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Thread: Saga

  1. #1

    Saga

    So, I was having a conversation on Facebook with Robert Pashman, where Saga was mentioned, and I lamented that their catalog was out of print, after the label that reissued everything went belly up. Robert pointed in the direction of one of those "Five Original Albums" sets, that has most of their early albums in it, and while looking around on Amazon, I found a couple of the others, on their own, at reasonable prices.

    So in the space of a couple weeks, I went from having no Saga on CD (and only one, Worlds Apart, on LP), to having all of the first six albums, plus a later record called The Pleasure And The Pain (for some reason, that was included in the Five Original Albums set, along with the first album, Silent Knight, World's Apart, and their first live album, In Transit). Heads Or Tales has one bonus track, but there's no fancy packaging or liner notes or anything else "deluxe" about any of them. Well, at least I can listen to the music as I please, now.

    So a sizeable chunk of what I've been listening to the last week has been those albums. I need to give them more listens, but I mostly like this music. I remember MTV playing On The Loose and Don't Be Late a lot back in the early days, and I'm sure somewhere I must have seen the Wind Him Up video, as when I saw it years later on Much Music it somehow rang bells of familiarity for me. Did MTV ever play Wind Him or Amnesia? I remember knowing there was a video for Amnesia, I think it was mentioned on something like Entertainment Tonight (wait, that can't be right, I must hallucinated Saga being profiled on ET, right?!) but I never actually saw it until I got the Silhouette DVD.


    Would it be right to call Saga a "neo-prog" band? I kinda hear a similar vibe I get from some of the 80's bands from the UK, such as IQ, Pallas, and Fish era Marillion. That is, you seem to have this almost mainstream-ish rock sound mixed with more elaborate arrangements, which I've always liked. A lot of Saga's music sounds like it was "built for stadiums", if you know what I mean, but then there's instrumental bits that sort of push it back into the prog rock direction, which I like.

    It's a damn shame that it's taken me this long to follow through and actually hear the band's albums properly, given that they've just broken up. (Shrug) But I'm definitely digging what I'm hearing.

  2. #2
    Highly Evolved Orangutan JKL2000's Avatar
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    The idea of Saga being the first neo-prog band does sometimes get thrown around here, and I think there's an argument to be made for it, so you're not off the mark. But I find their earliest albums to have a sort of warmer, more continental-European sound than the other early neo-prog bands you named. I would almost say some later Genesis would more fit the neo-prog label than earlier Saga (ducks!).

    In any case, enjoy listening to them. Michael Sadler is an incredibly nice and compassionate family man, judging by his Facebook posts, which is just nice to know. Very much in touch with the band's fans. I have or have had most of their albums, but there are a few of the later (though not latest) ones that I never got, so I should probably try to get them. They have a pretty big catalog though, so it's daunting to try to hear it all. Sounds like you're on the right track - I think they're a good band with which to start at the beginning and move forward. But like you, I first heard those early 80s hits a few times. Then I saw a cover band in Syracuse that did 80s or very-late 70s numbers by Genesis, Supertramp, and Saga, and that's what queued me in to them.
    Last edited by JKL2000; 12-07-2018 at 10:06 PM.

  3. #3
    For sure I saw “Wind Him Up” on MTV. I never knew “Amnesia” had a video. “On the Loose” was, of course, in heavy rotation for a while, and I remember seeing “Don’t Be Late”—all six minutes—a few times too (that one’s still from Sadler’s “Mark Twain” phase ).
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    Yes, I would call them neo-prog.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Progbear View Post
    For sure I saw “Wind Him Up” on MTV.
    OK, then maybe that's where I saw it too. I know there were a few other video outlets around at the time, like HBO's Video Jukebox program. We also used to also get the London, Ontario CBC affiliate, I was thinking maybe I saw the Wind Him Up video on a show there.
    I never knew “Amnesia” had a video.
    Yeha, I'm sure they talked about it when they interviewed on Entertainment Tonight, I remember it because there's a bit where an elephant appears, and they had to explain to the interviewer what that was about (presumably something to do with elephants "never forgetting" or whatever). But like I said, I don't think I ever actually saw it until the DVD era. I don't even remember seeing it when Much Music would do their "80's Flashback" deals (I did however tape the Don't Be Late video off one such program, circa 1997).

    The Amnesia video looks like it must have been shot at the same time as the On The Loose video, as they're playing on what looks like the same stage set, and I think the band is even wearing the same outfits.
    “On the Loose” was, of course, in heavy rotation for a while
    ,
    Yeah, that was the first one I remember seeing first. That's probably the song most people who were watching MTV at the time remember.

    and I remember seeing “Don’t Be Late”—all six minutes—a few times too (that one’s still from Sadler’s “Mark Twain” phase ).
    "Mark Twain phase", yeah I like that better than the phrase most people use to describe such flamboyant mustaches. Funny thing about that, I remember at first not realizing the guy in the Don't Be Late video and the one in the On The Loose video were the same guy! In the latter video, he looks like the director sent him down to the barbershop before they started filming. Not only is he clean shaven, but his hair is shorter. As such, he was almost unrecognizable as the same guy. I thought maybe they had changed singers between albums!

