France, Germany and Holland during his 2010 tour, cement Sayce's credentials as a performer par excellence and demonstrate a rawer edge to his sound out of the comfort of the studio. His soloing particularly excels here - evidently caught up in the live vibe the man has a true passion for his art. A recommended purchase overall and I predict that Philip Sayce will become the next big thing in his field. Joe Bonamassa's current hegemony is under threat!
Review by Mark Holmes
11th July 2011
VOLUME ONE: 1) Let the Love In; 2) Set Us Free; 3) Daydream Tonight; 4) King of New Mexico; 5) Were You There; 6) Ruby Electric
VOLUME TWO: 7) Helios; 8) One Foot in the Grave; 9) Powerful Thing; 10) Slipaway; 11) Alchemy; 12) Take You Away; 13) Angels Live Inside; 14) Cinnamon Girl/I Want You (She's So Heavy)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...the songs pertain to a formulaic verse-bridge-chorus template with solos bunged in at key points but jeez, is he able to convey so much feeling and expressively sincere passion through his licks."