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SAGA

Saga

Crossover Prog


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Saga Saga album cover
3.68 | 198 ratings | 26 reviews | 22% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1978

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. How Long (4:01)
2. Humble Stance (5:50)
3. Climbing the Ladder (4:45)
4. Will It Be You? (Chapter Four) (7:13)
5. Perfectionist (5:46)
6. Give 'Em the Money (4:25)
7. Ice Nice (6:55)
8. Tired World (Chapter Six) (7:06)

Total Time: 44:51

Line-up / Musicians

- Michael Sadler / lead vocals, Moog, keyboards
- Ian Crichton / guitars
- Peter Rochon / keyboards, Moog, synthesizer programming, vocals
- Jim Crichton / bass, Moog bass
- Steve Negus / drums, percussion, Moog drums

Releases information

Artwork: Rene Zamic

LP Polydor ‎- 2424 175 (1978, Canada)

CD Polydor ‎- 825 477-2 Y (1985, Germany)
CD Polydor ‎- 076-742 (1994, Germany) Remastered (?)
CD Steamhammer ‎- SPV 076-7427A CD-E (2002, Germany) Remastered

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
Edit this entry

Buy SAGA Saga Music


SAGA - 5 Original AlbumsSAGA - 5 Original Albums
Universal 2015
$16.52
$16.51 (used)
Saga CitySaga City
Earmusic 2014
$21.22
$131.99 (used)
SagaSaga
Reissued · Remastered
Steamhammer Us 2002
$89.94
$47.62 (used)

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SAGA Saga ratings distribution


3.68
(198 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(22%)
22%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(52%)
52%
Good, but non-essential (21%)
21%
Collectors/fans only (5%)
5%
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)
1%

SAGA Saga reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
2 stars As a Torontonian this is another band I followed from Day 1 Along with Rush and Max Webster and Triumph all of whom would diserve a slot on this great site. Saga was however very different than the other three bands, and had less success during the early years, most of the young rockers prefering a power trio or a quartet with KB. Saga was mainly a KB band . Over all this is rather unimpressive album as there was no hit or numbers to hummmmmmmm.... Just kidding. As not really being much of a fan , I cannot tell much good anymore than my general feeling : 2 stars.
Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Saga are regarded as the forefathers of neoprog, and that's due to the fact that they managed to instill a clairly poppish freshness into the realms of symph prog. The medium was the use of catchy melodic lines, not too complicated rhythm patterns (otherwise managed by Negus with mastery and energy), and tons of attractive synth layers and orchestrations. But this is not all about synths: Ian Crichton's guitar riffs, harmonies and brilliant solos find a way to shine with a light of its own among the whole keyboard paraphernalia. Saga know how to exploit the musical potential of keyboard technology while keeping a genuine hard rocking ambience. Their namesake debut album is mostly their musical statement: I would summarize their prog style distilled in their earlier albums as 76- 78 Genesis-meets-Camel-meets-'Hemispheres'-era Rush-meets-AOR-meets-funky-meets- 'Stratosfear'-era Tangerine Dream, though I may sound too simplistic or formulaic. The album kicks off with 'How Long', a pretty commercial number that shows Saga's accesible side anabashedly. The longest tracks are the most impressive, since they show off Saga's full potential in terms of elaborating weel crafted keyboard orchestrations, rocky power, and dramatic tension (including Sadler's singing, which is both peculiar and effective, while keeping a highly melodic approach): 'Will It Be You?', 'Ice Nice' and 'Tired World' are quite impressive tracks. Other highlights are 'Humble Stance' (full of R'n'B touches) and 'The Perfectionist' (a Baroquesque portrait of sadistic obsession). 'Give 'Em the Money' recovers the funky thread of the opening number with a harder edge, while 'Climbing the Ladder' is built upon wise arrangements on attractive simple tunes. This band really had a very good start with this album: particularly recommended to those who enjoy good melodies and clever performances, and are not so obsessed with complex rhythm patters.