    Another thing I remember about the Don't Be Late video is Jim Gilmour doing that sort of Keith Emerson/Eddie Jobson impression, ya know, standing facing the camera, with each hand on keyboard on either side of him. Also there was the bit during the final choruses where Jim Crichton switches from synth bass to bass guitar, you see step away from the synth and go over to the wings where a stage hand hands him the bass guitar, and while that's happening, you notice the bass doesn't actually drop out. Yeah, of course, they're just miming the song, but at the time, I always that seemed...I dunno, curious.

  6. #6
    Hmm... I don't think they really fit the neo-prog definition myself. At least, I like them way more than most neo-prog.

    But yes, great band with a ton of good tunes. Well worth exploring their catalog, even their later albums have plenty of good music.

  7. #7
    Member Paulrus's Avatar
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    They also had a video for "The Flyer" (Heads or Tales) that made the rounds back in the day. Sadly, great videos were not Saga's forte.



    Re: neo-prog or not, I see them more as part of the late 70s Styx/REO/Foreigner arena rock movement, but with a lot more instrumental razzle dazzle. Too much so, one might argue, for their own good. Fine musicians all around, though.
    I'm holding out for the Wilson-mixed 5.1 super-duper walletbuster special anniversary extra adjectives edition.

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    Highly Evolved Orangutan JKL2000's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paulrus View Post
    They also had a video for "The Flyer" (Heads or Tales) that made the rounds back in the day. Sadly, great videos were not Saga's forte.
    Thanks, I'd never seen that. How many 80s video cliches can you fit in one video!

    And now I need to watch their other official videos. I definitely heard the band's early 80s hits art the time, but don't remember seeing videos. But I must have, MTV appeared just as I started college and we spent a ton of time watching it.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Paulrus View Post
    They also had a video for "The Flyer" (Heads or Tales) that made the rounds back in the day. Sadly, great videos were not Saga's forte.

    .
    Actually, I rather liked most of the videos they did during that era. On The Loose is kinda impressive given that it was surely made with a BBC sized budget, if you know what I mean. Amnesia was a built silly, with Jim Gilmour wandering a city (London, I think), apparently suffering from amnesia, while the rest of the band mimes the song onstage (with Sadler running back and forth being singing at center stage and playing keyboards, at one point you can see him call out, "Where's Daryl?", I guess Daryl is what the others called him, presumably his middle name or whatever), before being reminded of who he is by a poster advertising the band's concert, and he walks onstage during the ride out chorus refrain.

    The one I thought was really silly was What Do I Know, which was par for the course for those vaguely "heartbroken" songs from that era, it was like everyone was trying to making the exact same video as Richard Marx or whomever.

    One thing that bugged me about the Silhouette DVD was, instead of using the original Wind Him Up video (which again, I think did a good job of dramatizing the song's theme, about a compulsive gambler), they used a live clip, which inserted a few bits from the original video, but it was mostly live footage. I would have rather had the original version.

  10. #10
    Their first three albums are fairly OK, I guess. But there's this strange, "unengaging" quality to many of their songs which I simply cannot get across. Perhaps it's that animated, quasi-rubbish singing voice, I don't know. They always used to be huge here in Northern Europe, and I saw them live a couple of times. I never thought of them as a particularly "prog" Endeavour, although I see their influences. I sold off their albums save for the debut. It's alright, but that's it for me.
    "Improvisation is not an excuse for musical laziness" - Fred Frith
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  11. #11
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    my gateway band, for better or worse. i remember them fondly.

  12. #12
    Man of repute progmatist's Avatar
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    Not too long ago, I came across Behaviour on cassette. When playing this cassette (as with all my other cassettes) through my old DBX Compressor/Expander in Expander mode, it sounds great compared to the CD. In the mid 80s, no one yet knew how to make CDs sound decent.

    BTW: playing my growing cassette collection through the DBX unit makes them nearly indistinguishable from the vinyl.
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  13. #13
    Member rickawakeman's Avatar
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    Currently enjoying their live swansong, "So far So Good".

  14. #14
    Member dropforge's Avatar
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    They never topped their third album, Silent Knight (1980). They've had some good ones since, though, and their 1982 live album In Transit kicks heiny.


  15. #15
    Good band.

    Always reminded me of Styx for some reason.

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    Quote Originally Posted by the ferret View Post
    Good band.

    Always reminded me of Styx for some reason.
    Me too. I always thought of Saga as the Canadian Styx in a lot of ways. I wouldn't characterize either band as progressive rock per se ,but both sounded undeniably influenced by British prog rock.

