Review

SAGA Saga

Album · 1978 · Metal Related
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Modrigue
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 à 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!
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1 year ago
I had to spend a fair bit to get a hold of this baby but it was worth it. Your description of the album is very accurate. I'm surprised to find SAGA on a metal site, though the guitar playing and solos could easily be shifted over to a metal recording. The first three albums make a great trilogy and the fourth has its moments. After that the output becomes quite varied and at times lacklustre while at other times quite exciting.

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