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20/20

Saga

Crossover Prog


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3 stars Saga are one of the most frustrating prog bands I've ever listened to. Prolific over the last quarter century, but never creating a quintissential prog piece. Coming close with their eponymous first album, and maybe even "Trust", Saga, shows glimmers of musical genius, but, then, revert back to a more mainstream, poppy format. "20/2"0 falls mainly into the latter category, with very little genuine intrigue. Best of album are probably "Ellery", and "One Of These Days". I must admit, coming from Toronto, I've always had a soft spot for these lads, but one can't blind oneself to mediocrity.And, unfortunately, "20/20" doesn't stand up against the noise of pop music out there today

3.1/5

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Send comments to merid1en (BETA) | Report this review (#786743)
Posted Thursday, July 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Another cd from Saga with Mr.Sadler! That's great news!? Yes it is great news. The album is really a good solide Saga album. With 6 really good songs,1 good song ,1 ballad, one song Mr Gilmour sing and a bad song! It's like diner for one.......the same structure as every cd Mr Saga yes same structure as every cd Mr Eagle. Ok that's great the fans are satisfy ;-) Let's play save!

In my opinion Saga can much more than they do the last couple of cd's! I like the cd's but i think they are much talented than that, but something stopp them to do something else!

So now 20/20

. Six Feet Under XXXXX 2. Anywhere You Wanna Go XXXXX 3. Ellery X 4. Spin It Again XXXXX 5. Another Day Out Of Sight X 6. One Of These Days XXX 7. Ball And Chain XXXX 8. Lost For Words XXXXX such a great song 9. Show And Tell XXXXXXXX The best song 10. Till The Well Runs Dry XXXXX

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Send comments to thuur (BETA) | Report this review (#794974)
Posted Thursday, July 26, 2012 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
2 stars I haven't actually planned on listening or reviewing another Saga album but after seeing the return of Michael Sadler and their pretty solid gig, back in November last year, it almost felt like the band could deliver something interesting with the release of 20/20. Unfortunately it doesn't take long to realize that their 2012 offering is just another throwaway fans only release...

I really have no problem with Saga and their commercially inclined approach to art music but this release still managed to rub me the wrong way on quite a few occasions. Being mainly a fan of great songwriting and strong melodic hooks, 20/20 doesn't deliver the one nor the other. There are a few minor exceptions to the rule like Anywhere You Wanna Go and One Of These Days, both feature strong melodic hooks on the chorus lines. The rest of the material isn't necessarily bad but rather bleak in comparison. The songs are generally pretty simplistic in their structure with only a few interesting moments from Jim Gilmour and Ian Crichton. The new drummer Mike Thorne doesn't really bring anything particularly memorable with his playing and there is really no point of even trying to make any comparison to Steve Negus.

It's clearly business as usual in the Saga camp with the band making a bare minimal effort of pleasing their fanbase while ignoring the opportunity of expanding their audiences and reaching the younger generations of listeners with their music. Having said that, I'll probably still going to see the next Saga gig, later this fall, just because Michael Sadler is a very charismatic front man. Somehow I doubt that the band will do much promotion for 20/20, they might perform Anywhere You Wanna Go but that's pretty much it.

**** star songs: Anywhere You Wanna Go (5:30) One Of These Days (4:46) Lost For Words (4:34) Till The Well Runs Dry (6:20)

*** star songs: Six Feet Under (4:56) Ellery (4:09) Spin It Again (4:41) Another Day Out Of Sight (4:19) Ball And Chain (4:18) Show And Tell (4:42)

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Send comments to Rune2000 (BETA) | Report this review (#800734)
Posted Sunday, August 05, 2012 | Review Permalink
Gooner
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars If you liked "Network", "Trust" and "10,000 Days" - this album is right up your alley. A solid effort and not a stinker in the lot. One of the few albums from Saga where I don't have to uncomfortably ask myself: "why do I like these guys?" It takes a lot for me to write a review for any new prog.rock release, so I thought this was a worthy record warranting a comment or two. I didn't review Saga's last 2 albums with Sadler as I thought they were trying to channel Gentle Giant a little too much. "Human Condition" without Sadler didn't really sound like Saga to me(more like Spock's Beard). Although I enjoyed those albums("Trust" and "10,000 Days") tremendously, the Giant has been put out to pasture on 20/20. What we have here is Saga channeling the strong parts from "A Beginner's Guide To Throwing Shapes", "Behaviour", "World's Apart" and "Network". There's absolutely no dated sounding "electronic" drums and Ian Crichton puts on another ripping performance in the guitar department. 10 solid Saga tracks that will grow on you like a bad mold; but I like it that way. Michael Sadler in fine vocal form a la '80s and Jim Gilmour? You're one of the underrated keyboard greats with Downes and Kaye and you prove it on this "20/20" gem. Definitely a top 10 album for 2012.