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is the first album by Saga. 1978 is not a very good year for the progressive rock. Nevertheless, Saga starts here a brilliant progressive career: they show the way that leads to an avant-garde progressive rock full of modern keyboards. "How long" was their hit by excellence. Saga's style here consists in very structured and melodic arrangements made of delightful modern keyboards and rather hard rock electric guitars. There are omnipresent melodic mini moog in the foreground. With 2-3 keyboardists in the band, one has to have great expectations, and actually the listener should not be disappointed regarding the keyboards refinement and pertinence. Saga however do not entirely attain their typical modern and crystal clear sound here: I would say it is done at 90%. There are many very good guitar solos, synchronized to follow the melodic keyboards. The keyboards are sometimes anthemic. The lead singer has an excellent voice a bit like the Spandau Ballet's singer. There are still here some more vintage keyboards, like electric piano and mini moog, but there are no organ nor mellotron; anyway the overall sound is very modern for the year, so that the electric piano parts do not sound outdated at all. All the tracks are excellent. Saga has their own unique sound & style: they probably inspired neo prog bands like Pallas.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by horza
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars One of my (albeit minor) claims to fame is that I once met the keyboards player. He was going out with my (then) girlfriends sister. I did'nt like saga at that moment so the encounter meant little to me at the time. However,had I been aware of this album I would have shook him by the hand for the track Humble Stance alone. This track is SUPERB and features excellent guitar and synth interplay,and was a real treat live in concert. The Perfectionist is also a good reason to check out this album,can you suss out what the protagonist is up to? I won't spoil it for you here.Three and a half stars for a band who looked out of date even when they were at their peak.
Review by NJprogfan
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Extremely catchy prog/pop that is way better then I thought. Every song has an infectious hook, yet the keyboard/guitar playing keeps it in the prog canon with a bit of pomp and plenty of symphonic might. Sadler's voice is very dramatic, but at times it can be alittle over the top, (check out 'Will It Be You?'). What makes this album to me their most successful prog-wise is that practically every songs ends on an upward arch with the song speeding up as the guitar and keyboards vie for your attention. 'Ice Nice' and 'Give 'Em The Money' are the lesser of the songs, but because of their strong finish they're forgiven the obvious attempts at trying to be hit material. My favorites, 'Humble Stance' and 'Climbing The Ladder' have killer hooks and awesome climaxes with excellent instrumental sections. Who said that Prog can't be catchy. Comparisions with bands like Styx, (pop style hooks) mixed with UK, (pompous keyboard driven prog that rocks) is how I would describe these Canadians. Some compare them to Rush. I wouldn't. They're not has high strung vocally. The lyrics aren't the most demanding. And they don't have a drummer that can compare, (does anybody?). Yet, with this album, I can say with no prudence that it's peppy, catchy and will have you humming at least half the tracks quicker then most other bands. And to top it off, it's the beginning of Neo, (to these ears at least, which is up for debate). If you have a loved one who deplores prog, let them try this on for size. Just don't show them the cover!
Review by Certif1ed
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Never-ending Saga...

I had not, in the past, given Saga much time, as every time I heard their music on the radio, I felt an overwhelming compulsion to see what was on another station, go make a cup of tea or something else that might derive a little more satisfaction.

So it was with a little trepidation that I actually forked out hard-earned moulah for their first two albums, removed the vinyl from the sleeve with a nervous feeling that I might be surprised and actually like it, and gingerly lowered the needle onto the platter.

Almost instantly, I felt the opportunity cost - there's so much other music I could be listening to... but I forced myself to listen to the whole thing. Several more times I subjected myself to this experience - and guess what? There were bits about it I liked, but on the whole, it's still not what I would have bought out of choice - and here's why:

The "music"

The opening synth notes of "How Long" - on reflection, an extremely aptly named song - struck me like a blast of the Human League. Although not a rip-off, as those emminent musicians wouldn't write "Don't You Want Me Baby" for another 3 years, it doesn't exactly say "Prog Rock" to me. The backing rock/disco beat doesn't help matters, and when the driving riff appears, its impact is diminished, and a typical stadium rock band in the mould of Styx begins to emerge.

What follows is simply horrendous though - "white-man's funk" - maintaining the overall disco feel. This is horrendous because the straight 4/4 beat and underlying "Another One Bites the Dust" feel mixed with the incessant bleeping of the Human League keyboard is just mindlessly repetitive. The harmonies stay in very simple realms, and the form of the piece is a standard song.

The only place of interest in the form is the (short) bridge, which moves off at a tangent, destroying any continuity this song might otherwise have had - and it's repeated to bad effect.

Next up is "Humble Stance" - which is a truly nauseating slice of "white-man's reggae" - a form that should never, ever have emerged. The band should really have called this song "Humble Pie", as that is what any band should eat after producing something like this.

There are very few bands of non-black musicians who have successfully modified the reggae style to fit rock music; The Police, The Clash, Here & Now and Madness are probably the best examples .

Saga fail miserably, then move into a more dramatic area backed by a quasi-funky riff, repeated to death and backed by a "boom-tsh" disco style beat before piling into a synth solo with a truly nasty Moog-lite kind of keyboard sound that is pitch-bent to death. The utterly predictable sweep-picked guitar follows - I'd imagine this would really appeal to Dream Theater fans, as the whole styling, sterilised execution and inattention to formal consideration is a perfect match to the latter's early material.