  17. #17
    Jon Neudorf
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    I agree their earliest stuff is very strong but I don't think we should ignore their latter work. 20/20, in particular is excellent. Sagacity is also very strong. All IMO if course.

    Jon

  18. #18
    Member dropforge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rael View Post
    Me too. I always thought of Saga as the Canadian Styx in a lot of ways. I wouldn't characterize either band as progressive rock per se ,but both sounded undeniably influenced by British prog rock.
    Yo, Steve! Been a minute. Saga's like Styx meets Yes with bits of Genesis and Gentle Giant ("Mouse in a Maze," "Nineties") thrown in and blended well.

  19. #19
    Member dropforge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jlneudorf View Post
    I agree their earliest stuff is very strong but I don't think we should ignore their latter work. 20/20, in particular is excellent. Sagacity is also very strong. All IMO if course.
    Yeah, it was a nice surprise. I like it better than 10,000 Days, too.

  20. #20
    I think "Worlds Apart" is their best album. It really helped getting Rupert Hine to produce them and Steven Taylor to engineer. Hine recorded all their basic tracks with the band playing live in the studio. On the first three albums everything was overdubbed separately after getting a drum track. It made a big difference. Plus the songwriting was more focused and direct and vocals more engaging.
    Side 2 on the vinyl is one of my favorites.

  21. #21
    Member dropforge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by the winter tree View Post
    I think "Worlds Apart" is their best album. It really helped getting Rupert Hine to produce them and Steven Taylor to engineer. Hine recorded all their basic tracks with the band playing live in the studio. On the first three albums everything was overdubbed separately after getting a drum track. It made a big difference. Plus the songwriting was more focused and direct and vocals more engaging.
    Side 2 on the vinyl is one of my favorites.
    Funny tidbit about "Wind Him Up": Rupert Hine recorded the "quiet" part of the chorus by waking Sadler up during a nap and positioning the mic right over his face. "Sing it, Michael. Thank you, that's all for now."

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by the winter tree View Post
    I think "Worlds Apart" is their best album. It really helped getting Rupert Hine to produce them and Steven Taylor to engineer. Hine recorded all their basic tracks with the band playing live in the studio. On the first three albums everything was overdubbed separately after getting a drum track. It made a big difference. Plus the songwriting was more focused and direct and vocals more engaging.
    Side 2 on the vinyl is one of my favorites.
    There's some good stories about the making of Worlds Apart on the Silhouette DVD. They were recording on an old farm, the barn having been converted into a studio and the farmhouse being the dormitory or whatever you want to say. Sadler said one morning, he was woken by a knock on the door of his room. He opens the door, and Steve Taylor's there, with a mic and a set of headphones. So he puts the cans on and he hears Rupert say, "Good morning, Michael! We're going to take a run at the middle of Wind Him Up", so they rolled tape, Michael sang the middle part, where he's sort of whispering the chorus, and that was that. So if it sounds like he might be only half awake on the record, that's because he literally was only half awake!

    He also said that the band showed up at the studio to mix the album, and Hine expressed surprise at the band's presence. I think Michael said Hine told them, "You're not mixing this album, we are", "we" meaning Rupert and Steve Taylor. I guess he reckoned that if he let the band participate in the mix, there'd be "too many cooks in the kitchen" or whatever. Or maybe he just knew about how musicians argue in the studio on such occasions..., e.g. "Hey, my guitar isn't loud enough" or "THe bass is too loud, you can't hear anything else!", etc.

    I actually fished my LP copy of World's Apart out of the bin at a public library sale...oh geez, this had to be sometime in the 90's, because I remember I worked at a YMCA that was across the street from the library, and I recall showing my new treasure that I just paid a buck for, to some of my coworkers that afternoon.

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by dropforge View Post
    Funny tidbit about "Wind Him Up": Rupert Hine recorded the "quiet" part of the chorus by waking Sadler up during a nap and positioning the mic right over his face. "Sing it, Michael. Thank you, that's all for now."
    Dammit, you did that on purpose! "Damn, better get the trivia bit in before Chris gets a chance to post it!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rael View Post
    Me too. I always thought of Saga as the Canadian Styx in a lot of ways. I wouldn't characterize either band as progressive rock per se ,but both sounded undeniably influenced by British prog rock.
    I got on the Saga bandwagon late (when I read here on PE about 10-15 years ago that they were still together--I had heard nothing by or about them since On the Loose). I love 'em. Your analogy has merit but the one thing I really love about Saga, that the other sorta-prog bands like Styx or Asia need to do more of, is that whenever there's an instrumental passage they throw in some really clever tricky bits, guitar runs and the like. Keeps the music interesting.

    Really sad I never got to see them live.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrotum Scissor View Post
    I sold off their albums save for the debut. It's alright, but that's it for me.
    It's the only one I have as well, and it's not all that either, imo.
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