4.0 stars for a solid Saga release. Welcome back, Michael.

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Send comments to Gooner (BETA) | Report this review (#802399)
Posted Thursday, August 09, 2012 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars In hindsight...

From their inception in the late 70's up until the late 90's, Saga's studio output was a very bumpy ride with the quality of their albums ranging from the very best to the very worst; taking in the whole spectrum from masterpiece (Generation 13) to disaster (Wildest Dreams, The Pleasure & The Pain). With 1999's Full Circle, however, Saga entered into a period of remarkable stability of quality that, evidenced by the present album, continues to the present day. Avoiding both the ups and the downs of previous decades, the new millennium has seen Saga releasing an impressively consistent series of albums - all of them good. Not even the temporary loss of original front man Michael Sadler could shake the group's newfound confidence.

With this album Sadler returns to the fold again and all is well. The band's sound remains unchanged and 20/20 is nothing more and nothing less than another good Saga album. The ten new songs are typical Saga tunes, strong, melodic, full of Saga's well-known trademarks. The only surprise here is that they still manage to keep it up and produce such good music in the same style on album after album after album without falling into a creative slump. They are still a very good band, and there is no sign of them losing their grip. On the other hand, there is also no sign of them wanting to push any boundaries and expand in any direction. This is Saga in their comfort zone, but still sounding fresh and relevant.

In conclusion, there is no reason to be disappointed with 20/20 if you expect more of the same good music as Saga has produced in the last 13 years. But if you expect something ground breaking, you would better look elsewhere.

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Send comments to SouthSideoftheSky (BETA) | Report this review (#806047)
Posted Saturday, August 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars Michael Sadler returns on vocals for the 20th studio album of Saga! 20/20 means perfect eye sight and refers to the eye surgery that keyboardist Jim Gilmour had to undergo in the fall of 2011, which turned out successful.

In the 90's each new album Saga did would bring in a new sound, a new approach for better or worse, and the dismay of the fans following the "Pleasure & the Pain" album (1997) was probably what caused the band to take on a new direction were the old Saga logo was reintroduced as well as the alien theme on album covers, and thematically, new chapter songs were created continuing the story with chapters. And the Full Circle album (1999) was pretty great in my opinion, and the fans were happy again. The subsequent Saga albums of the 2000's have maintained this retro-connection and there haven't been any extreme changes in direction or sound. For me as a huge Saga fan these albums of the 2000's have been of varying quality. Network is my favourite anyway.

The previous album "The Human Condition" was a change, the alien theme wasn't there anymore, and there was a new singer. The positive thing was that it felt like something new and forward-looking. The singer Rob Moratti with a power-rock voice had a clear, articulated, technical singing with good range that with effects added - overdubs, compression and possibly autotune sounded artificial on the downside. But the album was solid as a whole even if a bit mechanic and metronome-stiff.

With Sadlers return, it's back to a more familiar Saga , but the compressed, smooth sound of the previous album is kept. The mood is generally fairly easygoing and energetic. There are some negative things about the vocals. They are not in the front in the mix; they are often effects-treated or multi-layered and the vocal melodies often lack character. That way the vocals becomes of secondary importance, and mostly become muddled together with synths, guitars and drums. Morattis undynamic voice was better suited to such a sound while for Sadler it drowns a bit in the mix.

On first listen the album sounded like a thick mess leaving me very disappointed. After the third listen different parts and sounds became more distinguishable. Surprisingly I began to like several songs. That doesn't happen to me these days. I completely changed opinion. After many listens and a break for some time and coming back to it, my opinions shifted back again towards my initial sentiments. The sound related aspects does have a very negative impact on the album for me.

Well, there are no dynamics. The sound is evenly dense and busy with things going on. The drums are a central problem. Bass drum , hi-hat and ride are too prominent in the mix. The compression on the kick drum is tiring. I must say I hate the snare drum with the big reverb. A particular ride-cymbal is also heavily overused throughout the album. The drum playing is fluid but feels mechanical and the sound is the same throughout the album. Doerner's drumming was way better in all respects on the previous album. Okay, enough drum talk.

There are five songs I like that with better production could have been splendid. Guitar solos are great as you always can expect from Ian Chrichton. I find the lyrics appealing. They are about life and destiny you could say. "Lost For Words" is the album highlight for me, with an atmospheric quality and nice singing by Sadler.