"Climbing the Ladder" comes across as a kind of poor-man's Queensryche with a disastrous riff leading the verse, and a very pale chorus giving me the urge to hit that skip button pretty quickly. The mock brass section on the keyboard re-emphasises the commercial aspirations of the band - it would seem that this is an attempt to reach both the Rock and Disco audiences, using the most naff elements of both.

The Autopsy

OK, enough of the tearing to pieces - this copy of Saga's debut will no doubt make a fan happy when they discover it in the charity shop that I'm going to donate it to - but I have to address one issue:

I have read several times that this album is somehow an early representative of Neo-Prog.

That myth can be safely put to bed here and now (sic).

There is absolutely nothing in common between Saga and Neo-Prog - at least, not on this album. For a start, there is no Prog - it's stadium or album-oriented Rock music of the cheesiest variety. It's well executed - there's no doubt about that, but musicianship is about a lot more than precision and fast scales.

For that matter, so is Neo-Prog - in fact, nowhere in that genre will you encounter quasi-reggae, quasi-funk, disco, riffing or shredding.

Conversely, none of the delicate contrapuntal writing, haunting melodies, formal experimentation and deliberately anti-mainstream rhythmic devices can be found in Saga's music.

The Recommendation

While it's tempting to recommend that you move onto the next band - nothing to see here - there is a fan base that think very differently to me, and appreciate the music of Saga.

If anything, this album is possibly at the root of Prog Metal - there's a lot in common with both Queensryche and Dream Theater, even if the overall sound isn't in the metal domain. Fans of those bands should check this out, as I'm sure that some of the soloing and riffing will really appeal, but personally, I wouldn't even recommend the music or songs to that 'orrible person who scratched my car at the supermarket the other day, grrrr...

I'd really like to award this the "Poor" rating that I think it deserves - as I think it's a real stinker - but I acknowledge fully that I plain don't like it and might well be biased.

Therefore, I'd recommend this to fans of Prog Metal and of Saga themselves - but if you're a fan of Saga, you've probably already got this and are violently disagreeing with everything I've just said.

:o)

Review by Melomaniac
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars A great debut, this one. A prog debut that managed to attract attention in a time when prog was slowly dying. Why ? Well, for one, Saga showed that a band can have it's own sound from the first album. Two, Michael Sadler's voice was (and still is) so amazing, no one could've been indifferent to it. Three, the songwriting was inventive, original, and even though the sounds they used sound a bit dated today, they were clearly ahead of their time back then. Four, the top notch musicianship is there for all to witness. The guys are tight, disciplined and creative. Five, the beginning of what will later be known as 'The Chapters', released in disorder from 1 to 16 on a lot of albums from this one until 2003's 'Marathon'. Chapters found on this album are 'Will it be you? (Chapter Four)' and 'Tired World (Chapter Six), both of which have that sci-fi approach typical to Saga. Six, the songs themselves. Some songs from this album are still played in concert today, classics like 'How Long ?', 'Humble Stance', the aforementionned 'Chapters', 'The Perfectionnist' and 'Ice Nice' sound as good played live today as they did back in the day.

Those not familiar with Saga's sound should check here first to have a good idea of what they did back then. One can discern various influences such as Gentle Giant, Camel, Pink Floyd, Styx, etc...

Truly an excellent addition to ANY prog collection. Four solid stars. The debut of a great Saga, indeed.

Review by progrules
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Saga was for a long time a very important band to me. That was mainly in the eighties when there was, as most of us know, not too much prog around and I had to satisfy myself for a big part with this band. I also went to their concerts which were very enjoyable. In those days I thought this was real progressive music, but obviously it's not more than prog related. Well, I promised progarchives not to discuss that here, we have a forum for that.

One of my very favourite albums in those days (and still) is their debut, named after the band and filled with very interesting and great tracks. It starts with How long, not one of the best and almost ballad like track. The next is far more impressive, Humble Stance is an all time Saga classic, often played on their live gigs. A fantastic track with clear progressive influences. This also goes for the last two songs, Ice nice and Tired World (best Saga track ever ?) but also the 4 in between are at least neo proglike or even slightly symphonic. On the other hand I have to agree this is probably the most progressive/symphonic album by Saga. After this great debut, the slowly but surely get less progressive involved.

But they are progressive enough to me, I will always like this band and especially this album.

Review by kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog-Folk Team
2 stars I had somehow been led to believe, since the early years of the band, that Saga's first was their best, and the most truly progressive of their albums. I have to dispel both rumours now. Most of the Saga style is already present here, but the overall songs and melodies are lacking a certain something that presented itself in subsequent releases. At the same time, this is not progressive or challenging music, although it is a cut above the mainstream of its era.

