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Saga - Pleasure & The Pain CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

2.26 | 85 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
1 stars Fantastically wrong!

Saga's 90's output was severely uneven both in terms of quality and in terms of style. At the time of writing, the four studio albums the band released in the 90's include both two of the band's most highly rated albums and two of their lowest rated albums! While I have yet to hear 1994's Steel Umbrellas - if the average rating on this site is anything to go by - it seems to be an anomaly in between the solid The Security Of Illusion and the excellent Generation 13. The Pain & The Pleasure is again a much weaker album than its immediate predecessor and it seems that the band operated on the every-second-album-good, every- second-album-bad- principle throughout the 90's. As mentioned above, it was not only in terms of quality that the band's 90's output was something of a roller-coaster ride but also in terms of sound and style. While 1993's The Security Of illusion was a rather typical (but untypically strong!) Saga album and 1995's Generation 13 was a conceptual and very progressive effort, 1997's The Pain & The Pleasure is more of an Alternative Rock album! It is indeed hard to recognize Saga here; the clean production that has been a Saga trademark since the band's very inception is abandoned here in favour of an altogether more contemporary (90's) production, the keyboards that always have dominated the Saga sound have been relegated to the background to the extent that they can hardly be heard at all and the guitars that are more prominent here than ever have been given a much more "dirty" sound than ever before (or since) or a Saga album. The highly progressive approach of the previous album is nowhere to be found on this album. Fellow Canadians Rush did something similar to their sound with their Counterparts album, but for Saga the change is more sudden and radical.

The album opens with its strongest track in Heaven Can Wait, one of the few memorable tracks on this album. The heavy and almost Grunge-like How Do You Feel and Welcome To The Zoo are also not bad, but after that the quality of the compositions seem to diminish very rapidly. The tedious Where's My Money stands out from the rest in being a Dance/Techno-like number whose only lyric "where's my money?" is being screamed by an angry crowd! What's next? Well, among other things, a cover of The Beatles' Taxman and a re-make of the band's own You're Not Alone (here called You're Not Alone '97), originally from the Images At Twilight album from 1980. This is just lame and neither improves upon or adds much of interest to the original versions. The inclusion of such tracks makes this album feel rushed. Gonna Give It To Ya is a more conventional Saga song (though a pretty awful one, I must say!) with a clear 80's flavour, and as such it sticks out like a sore thumb on this album. Fantastically Wrong is indeed a good example of what is wrong with this album and the very nice acoustic closing title-track simply arrives too late to save this album from utter mediocrity. It started out good enough and closes on a high note, but what is found in between is mostly filler.

The Pain & The Pleasure is a very disappointing follow-up to the brilliant Generation 13. Thankfully, the band would regain their senses and return to their roots with the next album, the appropriately titled Full Circle.

SouthSideoftheSky | 1/5 |


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