Ever since I first heard Saga's 1982 classic On The Loose on MTV back in the day (apparently they used to play music videos, like a lot), I've been a fan of their progressive sound - even when I didn't know what the hell progressive rock even was. My interest was no doubt due in no small part to Michael Sadler's distinctive voice which was - and, thankfully, still is - truly one of a kind and an integral part of Saga's sound. Equally important though was Jim Crichton's songwriting abilities as the band had elements of fellow proggers Rush, Yes, Genesis and Kansas in a very radio-friendly package.
Admittedly, I haven't kept up with them since Worlds Apart, so I was quite thrilled to hear their latest studio album Sagacity (their 22nd album, by the way) and that it was a double CD release with new material as well as live material from their recent performance at the SWR1 Rockarena festival last year. Bonus!
First off, the new stuff sounds fantastic, as the opening track Let It Slide kicks in (0:39) with a heavy riff that has a slight Celtic lilt to it that's echoed in the chorus. There's so much energy in this music, and Sadler's voice hasn't lost a note in the nearly forty(!) years of his career. It's a great preview of the first disc of all new material, letting fans know this is their Saga and they've still got it. Oh, and for a nice bit of guitar work, you have to check out Ian Crichton's [Ed. note - Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I couldn't find any info regarding any guest artists on this album, so I assume it's Ian] amazing solo on It Doesn't Matter Who You Are (2:16) which sounds like a tantalizing cross between Reeves Gabrels and Adrian Belew. I just couldn't be more pleased with this band, man, I mean it. Bravo!
The Bottom Line: One of the unsung bands of the golden age of prog rock, Saga has come back in fine form with a double CD that sounds relevant while echoing the beloved past. This album is just fantastic - and there's live stuff from their vast catalog to boot!
- Genghis would LOVE to see these guys rock the House of Blues here this year...