The very first notes of "How Long" would seem to have been lifted verbatim by the Human League for their big hit a few years later, but what follows is a very pedestrian rocker with a few unenthusiastic riffs and an unimaginative tune. Unfortunately this formula re- appears throughout the disk, in tracks like "Climbing the Ladder" and "Give 'Em the Money", which seem to serve as vehicles for inane choruses, while even the "Chapters" are off to a slow start here. Apart from "Humble Stance", "Perfectionist", and "Ice Nice" there isn't much here of note, but these do give hints towards future potential if not exactly hitting high notes in the process.

Overall, a pretty weak start to the Saga. Rounding up to allow for opening night jitters.

Review by Gooner
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Has its moments. The unique Saga sound is already in play. The synth in the opnener How Long might remind you of the Human League...it's almost as though Human League ripped it off for their hit Don't You Want Me in the '80s on their _Dare_ LP. Give'Em The Money is a nice quirky track with the dynamic twinning guitar/synth Saga is known for. One thing I like to mention about Saga is that they are masters at using _volume_ to their advantage. Another great quality about Saga is that these guys can jam when they really want to. For examples, check out the the longer tracks like Ice Nice and Will It Be You?. A great debut, only to master their sound on Silent Knight(their 3rd album).
Review by debrewguy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Saga - Saga, It (the Saga) begins (hee hee)

And how it began with a bang - a song still played in concert - How Long ! Medieval Funk was what they would call their music. And in a way, that's not a bad description of How Long. Humble Stance & Will It Be You (Chapter Four) seem a good fit for that definition, too.

For some proggers, that meant association with funk bastard over-commercialized child - the then nascent disco scene & its' prominent beat. Yet, Saga was more than that. Jim Crichton had been the bass player in the Canadian group Fludd. The group played an eclectic mix of pop / rock. So just playing root 5th or walking blues basslines was not close to being enough. SO Jim had the ability to play more than basic bass, but chose not to go into Squire or Rutherford territory. He & Negus provided a more rock oriented & solid base for the other instrumentalist to fly . If you've ever heard How Long in concert, it's prog you bop your head to. I even remember a reasonably successful regional act from back then - Mad Hash - that played it as one of the covers in their sets. Quite a talented duo, drummer and guitarist who played bass pedals, with some programmed sequences. It almost sounded like Rush trying to do Queen .And as with Humble Stance & Will It Be You, you can hear some Queen influences, not only in Sadler's vocals, but also in the polished production. Atonality & 11/8 beats are not a requirement for prog. And Saga were prog. Part of the second wave that would be the link between the original Symphonic movement & what would eventually become the New Progressive "dit" Neo.

Where's the Genesis ? Climbing the Ladder main guitar riff - speed up Sqonk. Same pattern. Add a chorus that was part & parcel of the more artistic bands in what was becoming FM radio's demon child - AOR. Will It Be You's heavy mid part . Sure they didn't match Banks & Hackett's instrumental prowess. But this was a debut album. Just as Rush had showing traces of 1st wave prog like Genesis & Gentle Giant in their music as they progressed beyond Fly by Night. Except that Rush was never one to get funky or swing. Again, if you know the band, then Negus is more hold down the fort, than blow down a row of drums, and Jim Crichton held the bottom solid with his bass. So devotees of prog icons like Yes, Genesis bass & drum virtuosos were missing what these two musicians' role was in this band.

Now, I don't want to claim that this album is perfect. There are 3 songs that I eventually left out when I anthologized my Saga LPs.

The Perfectionist, if one didn't know it was written & released in 1978, you would swear that this was from the Neo Prog movement's early days. It doesn't match Marillion or even IQ , but it does beat out other Neo groups' like Abel Ganz & Pallas. Nothing spectacular, but one need not be a completist to let it play.

Give 'Em The Money , to my ears, sounds like an out-take from Queen's Kind of Magic or Miracle albums. Professional, competent, but really no delay in it going one ear and out the other. The term filler is appropriate. Nothing to make a person lunge for the CD remote to skip it, but filler still.

Tired World, if one took out Sadler's vocals, starts out as if it were a track from Steely Dan's Gaucho. An album where the Dan lost the soul in its' music and sounded cold more than cool. With Saga & Sadler, it has not the hipster attraction of a tossed off Fagen lyric, nor some jazz history on display. Again, professional in playing and competent in composition. Nice filler, but again filler.

