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20/20
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 26 July 2012
In January 2011 singer Michael Sadler returned to Saga, three and a half years after stepping away from the band that had been his musical home for three decades.
The Canadian melodic prog-rockers had replaced Sadler with vocalist Rob Moratti and, although they toured with Moratti and released The Human Condition in 2009, reaction was mixed.
But with good reason...

Michael Sadler has one of the most distinct voices in rock, a vocal style both dramatic and melodic and is very much part of the SAGA sound.
Sadler is also an original founding member of the band, a principle songwriter within the group and had been the voice of the band from their 1978 self-titled debut to 10,000 Days later, in 2007.
Truth be told, it simply wasn't SAGA without him.

Sadler's return to the fold also marks the reunion of the classic Saga quartet - Jim Crichton (bass, keyboards) Ian Crichton (guitars), Jim Gilmour (keyboards, vocals) and Sadler.
In the percussive department drummer Mike Thorne now sits behind the kit, having replaced Brian Doerner whose six year tour of Saga duty ended last November.

The best Saga albums have always opened with strong musical statements of intent and `Six Feet Under' certainly fits the sonic bill, declaring loudly and clearly that Saga, and the Saga signature sound, are back.

From a pulsing synth beat and atmospheric background keys the song kicks in to high melodic gear. It's an archetypal, vibrant up-tempo Saga number with trademark Ian Crichton guitar riffs and lead runs over the keyboard layers of Jim Gilmour.

'Anywhere You Wanna Go' and `Spin it Again' are punchy slices of keyboard and guitar driven rock that deserve airplay on every rock radio station while `Ellery' and `Lost For Words' present the softer side of the Saga sound.
Both are simple enough numbers on the surface but Sadler's vocals give the songs an added dimension and harmonically demonstrate what the band have been missing these last four years.

The album closes as strongly as it opened.
`Till the Well Runs Dry' slowly builds to become a six and a half minute Saga classic and is not dissimilar in musical tone and weight to the powerful and emotional `(Goodbye) Once Upon a Time' from Behaviour.
As songs go, that's not a bad one to be compared with.

20/20 isn't Saga's best-ever album but it's certainly their best since the criminally under-heard and under-rated Network some four albums and eight years ago.

And 20/20 has some outstanding songs, but there are occasions where they slip dangerously close to Saga-by-numbers, such as on the tracks `One of These Days' and `Show and Tell.'
They are solid enough tunes however and when you consider the pressure to deliver and come back strong after The Human Condition, it's understandable.

This is a return to form for Saga, but it's a pity this release wasn't the follow up to 10,000 Days and The Human Condition considered a self-titled "members of Saga" off-shoot project.

But that's easy to say when hindsight is... 20/20.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 14 July 2012
After all that hallaballoo of Mr. Sadler's farewell SAGA made a 180 degrees turn, recruiting Rob Moratti as singer, Sadler is *already* back. After just one live 'revisitation' album (Heads or Tales Live -- BUY Heads Or Tales: Live -- A SENATIONALLY GOOD RENDERING!) and the studio album Human Condition, Mr. Sadler has now returned as the lead singer with the band's 20th studio album. Moratti's voice is arguably the most beautiful voice on the rock scene, and Sadler's is, arguably, the most expressive. Sadler sings his lyrics in way resembling an actor or a fine opera singer (sans the operatic voice!), rather like Bon Scott of early AC/DC or Syd Barrett of early Pink Floyd. His lyrics, albeit sometimes, after 20 albums, seeming a bit cliche-esque, usually convince the listener as being profound and important. Sadler always has something interesting to say, and I have always pondered and assimilated his every word.

This is not just my subjective opinion -- there are many ways to be a good singer, and SAGA's 360 degrees turn from Sadler and back proves the point: To sing beautifully, like Pavarotti or Roberto Alanga, you rely heavily on the vowels and let them swell, say forever, like Moratti does. But what Bon Scott and Michael Sadler -- but few other rock singers seem to -- understand is that if you want to make a story come alive, it's all in the syllables and the consonants. Sadler's trademark -- for that is what it is -- is his unique ability to engage. Now: What more do you need to engage a listener of rock music? You already know them: You need Jim, Jim, Ian and Brian.

All in all, what we get with the new 20/20 album, is a departure from the beautiful soundscapes of Moratti's 'Human Condition', away from the starry deep space beauty and an arrival at a frightfully good rock solid and earthy album -- 20/20. That said: If Mr. Sadler ever wants to say goodbye again, I want Moratti back.

Apart from the special edition's quite pointless bonus dvd, most tracks on 20/20 are very intriguing, to say the least -- it's in the rhythmical variations, in the polyphony, the phrasing and interdependence of guitar/bass and keyboard riffs and chords, and in the dead solid perfect juxtapositions of the words and lyric phrasings.

