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Saga - Heads or Tales CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.56 | 212 ratings

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Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars "Heads or Tails" is Saga's 5th album, the one that had to follow up the success of "World's Apart" from 1981, which also marked the band's breakout in the United States. The band was not only riding high off of that, but they were also called the most promising band by JUNO in 1982. So, there was a lot of expectation for "Heads or Tails", which was released in 1983 with the same band line-up as "World's Apart" and the same producer, Rupert Hine. Could the same formula work again a second time? Apparently, yes is the answer as this album was also successful, and with the energy of the songs on it, it deserved to be.

At first, quite honestly, I was a bit disappointed with it at first glance. But, it grew on me to where I appreciate it a lot more, even if it is slightly less progressive than the previous album. But not by much. There are still some great tracks here, and this is probably the last album for quite a while that can be considered a worthwhile addition to a progger's collection from the band.

"The Flyer" is a track that sticks in your head, "Cat Walk" gives Ian Chricton a chance to show off his guitar skill, and the rest of the tracks utilize the entire band quite well. For me, the level of complexity is a bit less on this album, but the songs still shine, especially on the first side. "The Sound of Strangers" does hearken back to "World's Apart" and would have fit on that album just fine. "Intermission" is more of a slower and more spacey sound, but with a stellar melodic line that gives Sadler a chance to shine emotionally. The albums to come after this one tend to lack the emotional quality of this album and the ones that came before. "Scratching the Surface" tends to stand out a bit from the rest of the album because it has quite a different feel to it, but still one of the highlights. This is also the only track that features Jim Gilmour singing lead vocals as the others are all lead by Sadler, rightfully so, but it's also nice to have this break at this point of the album. Even the ending track "The Pitchman" is a great track with complex instrumentals, but it fades out at the best part of the track, and that never sat well with me. At least, later reissues seemed to recognize this sort of lukewarm ending because they added the longer version of "Cat Walk" after this, and, quite honestly, this ends the album on a higher note and gives Chricton an even longer guitar solo, and a great new way to end the album.

So, this album, along with the four preceding albums from Saga, are all worth listening to. After this point, however, the band decided to take a more popular approach to try to get more success, which ended up backfiring on them, and by the time this mistake was acknowledged, it was too late, and the band never regained the success it had. However, that's not to say that the band didn't put out some great albums after, because they did. But it was on an inconsistent basis. For example, I consider "Generation 13" the best album the band has done, but that wasn't even released until 1995. There are other great ones to find out there, but you also have to wade through a lot of sub-par albums to find them. However, it is worth it to find those that are gems. As far as "Heads or Tales is concerned, though, I believe it makes up the last of the first five essential Saga albums as the band definitely hit a long dry spell after this one.

TCat | 4/5 |


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