Top positive review
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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.