So how does it stack up in total - the 5 songs I kept are great. They would easily merit a 4. But 3 songs that present a group still searching to complete its' identity are of interest only to those who look forward to the second release to see if the promise shown is fulfilled. As it eventually will be.

So as a whole - a 3. And if you're a fan of Worlds Apart and or Heads or Tales, it is well worth checking it, though.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Team
4 stars The first chapter in the saga

Saga released this, their self-titled debut album in 1978, but the 80's were just around the corner and the sound of this album clearly anticipates that often maligned decade. There are certainly quite some "remnants" here of the progressive attitude that was characteristic of 70's (Prog) Rock, but in general, Saga sounds like a very good band that could have been even better had they only started out some years earlier than they in fact did. In the late 70's and early 80's, Saga were very much of their time, or even slightly ahead of it. Listening to this debut album, it is not unreasonable to believe that Saga (among others) had an influence on how Prog developed in the 80's. Maybe the members of Yes were looking to albums like this one for inspiration in the process of modernizing the band's sound in the early 80's? Maybe John Wetton, Carl Palmer, Steve Howe and Geoff Downes were using Saga as a reference point when they created Asia? Maybe Neo-progers like Pallas were listening to Saga during their early days?

Two tracks of this album were "chapters"; parts of an on-going, conceptual saga that took the band many years to finish. I don't know how they came up with the idea, but their first four albums all had tracks subtitled 'Chapter #'. These chapters appeared in non-numerical order scattered on these early albums and the present album included chapters four and six! It was always unclear to me what these songs are supposed to have in common or why they are supposed to hang together in the order indicated by the chapter numbers - as far as I can tell they are not really musically connected. Even more interestingly, Saga once again picked up this tradition in 1999 (almost 20 years later) on the appropriately titled Full Circle album and they continued on the albums House Of Cards and Marathon adding up to a further eight chapters of the saga. In 2005, they released a live album featuring all of the 16 chapters in numerical running order. One might wonder if they planned to do something like this all along ever since 1978.

Being so much of its time, this album has aged reasonably well. It already featured most of the band's trademarks and their distinctive sound and as such it was a very promising debut. The sound is admittedly a little bit "thin" and there are some cheesy moments among the promising ones, most notably the Disco-like Give 'Em The Money which is easily the worst track on this album and foreshadows the disappointing follow-up album. But overall this album is certainly an enjoyable listen and one of the most interesting early Saga albums being somewhere in between the sounds and trends of the 70's and those of the 80's.

One of Saga's best albums to this day and a highly recommended in its own right

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Metal Team
4 stars Saga kicked off a style that later would be tagged neo-prog, a type of rock that would revisit the style of the classic progressive bands with some poppy sensibilities added to it for good measure. While this leads to some occasional great results, most bands are a disappointing listen because they compromise their creativity in order to conform to a particular style or sound that might please the fans. 'Compromise', 'Conform', 'Please fans'. That's not the kind of thing I want from my music.

And so fared Saga, obviously talented but too formulaic to obtain fully satisfactory results. They never managed to make really consistent albums but came close with this debut and with Heads Or Tales. If it wasn't for uninspired Climbing the Ladder and the mediocre Will It Be You? , they might have gotten themselves a real classic with their debut. Instead, it's not really consistent enough. 3.5 stars but I'll round up for once.

Review by stefro
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Rush, Harmonium, Morse Code, Mahogany Rush, Pollen, Max Webster....and Saga. Canada produced a number of exciting and popular progressive rock groups during the genre's 1970s heyday, yet none of them quite managed to divide opinion like Saga. Formed very late-in-the-day for a seventies prog-rock act, 1977 no less, the five- piece would tour regularly and issue a steady stream of studio albums from 1978's self-titled debut onwards. Despite achieving limited commercial success, they would continue to do so for the next four decades. Formed in Oakville, a town just outside the Toronto suburbs, sometime during 1977, Saga's original line- up comprised Michael Sadler(vocals, guitar, keyboards), Ian Crichton(guitar), his brother Jim Crichton(bass, keyboards), Peter Rochon(keyboards, vocals) and Steve Negus(drums). The five-piece would sign a deal with Polydor Canada later that year and after an intense period of writing and rehearsing, eventually relocated to Toronto's Phase One Studio's to record their debut album. Issued in 1978, 'Saga' is a curious record. Essentially, the group's sound is a slickly- realised hybrid of symphonic prog and stadium rock elements, a mixture topped off with genuine craft-and-creativity. However, like many other outfit's bracketed under the prog-rock banner, the music also features a rather earnest, almost po-faced quality that can occasionally distract from the fine individual musicianship on display. Frustratingly, it's an easy trap for group's like Saga to fall into, and there are moments on this otherwise enjoyable album that bring to mind the fleetingly-popular, early-eighties prog-pop supergroup Asia, an outfit who took progressive rock to the lightest commercial shade possible...and beyond. As a result, Saga stand apart from the rest of Canadian prog; the likes of Rush and Harmonium, arguably the two greatest Canadian prog outfits, are almost certainly products of the late-sixties and early-seventies music scenes, of psychedelia and the blues, yet Saga, with their banks of keyboards and synthesizers and their streamlined AOR sound, belong much more to the 1980's. The eponymously-titled 'Saga' is where it all began, and despite certain flaws it's an intriguing record. It's certainly not for everyone, yet those with a penchant for Styx, early Journey, and Genesis circa 1977-1980 may well warm to Saga's grandiose brand of anthemic prog and cuts such as the bouncy opener 'How Long' and the slow-burning mini-epic 'Will It Be You?(Chapter Four)', both of which represent the Saga sound close to it's apex. However, the very best is saved for last, with the intricate mini-epic 'Tired World(Chapter Six)' rounding out a shiny, snazzy and neon-flecked album of streamlined prog-rock. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2013

Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Saga's launch is a ravishingly handsome set that was both wholly original and quietly snickered at-- and why not; there were so many other more interesting bands around in 1978. But looking back, when the dust had settled and only those who had something genuine to say were remembered, this record holds-up beautifully. It may even sound better now than in '78 and was clearly ahead of the rock curve. It presented prog in a new context, one of silk suits, Italian leather loafers, and an Omega hanging off the wrist. Saga was clean, dapper, and sparsely adorned. It was also a killer rock album showing a team and songwriting system of unequaled efficiency and economy. 'How Long' is Ian Crichton's delicious riff complementing the staccato blip of brother Jim's synth, light shuffle of 'Humble Stance' is pleasant, cresting with a squealer from Jim and a well-planned guiitar/key duel, and romantic lament 'Climbing the Ladder' is carefully layered with counterpoint and building themes.

'Will it Be You' might've been a minor hit if it'd been 1982 and rocks hard for a pop tune; 'Perfectionist' is aloft quickly, sports a riveting Moog break, tells the homicidal tale of one Ellery Sneed and is one of the best cuts here where subtle notes of Genesis are tasted; Street bop pushes cynical 'Give 'em the Money', a great little tune with riff-master Ian Crichton reflecting his affinity for Jimmy Page. Less successful is bizarre 'Ice Nice' with its 1970s porn keyboard parts and creepy lyric but 'Tired World' hits a good stride and foreshadows the synth-pop that was to come.

The future saw choppy waters for these Canucks as they would go on to release albums both inconsistent and satisfying to a largely uninterested world. But these guys were survivors, weren't going away, and built up a quiet but enviable following all around the globe. A very strong four stars.

Review by Modrigue
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The saga begins...

During the late seventies, while progressive rock was declining due to the punk revolution, North America was becoming a prolific hive of refreshing horizons for prog, especially Canada with RUSH and SAGA. Often considered as a major influence on 80's neo-prog, the music of Crichton and co. was on par with the animal on the cover art back then: rather difficult to categorize. Judge by ourself: a mixture of punchy FM pop/rock and disco/new-wave, with catchy melodies, spacey synthesizers and powerful instrumental sections. The balance between the guitars and the keyboards (mainly the Moog for this debut) is perfect. Although the songs have overall a normal duration, they feature many changes and surprises. Not really complex, but more direct and efficient.

Influenced by SUPERTRAMP, SAGA's style can sometimes be compared to TOTO's for their lively synthesizers and rich guitar accompaniments. However, the Canadians incorporate more progressive elements and make a larger use of the new available electronic technologies. Like their four first studio releases, this self-titled opus contains two special songs, named 'chapters'.

From the very first seconds, you know you're in for something atypical. "How Long?" opens with a disco/new-wave synthesizer sequence and a beat ' la HUMAN LEAGUE! The track itself alternates rocking and softer passages. Quite dated, but fun and finally enjoyable. A bit in the vein of SUPERTRAMP, "Humble Stance" has also a cool long trippy keyboard interlude. On the contrary, the odd "Climbing The Ladder" is a little dissonant and not very coherent. Then comes "Will It Be You?", the best and most progressive composition of the record. Beginning with an enchanting introduction, these changing 7 minutes contain heavy, powerful and heroic sections. Its energy and punchiness maybe influenced PENDRAGON for their first opus "The Jewel".

