Saga - Sagacity

by Morley Seaver

I was a Saga fanatic from when they were known as Pockets until the late '80s. Shifting trends in music moved my focus and I never really heard any of their music since then. This year's magnificent Sagacity shows me that I have done the band and myself a great injustice.

This is the second record since the return of vocalist Michael Sadler (who left for several years to devote more time to his young family) and I can only surmise that the time away from the band has revitalized both singer and band as these tracks are sizzling! There are 12 songs on the disc and the quality doesn't dip on any of them.

The record opens in a relaxed gait with the intro to "Let it Slide" before a flourish that is akin to what happens to your eyes after someone turns all the lights on in the middle of the night. All the trademark Saga elements come into play right off the bat, the undulating bass of Jim Crichton, the snarly guitar of brother Ian Crichton and the in your face keyboards of Jim Gilmour (and whoever else is playing on the track since all members trade off on keyboards). Mix in Sadler's regal vocals and you have a winner right off the bat.

Possibly my favourite track is the one that has stuck in my head the longest, "Vital Signs". Ian's guitar is more out front for this (or there are less in-your-face keyboards, take your pick) and the chorus is very strong.

Powered by new drummer Mike Thorne's energetic tom thumping, "Go With the Flow" shows off some of the standard Saga keys/string arrangements, augmented by a gorgeous acoustic guitar passage and a dazzling synth solo.

Often accused of being too serious like their hometown brothers Rush, "Press 9" gives some welcomed levity and a change to the musical landscape of the other tracks. "Wake Up" hits like the kick of a couple of quickly-downed Red Bulls and is the shortest track on the record, delivering its message in a mere 2:35 minutes.

I'm getting a real Genesis/Supertramp feel from "The Further You Go", the most old-school sounding prog piece of the lot, although the feel is more sonically rather than the bloated excess of the times,

"Luck" is another interesting cut that goes from the smash and grab chorus that punches your speakers and then retreats for the more thoughtful verses. "I'll Be" closes the record in fine style, opening with a real engaging guitar segment before some Tull-sounding verses. These are the highlights folks with the other tracks no slouches at all either.

It's definitely worth picking up the special edition because this one has a second disc containing nine live cuts from a concert performed last year. The band is absolutely cooking and the songs (all a bit faster than their studio version) seriously kick butt. Special mention should be made to "Careful Where You Step" which is just excellent. Also to be noted is Ian Crichton's guitar playing which is truly under-rated, and that can also be said about Sadler's amazing voice.

If absence truly makes the heart grow fonder, then it's worked. Saga has been off my radar for many a year but Sagacity has put them back front and center. Welcome back guys.

Get your copy here.

Saga - Sagacity

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