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Saga - Pleasure & The Pain CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

2.26 | 85 ratings

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3 stars Picked up the CD used at Spin-It out of curiosity from the interesting reviews already posted. Even gave it a listen at the store just to make sure there was something there that I'd like. So here goes my impression.

First, Ian Crichton's guitar is out in the open on a lot of tracks. Not just solos, but riffs and as the main instrument carrying the songs. This is a pattern on most Saga albums since the late 80s. Some are balanced between the keyboards and guitar (usually the best ones) , and some tilt towards one or the other.

However, as with many releases in their history, the Pleasure & the Pain lacks in consistency. If you prefer getting your music via MP3 services like ITunes or Amazon, then this album does have some mighty fine songs.

And here they are (mine at least, and all comparisons for description purposes only, no outright copying or mimicking implied) - "How Do You Feel" comes across as Pendragon having Alex Lifeson as a guest on Pure. Heavy Neo. Neo Heavy Prog. Great song.

" Where's My Money" ... yes, it may be a joke song. Yes, apart from the heavy metal guitar that barges in regularly, the bass & drum parts here could easily fit the song into a techno dance club playlist. The synth line is reminiscent of On The Loose. BUT ... somehow Saga makes this one work for me. Who says loud guitars don't make everything better

"You Were Made Me For Me" is another hard rocker. Micheal Sadler singing is given sound treatment to recall some or Roger Waters' vocals. But the song itself is almost "aerosmith-esque" in the riff department. Not quite as sexed up. But then prog rockers aren't known for rocking the house. This one does. Kudos to Ian Crichton once more.

"Gonna Give It To Ya" brings back the dance club drum parts, but the rest of the song, brings to mind a combination of classic period ELO instrumentation (Eldorado, Third Day) and Styx hard rock & pop perfection (Cornerstone, Pieces of Eight). At first, I must admit that the disco rhythm was distracting. But as a whole, this tune carries me. It does make me wish that Negus had played drums , though.

"Fantastically Wrong". O.K., this says it all - Rush does their own "Subterranean Homesick Blues" . No really. And Saga pulls it off. 'Nuff said.

Then the album closer - "Pleasure and the Pain". This one is unlike just about everything I've heard from Saga. In a way, the song is one surprise after another. Sadler starts off with a few words from Sinatra's My Way - "We've lived a life that's full, We've traveled each and every highway, but more , much more than this, we did it ..." and then into this medieval acoustic guitar playing that completely took me in. I've read how Gentle Giant was one of their influences. But this song is the first time I've seen that acoustic side. The melody does recall Rush's Rivendell, from Fly By Night. But not quite. In a way, in stripping away the electric, they show the true prog side that too often many miss.

There are a number of decent tunes, a cut above filler, but that won't make my Saga compilation. Heaven Can Wait matches previous AOR leaning songs that this group has put out over the years. Welcome to the Zoo is a mocking commentary of some ill-behaviour that humans indulge in. You could call it a Hard Prog version of Devo's Planet Earth, but with a chorus melody that sounds as if it was taken from the Cars' Heartbeat City."

Now let's finish with the spoilers - I never liked "You're Not Alone", never saw why it kept a regular place in the group's concert setlist, and this '97 version does nothing to change that. Note to Saga - please never ever ever redo this song. or play it live again. Please. And never cover a song unless you either pay homage to it or make it your own. Saga makes SRV's version sound great. They make their own sound poorly thought out. And I say this as a fan of Ian Crichton's guitar playing, but they just don't pull this one off.

So, here's my score -3.5. Very consistent songwriting, marred by two songs that don't even qualify as filler. 2 that, if I was playing the LP, I wouldn't be bothered to get up and move the needle. And 6 that I've saved to my PC's hard drive as I build up enough songs for a CD compilation from Saga albums.

I'd round up. But the rehash of a non-classic of theirs, and a mashmess of a classic from the classic group make it a cop-out. If you can get it cheap , do so.

debrewguy | 3/5 |


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