PHILIP SAYCE – Steamroller (2012)

PHILIP SAYCE - Steamroller (2012)


Calling PHILIP SAYCE (Jeff Healey Band, Melissa Etheridge) a blues rock guitarist is to paint an unfinished picture. He’s a great guitar player, period, but he’s also bloomed into an excellent songwriter, and he’s a helluva singer to boot.

Philip’s new album “Steamroller” is an exceptional dose of big, bold arena rock, and should succeed in turning-in the veteran sideman into a headlining frontman.

Philip Sayce’s “Steamroller” does just what it promises – it rolls over anything in it’s way, wiping out fear, bringing on joy, and rocking like a crossfire hurricane. This record’s been out for a while in most of the world, but it just landed on my doorstep and has found its way into my regular rotation.

This is Sayce’s fourth solo CD, and is a great distillation of his storied past, but much more than that it is a rockin’ mother of a record that starts out in high gear and never slows down. Nothing in his discography comes close to the bluesy hard sounds of this recording that Sayce, co-writer/producer Dave Cobb (Soundgarden, Jamey Johnson), bassist Joel Gottschalk, and drummer extraordinaire Chris Powell bring to this table.

Opener, title track “Steamroller” is a brash riff rocker that is picture perfect – Sayce is in great voice, and his guitar playing is tightly focused and full of muscular punch. Cobb and Sayce captured as much of this record live in the studio as they could, and it sounds like it. If the new Aerosmith record rocked half this hard, we’ll be thrilled. This song sounds like where I wish the Boston bad boys would have ended up.

“Stung By A Woman” on the other hand, isn’t a pure bluesy rock number. This is a swaggering slab of British hard-blues rock but mixed with high doses of funk. When Sayce kicks the solo into gear, it reminds you the arena sized rocking-funk-rock that Lenny Kravitz used to play at the beginning of his career and now has sadly forgotten.

Sayce has continually grown as a vocalist, and this record is one of the first I’ve heard by a hot guitar slinger in some time in which I haven’t found myself wishing that there were a better singer on board.

“Marigold” is the album’s first ballad, and it’s some of the strongest rock balladeering I’ve heard since John Sykes left us in the lurch. This record reminds me a lot of Blue Murder, especially their great debut.

It’s really tough to write a rocker that doesn’t sound re-hashed and re-packaged, so when I hear something like “Rhythm and Truth”, I am extremely grateful. This number rocks blissfully through a cool intro and verse when suddenly Sayce tosses off a few licks with some great hammer-on madness, then it’s off into another dose of what made Aerosmith so incredible.

“Black Train” is another rockin’ testament to some brown sugar – when Sayce and Powell face off on this one, it’s some of the finest drum and guitar jousting since Blackmore and Paice showed us how it was done back in the halcyon hard rock days of the ’70s.

Hard-funk finds its way into “Beautiful”, but not in a forced, or stilted way. Some organ makes it into the mix, and this has me dancing in a cool way.

“Holding On” could be seen as just another Hendrixian string bouncing chordal workout, but Powell’s intense thrashing, and Sayce’s confident vocal elevate it beyond the mundane.

The big rock continues with “A Mystic”, a track that evokes a plethora of familiar approaches. I find myself remembering the good old days with Eddie Van Halen, Gary Moore when he was still blazing the rock, and generally a time when loud guitars and drums ruled the landscape of rock and roll.

Last track is entiled as the town in Wales in which Philip Sayce born; Aberystwyth. This instrumental that closes out the album shows that Mr. Sayce has spent his time well – he’s plied his trade quite selflessly for a great many years, he’s spent a few years finding his feet as an artist, and has now made a record that should, if the world is right, sound his arrival as a big, bright star.

With “Steamroller” Sayce has finally corralled his huge skill set into an album that sounds like nothing but himself – the influences are discernible, but they’ve taken a back seat to the star of the show. These tunes are very true in spirit and intent – you can hear the man in the musician, and that’s point of the trip.

This is one of the great powerhouse bluesy hard rock records of 2012, and I’d suggest you to find yourself a copy of “Steamroller” asap – it’s a slammingly satisfying piece of rock.

01 – Steamroller

02 – Stung By A Woman

03 – Marigold

04 – Black Train

05 – Rhythm And Truth

06 – The Bull

07 – Holding On

08 – Beautiful

09 – A Mystic

10 – Aberystwyth

Philip Sayce – vocals, guitars

Joel Gottschalk – bass

Chris Powell – drums, percussion

Fred Mandel – piano

Arlen Schierbaum – keyboards

PHILIP SAYCE - Steamroller (2012) back cover


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