The second side is pleasant but slightly less inspired. Driven by synthesizers, the nice "The Perfectionist" also foreshadows 80's neo-prog. "Give 'em The Money" resembles SUPERTRAMP again, however with harder passages and a cool trippy electronic interlude. This song has its moments but sounds overall a bit uneven. The most interesting part of the ballad "Ice Nice" is its ending section, featuring a cool keyboard little jazzy solo and a rocking finale. The progressive "Tired World" is the other 'chapter', quite epic and spacey.

Despite a few weaker moments and dated keyboards sounds, this first effort from Crichton and co. is really promising and original. Like their fellow countrymen RUSH, SAGA are part of the missing link between 70's symphonic progressive and 80's neo-prog. They certainly contributed to the emergence this sub-genre, nonetheless rather more in the style of PENDRAGON and PALLAS's debut albums than the usual GENESIS-influenced bands such as MARLLION or IQ.

At first sight, this mixture of catchy melodies, powerful sections and electronic technologies can be considered as a risky stance. However, during the late seventies, numerous new genres were hatching. Therefore, proposing a recipe never heard before was not illogical at the time.

Unique, SAGA were also different from the other North American progressive bands (RUSH, KANSAS, STYX...). Their eponymous studio album is one of their most varied and offers a wide palette of atmospheres and many changes. Even after a few listens, the surprise factor remains, you cannot expect what will come next. The instrumental sections are simply great! And surprising the listener is quite impacting...

Hard rocking, electronic, progressive, melodic, catchy, epic, atypical are one of the adjectives that could describe the music of SAGA. This 1978 self-titled is already promising, colorful and one of the band's best offerings. Highly recommended!

Review by The Crow
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars First album from one of the Canada's most important prog-rock bands!

And while this album can be considered a typical AOR flick of the late 70's it contains enough interesting elements which will appeal prog lovers. The keyboards are very present through the whole record and the complex guitar work and syncopated riffs from Ian Crichton are a pleasure to hear, and they are definitely one of the trademarks that make the sound of Saga a very recognizable one, along with the excellent vocals from Michael Sadler.

Sadly, the album has some flaws in the form of a pair of strange and lackluster tracks (the boring and pseudo-punk la Stranglers Humble Stance, for example) which lower the general level of the album. The production sounds also a bit dated today, especially the weak and unspectacular drums.

But don't take me wrong! The album is excellent and it managed to insufflate new energy to the genre in the late 70's while other consolidated acts like Yes, Camel and Jethro Tull were failing to evolve toward new horizons.

Best Tracks: How Long (typical Saga track, very rhythmic and funny), Climbing the Ladder (Michael Sadler demonstrates why he is one of the finest prog-rock singers and the keyboard and guitar solos are wonderful), Will it be You? (epic, with great vocal melodies and very progressive) and Perfectionist (a true Saga classic and the last song they played live in their final show in Puerto Rico!)

Conclusion: Saga started their career gracefully with a very good record full with splendid vocal melodies, a great and very particular guitar sound and their typical AOR feeling mixed with wonderful progressive passages.

It's not perfect by any means, but Saga is still one of the best albums of this recently disbanded band and a worthy addition to any prog music collection.

We will miss you, guys!

My rating: ****

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars The late 70s was hardly the peak period for progressive rock bands as the musical styles were shifting but some acts that were emerging skillfully walked the tightrope between the sophistication of the early part of the decade with the more pop oriented new wave that was gaining popularity towards the end. One of Canada's most prolific and enduring bands SAGA was amongst the first to bravely tackle this hybridization in perfect form. While emerging from a band name Fludd and then starting out under the Pockets moniker, SAGA has become one of Canada's greatest export having sold millions of albums alongside Rush and Godspeed! You Black Emperor.

The band hit a high note right from the start and found some moderate success of the eponymously titled debut album which was released in the early part of 1978. The sound of the band stood somewhere between the sophisticated keyboard driven prog of Kansas and the more mainstream rock of bands like Styx and Supertramp with the unique charismatic vocal charm of lead vocalist Michael Sadler and more progressive elements. While the band's overall sound and style has changed throughout the years as has the lineup, on the debut SAGA, they unleashed a keyboard and Moog rich pastiche of catchy grooves augmented by synthesizer solos, dreamy atmospheres and new wave guitar charm.

The trademark alien insect debuted as well which played a prominent role in another unique feature of the band, namely the interesting concept of "The Chapters" collection of tracks that appeared scattered out of order throughout various albums. Two of them, 4 and 6 appeared on this debut album. The "Chapters" display SAGA's more sophisticated approach in lyrical content keeping them more on the prog side of the equation than bands like Supertramp, Journey or Toto. It recounts the tale of a young Albert Einstein and would find all of the tracks compiled later on "The Chapters LIVE" but to date has not been released in a compilation form with the original studio tracks sitting side by side. Sounds like an anniversary bash release if you ask me.

