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Saga - Full Circle CD (album) cover

FULL CIRCLE

Saga

 

Crossover Prog

3.45 | 107 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

FragileKings
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Full Circle. Indeed. You don't need to understand the significance of the title or artwork to appreciate this album, but the background history is important. Saga emerged in the late seventies with a style of music that fused the coming synthesizer-driven pop sound with hard rock guitars and a flair for progressive instrumental sections. Add to that songs of science fiction and intrigue and you have what made the first four albums Saga classics.

As the band found success in the early eighties, they struggled to keep their unique style all the while keeping up with the changing face of popular music and being guided by a management whose choices and advice were not always in the band's best interest. Key members left and somehow Saga struggled on. When the classic line-up re-grouped in the nineties it seemed all was well in the world again. But the nineties were uneven. They released an album that received much praise, did a soundtrack album that even the band disliked, did a concept narrative that is quite a fine piece of work, and followed that up with one of their least popular albums. What did they learn from all this? That it was time to go back to the beginning. Come around full circle. Start again making music like they used to.

An important element of the first four albums was the Chapters series: eight songs released two to an album and in random order that together created a jigsaw puzzle of a story about an alien race and Albert Einstein's brain. The first three album covers featured this alien race and we see here now that the aliens are back, this one emerging from its old skin all fresh and new, a symbol of the band's take on itself. And yes, with "Full Circle" a new series of Chapters begins. In that way, Saga had come full circle. How about the music, though?

The first couple of tunes don't really indicate that they have returned to their classic form. "Remember When (Chapter 9)" references some of their older song lyrics but that special progressive pop/rock music doesn't turn up on this track, even though the classic Saga sound does. "The One" is a solid but simple hard rock song with a great riff. A good stadium fist-pumper for sure, but it's not a classic prog song in any sense. "Follow Me" takes the pace down a bit an there's a chorus of children. If nothing else, the band is showing that they are not going to stick to any one formula for this album.

The band truly come full circle (i.e. return to their classic approach) by "Uncle Albert's Eyes (Chapter 13)" for which they stretch out a little more and give us one of their guitar / keyboard duels. This is looking promising. But will they keep it up?

From here on in, the album really shows us a variety of colours. The more proggy type sections appear on "Don't Say Goodbye", "Not This Way (Chapter 10)" and "A Night to Remember", meaning that the music is allowed to get ahead of the song at times. Saga's songs actually follow a standard pop format but it's where they work their instrumental sections that the band put themselves ahead of any standard pop rock act. However, true to their classic form, they still fit in some more typical pop and rock pieces like the acoustic-led "Home", a very powerful piece with pleasant acoustic guitar, and another hard rock number with "Time Bomb", featuring another great heavy riff.

The final track "Goodbye" uses only keyboards for atmosphere and Ian Crichton's wailing volume-control guitar notes over which Michael Sadler lays out the lyrics. It's a haunting piece, almost eerie when the vocals start, but also passionate. A surprise ending for this album, if you will.

I've had this album in my collection for nearly two years or so and I've always thought it was an enjoyable piece of work. Listening to it with a prog rating in mind, I was tempted at first to give two stars simply because I felt the prog quotient wasn't high enough. I have rated other albums I really like with two stars when I felt there was not much on there to represent prog. This is after all a site for progressive music and not Rate Your Music or Amazon. Hey, I give it four stars as a rock album! So, yeah, two stars at first but then as I listened carefully trough the other day I really felt it was too good to just get two stars. Though nothing like a prog classic, this album has variety, some well-exercised creativity, and some terrific musicianship, most notably Mr. Crichton's guitar playing which is always a pleasure to hear. And the Chapters series is back, and prog loves a good sci-fi story.

From my point of view, Saga wouldn't get around to doing a really good (crossover) progressive rock album until "Trust", but "Full Circle" is still worth listening to as a pop/rock album with progressive tendencies. Certainly a good album for newbies to hear. Welcome back, Saga.

FragileKings | 3/5 |

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