Most European listeners will enjoy the massive loudness of the band. Some American listeners will probably not like the vocals being 'drowned' by the band, thus finding phrases almost unintelligeble. At first listen I did object to the unusually dry sound image. A producer myself, I would probably have added more ambiance -- more Rupert Hine-like if you wish. It would have been a mistake. This complex a sound image (like a year 2000+ King Crimson and beyond) would inevitably blur too much if made more wet. Get it and get used to it -- It's an album that demands a lot from you as a participating listener, but it's almost endlessly rewarding. Buy it now or weep forever.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 August 2012
Repeat listenings will reward the unconvinced.
This is definitely an album that grows on you. 'Six feet under' is a cracking opening track and 'Anywhere you wanna go' has a chorus that you will find difficult to get out of your head. 'Ball and chain' & 'Lost for words' show just why SAGA needed Michael Sadler back in the fold.
While this is unlikely to attract many new fans, there's enough here to satisfy the SAGA die-hards.
An underrated band for many years in this country. The Continent, and Germany in particular, have taken the band to their hearts, which is a shame because that's where you'll have to go if you want to see them live.
If you're a SAGA fan you won't be disappointed with this offering - buy!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 9 July 2012
Those who were caught-off guard by the good but unriveting album, The human condition; will undoubtably welcome the arrival of 20/20 more than any other. As far as the Saga brand goes, the five decades that have past us by, in-which the band has been constantly proactive in making new albums; much has changed in their scope of music over time but the core ingredients of what made Saga albums Saga has always been rather consistent. Only a couple of late eighties and early nineties albums saw the quality control of the songwriting- slip resulting in some poorer efforts arising. Never-the-less more recent Saga has seen more uncertain times with the departure of the well-loved vocal pipe & frontman Michael Sadler. His return to the band has obviously re-ignited some great band creativity back in the studio to result in this better and more fitting successor to the very excellent 10,000 days in 2007.

These songs have a tenuously water-tight fabric quality about them that reflects a great up-tempo, sound and feel good-vibe toward you that maintains the perfect element of the rock and pop balance. Ultimately, the cohesiveness of the package and the very dedicated approach here across the board has meant that the 10-strong tracklisting here, have the immediate and long-term potential to stand out in the saga chronology to become iconic prog rock classics. There are of course a few songs that lean more toward the radio-commercial/ appeal but this could apply to two maybe three songs as the vast majority of this, sounds very genuine; very "Saga-like" anthems to these ears. Additionally then, in what has also been rather prevalent in prog rock over the last few years, the keyboards in 20/20 have been slightly relaxed and the guitar has been brought forward a-touch more in the production mix, meaning that some of these numbers sit amongst the heavier end of the prog rock scale too.

The DVD might interest some of you if you are willing to commit the extra cash. It features rather predictable, but welcome, documentary and a behind-the-scenes omnibus surrounding the new album. 20/20 overall, undoubtably has the appeal of a winner new album, full-stop.
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on 14 July 2012
I have been a Saga fan since the first album, and have purchased every one of their albums without an advance listening. This policy has been rewarded in most cases, although I have always said that every new Saga album still takes time to bed in. However, after buying "The Human Condition", I vowed that that was my last Saga album. Only the return of Michael Sadler persuaded me to give it one more try. I have now had the album for a week, and it is growing on me.

I have already tried to write this review twice before. My first review was written after only one listening, and I would have struggled to give the album anything better than two stars. I attempted my second review a few days later, and I marked each track separately and took an average. The score increased to three stars, and I think that this is still about right. Sure there are tracks on here that make it worth buying the album, Spin It Again, Six feet Under and Show & Tell, but you have to wade through a lot of sub-standard songwriting on occasions. For me, Saga's latest run of albums hit a peak at "Network". There were catchy tunes, huge guitar riffs, and awesome vocal performance. Sadly, the albums Trust, 10,000 Days and Human Condition have shown a general downward trend since then. The band seem to have resolved to blind us with their musical brilliance (and it is definitely still there), but have lost the plot when it comes to writing approachable songs.

This album is tired, forced, pretentious, and self-indulgent. Michael's return is scant consolation, and anyone who gives this album more than 3 stars is indeed looking at this through rose tinted glasses. Please listen to Network, Security of Illusion or even Generation 13 and tell me I'm wrong. I will probably buy the next album anyway, as it can only improve on this offering. Come on Saga, buck your ideas up.

Updated 19/7/12. OK, I am starting to get it, and I can scrape to 4 stars, but I am really sorry to say it won't be getting a 5. There's just a too many tracks that I would rather skip. It isn't exactly an album I would proudly play to a friend without having to apologise for the odd bum track.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 31 October 2012
One word can describe 20/20....STUNNING IN EVERY WAY. Every song is an amazing craftsmanship with such a diversified melody and hooks that captures you in every single song. There are no filler here, no second rate songs....just pure hit in every song.

This is the first Saga release since Worlds Apart almost 30 years ago where every songs counts and is amazing. Every week there is new favorite song I can't get out of my head...from "Six Feed Under" to "Till The Well Runs Dry". This week it is "Lost For Words" Next week, who knows? It is very easy to fall in love with every song on the CD. Take your pick and you will be amazed!!!

Take a gamble with your ears, taka a chance with this CD and my personal recommendation is: Buy, listen and enjoy. This is a CD that has it all!!!
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 12 July 2012
As a long time saga fan this collection of songs in my opinion is one of there most poorest albums to date,the songs just seem to lack cohesion and a tune as well,one of sagas classic songs is called times up,with this album i think sadly it is :O(
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