In the beginning, SAGA was all about the Moog and this album is just drenched in keyboards here, keyboards there, keyboards everywhere which has given this first release by SAGA the claim to be one of the first neo-prog albums as it very much sounds similar to the wild synthesizer-drench antics that Marillion would conduct in their music all throughout the 80s albeit Marillion nurtured the progressive elements to even greater lengths. Nevertheless, the bouncy beat, the rich synth drenched motifs and the brash bravado of the lead singer certainly bring the Fish led era of Marillion to mind when i'm listening to this. The poppy infectious tracks gleefully hook you upon first contact along with interesting twists and turns but never deviate from the general pop formulaic approach.

Four of the five members contributed Moog and keyboards to this album leaving only guitarist Ian Crichton to focus on one instrument and he doesn't disappoint as he prognosticates the new wave and progressive pop styles of Asia and Genesis that would fully take root in the early 80s when MTV would provide a new format for the synth generation of pop and rock music. SAGA may have been too early at this stage for the video star status but still found an instant crowd with a major following in Germany. The second track "Humble Stance" has become one of the band's all time favorites and has been performed in virtually every live appearance since. While the pop hooks are characteristic of the album's overall feel, some of the keyboard solos are quite exquisite as they not only deliver amazing speedy effects but supreme virtuosity.

While SAGA hasn't become a household name like some of the other bands of the era, their music is definitely unique for the time in how it incorporates hard rock, power pop and symphonic prog into a unique mix that took the logical next step in musical hybridization which would become the norm in the synth-dominated 80s. While SAGA themselves would succumb to the simpler radio friendly hits that were expected in the following decade, on this debut album they deliver the perfect mix of prog pomp mixed with catchy new wave danceability a full five years before bands like Asia and Yes found new life with their own progressive pop styles. This is quite the brilliant album if not perfect. The perfect 70s crossover album for sure.

Latest members reviews

4 stars In general, I consider this one of the top albums in my Saga collection. Tired World is simply the best song that Saga has ever put out. I'm not often as absolutist in my opinions as I sound here. Sure, I can hear the disco beat and the Erasure-reminiscent techno-pop, that probably drive other ... (read more)

Report this review (#196501) | Posted by axeman | Wednesday, December 31, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Maybe not the world's most proggy album, but the pro-music on this record is so different to what we have known before. Short, heavy, aggressive approach wich would eventually inspire multiple progmetalbands. 'Humble Stance' by itself is worth the purchase of this one. There are a few dow ... (read more)

Report this review (#189226) | Posted by Kingsnake | Friday, November 14, 2008 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Music has the unique ability to bring back memories, good or bad, from your childhood. In my case; this album takes me back 25-30 years and 1500 miles north-east from where I am now to a small house in a small valley in Norway when I heard this album for the very first time. It struck me like a b ... (read more)

Report this review (#163454) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Saturday, March 8, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This album introduced me into SAGA and damn it, is this CD rocky!!! The structure of each title may be not that complex, most songs contain not more than four parts, but these parts seen indivdually are not straight-constructed, the entire album is ambitious, as each good prog-album should be. ... (read more)

Report this review (#85949) | Posted by Badabec | Sunday, August 6, 2006 | Review Permanlink

3 stars A good album for a start but for sure not their best! Anyway every time I hear a new album of Saga, I have just one idea in my head: just buy another! A very special sound with great great voice of mister Sadler and really astonishing keyboards mastery. You must have a look to this band, it' ... (read more)

Report this review (#38286) | Posted by fairyliar | Saturday, July 2, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I bought this in cassette form around 1981. On that same day, I dropped about $600 on a humongous ghetto blaster (I've never been accused of being smart with the finances). When I got home, I dropped the tape in. 'Climbing the Ladder' was the first track (on cassette version) to play, and t ... (read more)

Report this review (#17617) | Posted by bertburt | Tuesday, May 10, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars THE SAGA BEGINS HERE... yep it all started in 1978. This is an amazing debut album, it's quite possibly the best debut album any Canadian band has put out thus far. The reasons are simple, the music here is very good and finely crafted right through from start to finish. There are people out ... (read more)

Report this review (#17613) | Posted by | Friday, August 20, 2004 | Review Permanlink

4 stars the first release from this canadian band...the highlights include "humble stance" "How Long" and "tired world" (chapter 6) saga is one of the most influential bands from the neo progressive scene (along IQ...pendragon...marilion) if you like the neo prog with exciting riffs ...pick up this o ... (read more)

Report this review (#17611) | Posted by | Friday, June 4, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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