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SAGA

Saga

 

Crossover Prog

3.61 | 137 ratings

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debrewguy
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Saga - Saga, It (the Saga) begins (hee hee)

And how it began with a bang - a song still played in concert - How Long ! Medieval Funk was what they would call their music. And in a way, that's not a bad description of How Long. Humble Stance & Will It Be You (Chapter Four) seem a good fit for that definition, too.

For some proggers, that meant association with funk bastard over-commercialized child - the then nascent disco scene & its' prominent beat. Yet, Saga was more than that. Jim Crichton had been the bass player in the Canadian group Fludd. The group played an eclectic mix of pop / rock. So just playing root 5th or walking blues basslines was not close to being enough. SO Jim had the ability to play more than basic bass, but chose not to go into Squire or Rutherford territory. He & Negus provided a more rock oriented & solid base for the other instrumentalist to fly . If you've ever heard How Long in concert, it's prog you bop your head to. I even remember a reasonably successful regional act from back then - Mad Hash - that played it as one of the covers in their sets. Quite a talented duo, drummer and guitarist who played bass pedals, with some programmed sequences. It almost sounded like Rush trying to do Queen .And as with Humble Stance & Will It Be You, you can hear some Queen influences, not only in Sadler's vocals, but also in the polished production. Atonality & 11/8 beats are not a requirement for prog. And Saga were prog. Part of the second wave that would be the link between the original Symphonic movement & what would eventually become the New Progressive "dit" Neo.

Where's the Genesis ? Climbing the Ladder main guitar riff - speed up Sqonk. Same pattern. Add a chorus that was part & parcel of the more artistic bands in what was becoming FM radio's demon child - AOR. Will It Be You's heavy mid part . Sure they didn't match Banks & Hackett's instrumental prowess. But this was a debut album. Just as Rush had showing traces of 1st wave prog like Genesis & Gentle Giant in their music as they progressed beyond Fly by Night. Except that Rush was never one to get funky or swing. Again, if you know the band, then Negus is more hold down the fort, than blow down a row of drums, and Jim Crichton held the bottom solid with his bass. So devotees of prog icons like Yes, Genesis bass & drum virtuosos were missing what these two musicians' role was in this band.

Now, I don't want to claim that this album is perfect. There are 3 songs that I eventually left out when I anthologized my Saga LPs.

The Perfectionist, if one didn't know it was written & released in 1978, you would swear that this was from the Neo Prog movement's early days. It doesn't match Marillion or even IQ , but it does beat out other Neo groups' like Abel Ganz & Pallas. Nothing spectacular, but one need not be a completist to let it play.

Give 'Em The Money , to my ears, sounds like an out-take from Queen's Kind of Magic or Miracle albums. Professional, competent, but really no delay in it going one ear and out the other. The term filler is appropriate. Nothing to make a person lunge for the CD remote to skip it, but filler still.

Tired World, if one took out Sadler's vocals, starts out as if it were a track from Steely Dan's Gaucho. An album where the Dan lost the soul in its' music and sounded cold more than cool. With Saga & Sadler, it has not the hipster attraction of a tossed off Fagen lyric, nor some jazz history on display. Again, professional in playing and competent in composition. Nice filler, but again filler.

So how does it stack up in total - the 5 songs I kept are great. They would easily merit a 4. But 3 songs that present a group still searching to complete its' identity are of interest only to those who look forward to the second release to see if the promise shown is fulfilled. As it eventually will be.

So as a whole - a 3. And if you're a fan of Worlds Apart and or Heads or Tales, it is well worth checking it, though.

debrewguy | 3/5 |

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