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Saga - The Beginners Guide to Throwing Shapes CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.00 | 116 ratings

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3 stars The year 1989 rolled around, and by this time, prog was considered outdated and Saga was a band that had started out strong, became really popular for a short time, then fizzled out with the less interesting and more pop-sounding albums "Behavior" and the awful "Wildest Dreams", the latter album turning the band into more of a joke. The band was still only a core trio consisting of the Crichton brothers and Sadler on vocals. Other than that, session musicians were used with Curt Cress appearing on drums for "Wildest Dreams". Cress would return for the next album, but carrying the same line-up as the previous flop was not really what the fans were looking for.

Saga released "The Beginners Guide to Throwing Shapes" and tried to convince the public that this album was a return to their original sound. Listening to this album, you do tend to get a feeling that they were giving it a good shot, and they actually turn out a much better album than "Wildest Dreams". However, it didn't quite reach the pinnacle of "Heads and Tails" and everything else that came out before it. The good news is that there is more prog on this album than there had been of late. The bad news is that the guitar pretty much carries the instrumental sound, while the keyboards are used more for some neat fill and short riffs here and there, so that original sound isn't quite there. It's no accident that the band was trying to have a more guitar-heavy sound because that was the direction popular music was going at the time. The band is also a bit to afraid to completely let go of the popular style, just in case there was some room in the top 40 for them. It turned out, there just wasn't room for them. Fans were disappointed by the last few albums and didn't think this one was going to bring them back quite yet. There was pretty much no chance of winning over new fans either, as Saga had the prog background and reputation, so many considered them dinosaurs. As a result, this album did not sell very well in any country.

Saga fans should not completely write this one off though. This album may have done some work to redeem the band as future albums would begin to see more and more fans slowly come back into the fold. The guitar work on this album is actually very good, but even with it being the center piece of the instruments, there still isn't enough of it, and the daring keyboard work of yesteryear was sadly missing. But, if you do happen to see this album out there, it is one that you should think twice before passing it off as another 1980s misfire. There are some redeeming songs on here that bring back hope of the band's glory days. "How Do I Look", "Starting All Over" and "Shapes" give the album a respectable start, but after this, the songs in the middle start to sound too similar, following similar patterns. The album also ends on a high note with the most progressive song on the album, the 7+ minute "Giant".

Overall, however, in chronological order, this album gets lost in the struggle to win back fans and respect. The band manages to bring back some of the feel of the earlier albums, but really shows no progression. This is a bit understandable as the band had regressed so far, that even a hesitant approach to the sound of their better days is an improvement in comparison. It's just that, looking at the full picture, it only manages to become an okay album, but nothing to get too excited about. The first and last parts of the album are pretty good, but the rest of it falls into the trap of being too formulaic.

TCat | 3/5 |


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