Heads Or Tails (1983). Saga's fifth studio album.
Back in the late 70s and 80s, many different hardrock and progressive rock bands from Canada finally received attention from the States, each band with their own trademark sound, such as Aldo Nova, Rush, Triumph, and others. One of the more obscure bands that most people don't know much about is Saga, a progressive hardrock band with a sound that's crossed between early 80s Rush and then-popular new wave rock. This isn't a bad thing because this style fusion actually works quite well. The band is comprised of vocalist Michael Sadler, guitarist Jim Crichton, bassist Ian Crichton, keyboardist Jim Gilmour, and drummer Steve Negus, all of whom are exceptional on their individual parts, and combine together to form a great band. They found a good start with Saga(1978) and Images At Twilight(1980), and achieved success around the world with Silent Knight(1981) and Worlds Apart(1982). These two albums put Saga on the map and they showed great promise for the future. While most progressive rock bands fancied long 10-20 minute prog rock suites, Saga opted for their own unique approach: On each album, there were several songs with a different 'Chapter' designation, and as more albums came along, more Chapters were created. When put together, they create a whole massive story. This set Saga apart from most other prog bands of the day.
Then in 1983, Saga brought back producer Rupert Hine who worked with them on Worlds Apart, and released Heads Or Tails. This newer album takes a slightly heavier and more commercial approach than their previous efforts, but they still stay true to their roots. The 'Chapters' are gone now unfortunately (they will be back later in 1999), but the band manages to churn out a solid and accessible album with many catchy rockers throughout the disc. Here's the lowdown:
1) The Flyer- Excellent way to open the album, and probably the best song on here as well. Fast, energetic, and catchy. Makes for a great single. *****
2) Catwalk- Here the band slows it down with this groovy new wavish dance track. Different from anything they've done, but very good (Also included at the end of this remaster is an extended version of Catwalk). *****
3) The Sound Of Strangers- Even slower now, yet this track also rocks. The keyboards will grab your attention here. *****
4) The Writing- A mid-paced rocker which could sound like a track off of the previous album. A good change from the newer style of the other tracks. ****
5) Intermission- The title is sort of self explanatory because it's a balladish 'intermission' right smack dab in the middle of the album. Very melodic with great guitaring and background keyboards. *****
6) Social Orphan- This track picks the pace back up and delivers a solid rocker similar to 'The Flyer'. Pretty good track. ****
7) The Vendetta (Still Helpless)- Another mid-paced track. Doesn't quite stand out much, but it's still enjoyable. ***
8) Scratching The Surface- One of the album highlights, and one of my favorite songs on here. This overlooked track is a slow-paced, yet optimistic rocker which should have been a single. Excellent keyboards, vocals, and drum beat. *****
9) Pitchman- The album ends with a mid-paced prog rocker, also similar to Saga's previous albums. Quite good and underrated somewhat. *****
Overall, Heads Or Tails proves to be an outstanding followup and alone stands out among the crowd. It's one of my favorite Saga albums, and it's just too bad that this good band goes overlooked in this day-in-age of watered down modern nu-rock and boyband drivel. 5 stars overall. They did a great job with the remastering and the tracks all sound crystal clear. My only gripe is that I wish there were some liner notes inside the booklet that detail the band's history. Oh well, no big deal. My verdict: IF YOU LIKE CLASSIC ROCK WITH A BIT OF AN 80'S SOUND, BUY THIS NOW.
Other albums that sound similar to Heads Or Tails:
-'Worlds Apart' by Saga
-'Behaviour' by Saga
-'Power Windows' by Rush
-'Signals' by Rush
-'90125' by Yes
-'1984' by Russ Ballard