The songs:

1 Six feet Under

A pretty fast-paced heavy rock song, an energetic kickstart to the album. I suddenly started to really like this with its many parts after enough listening, and it could have been awesome. But it feels a bit lifeless with the strong compression. One of the better songs however.

2. Anywhere you wanna go.

Slow heavy power-rock song with synth bass and synths. The chorus is the central point, and it doesn't quite swing very well in my opinion. It feels like the tempo is slow in a strained way. But I'm not sure a faster tempo would have worked either. Though the instrumental part is pretty cool, the song is weak.

3. Ellery

Song in triplet feeling in a similar way to "Follow Me" from Full Circle. Overly dominating synths and weak vocal melody lines. Not good.

4. Spin It Again

It's got a catchy main rock riff over two bars. The song grew on me very much. Now, after even more listens I'm ambivalent. It feels either cool or too catchy. But the bridge part is really nice (beginning with "sometimes"). A small annoyance is that the vocals in the chorus lacks clarity, and the "s" of "spin" is inaudible. However, this is one of the good ones!

5. Another Day Out Of Sight

In accordance with tradition, one or two songs should feature Jim Gilmour on vocals. Many such Saga songs are fantastic . But this is pretty dull, and the layered vocals in the chorus aren't arranged well for Gilmours voice. Weakest song of the album.

6. One of these days

Dull uptempo rock song, with an even progress from beginning to end. Very anonymous, more character is needed.

7. Ball and Chain

A moderate tempo rock song in minor key that changes key in the chorus with a playful and original chord sequence, accompanied by some odd and funny "plucked" synth bass notes. The song grows with time , and I really like the "You now we're all the same"-part, simple but memorable. The sound is messy and would have been better with a different sound but it's still a cool song.

8. Lost For Words

I wasn't positive about this album upon first listen but I did like the instrumental synth parts in this ballad. But this song grew after several listens. The vocal sound have some unnecessary filtration but the singing is very good. There are atmospheric instrumental parts and a great guitar solo. In style it's like a cross between"Don't Say Goodbye", the atmospheric song from Full Circle, and "Believe", the ballad from Network. It suffers from the production but is nevertheless the best song of the album.

9. Show and Tell

Another "ought to have been great" song with a cool chord sequence, similar to a section from "Days like these" (from Security Of Illusion - the "there will never" part) . It's dragged down by plain dynamics and noisiness, with an annoying distorted guitar. The vocals are embedded in the noise. Still it is one of the best songs due to the way it develops with key changes and nice parts.

10. Till the well runs dry

The last song, and longest, has some dynamic changes. There's a moody verse with 16th notes on hihat, halftempo groove, similar to "On the air" from the Network album, or in particular "Goodbye (Once Upon A Time)" from Behaviour. It takes a while before it reaches the chorus, where it goes into full energy. But the chorus... is bad. So, not a great song, but it has great guitar playing and an awesome guitar solo.

Beneath the flat sound surface there is a lot of original music - five good songs. There are no recognizable chord sequences or lack of originality. But the dense and straight sound along with the resulting flatness in emotion and expression is an unfortunate thing which makes me end up rating this right between 2 and 3. But I recommend it because discovering this album is exciting were it comes alive little by little. And I probably haven't said the final word on this album, you never know what details may appear in the future changing the overall picture. I'm looking forward to see them live, and to experience these songs in a way that does them more justice.

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Send comments to wilmon91 (BETA) | Report this review (#835624)
Posted Tuesday, October 09, 2012 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
3 stars It must be more than 30 years since I first became aware of Saga, and after purchasing a cut- price single, invested in my first vinyl album of theirs, the wonderful 'Images of Twilight'. From then on I picked up the occasional release, and finally caught them in concert about ten years ago (where they won the award for being the quietest rock band I have ever seen). By then they had, at least to me, settled into a sound that was always very much Saga and they could always be relied upon to release a solid album, but normally not a spectacular one. The last album I heard of theirs was 2006's 'Trust', and in the intervening period they have released two other studio albums and singer Michael Sadler has left and returned, so have I been missing anything?

Well, if this is anything to go by then probably not much. While opener "Six Feet Under" is very much a typical Saga song, with driving keyboards and guitars and over the top vocals it is let down by much that follows, especially "Ellery" which highlights a more reflective side of the band that just doesn't work at all. For every song that raises the hopes there is another that dashes it, and the overall effect is that while die-hard fans will acclaim Michael's return as a masterpiece the rest of us won't feel the same way. If only there were more like "Show and Tell", which is classic Saga in so many ways, then it would be possible to give this more than 3 stars. But as it is, that's al it is worth.

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Send comments to kev rowland (BETA) | Report this review (#874286)
Posted Monday, December 10, 2012 | Review Permalink

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