"Say What You Mean" is the latest Phil Guy release on the JSP label, and should help to gain him some overdue recognition. Guy, who has added a more soulful edge to his singing is a fine guitarist, with a style which reflects his experience at playing rhythm and lead. In fact, it was Phil Guy that inspired Robert Cray to switch to playing a Strat through a Fender Super Reverb amp back in 1979.
From the opening note of the opener, "Lonesome Blues", you are introduced to the soulful, sweet side of Guy's guitar. Do not sit back and chill out too much, however, because on the ensuing "Fixin' To Die" --probably the best track, just ahead of the closing "You At My Door"--he turns in some blistering licks that could start the paint to peeling off the walls. This is the first of three Guy songs, and holds personal memories, having not long since undergone a triple heart bypass. The other eight songs are written by co-producers Bruce Feiner, and Johnny Rawls, who both also play on the album.
The Guy songs are more typical of the Chicago blues style, whilst the others reflect more of a Memphis sound that encompasses both blues (especially) Albert King and soul. Guy takes both in his stride, however, and the switch is comparatively seamless. One minor criticism, however, is that in one or two places the songs betray too influence on the part of the writers/producers in giving the band a sound that is too close to that employed on the George Stancell album (which was produced and mostly written by the Rawls/Feiner combination).
"Say What You Mean" is a very good album, which sounds best played loud. Anyone with a preference for Chicago style blues with a bit of soul on the side will love it. Guy is a talented individual who is always willing to take new ideas on board, without compromising his standards. "Say What You Mean" reflects this, and may just turn out to be the album that Guy needs to really help him break through into the major league.
JSP Records Ltd, P.O. Box 1584, London N3 3NW, UK.
This review is copyright © 2000 by Gordon Baxter , and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.