Saga – Sound Academy, Toronto – Interview and Show Review - July 20, 2012

Interview with Ian Crichton - Plus CD/Show Review

Eagle Rock Entertainment/earMusic (Edel)

by JT

WOW! The first two tracks are just, well, how do you describe the best chocolate chip cookie you've ever had? How it would feel if the Leafs won the Cup?

Just starting track #4, still all freakin' awesome!

Yep, this is Saga!

So if you are of an age (the approximate number I refrain from mentioning because I am a member of that club) who remembers the band Saga, well, I just finished track 7, Still just freakin' awesome. If you are a youngling that clicked on the wrong link, well stick around and learn why you need to buy this CD.

From my generations' perspective, there are the icons that came before. There are those who proved themselves after, and there are those who have defied the sands of time, with heart and soul able to create sounds that are special. Saga has, and once again with 20/20, proven that they belong in this illustrious and legendary club!

When Saga first exploded onto the Canadian music scene in the early 80's, I was still listening to the music my parents played. When I found them, I just loved the songs. I wasn't musically educated enough back then to appreciate the progressive rock genre. But now I can hear the smouldering layers of guitar and keys, the intricacies of the rhythms, the amazing time keeping of the drums, the precise harmony solos with guitar and keys, the bass that holds it all down, and of course, the distinctive operatic-esque vocal stylings. Saga is more than music you just listen to. You experience it.

20/20 is the first CD featuring the return of Michael Sadler after his "retirement" in 2007.

Ian Crichton elaborates, "Well, he had been off doing his own thing, playing a little bit in Europe with different people and stuff. After 4 years, and being in Saga for all those years it's just like, 'You know what? I miss it' and he called up, we started talking. We were right in the middle of doing this new record, and joined us and off we went"

After Michael left, the band searched for a new singer, which was no small task. Rob Moratti was tapped for 2009's The Human Condition.

Ian - "When Michael left the band we didn't want to stop. We had built this thing over so many years, and yes we lost the voice of the band, but I thought, and I kind of steered it, Michael's voice is so different that it was really impossible to try and find someone to be another Michael. That would have taken me forever, a long time to find someone like that. Foreigner has done it with someone that sounds like Lou Graham, Van Halen made it work, Journey did it, but they found someone that sounds exactly like their singer. Now, with Michael Sadler, he's got such a different voice, I thought to myself: The band's great, why don't we just make a great record. Let's just find a great singer, it would be good if he could sing the older stuff well, and move on; develop the band with a new style, which we did. The album did very well. Rob, bless him, he's a friend and stuff, he hadn't played live in his life really ever. He had always been a studio guy, and I'm throwing him out in front of a headlining audience. It was tough for him to control an audience and do all those things that Michael has been doing for so many years. We went all over the States opening up for everybody - you name it back in the 80's. All the stadiums and stuff, you get thrown to the wolves and you gotta deal with it. We've come up doing that and Michael's great at it. That's where Rob was finding it hard, trying to step up to the lead singer headlining band thing. It lasted a couple years. I love the record, I'm very happy with it."

The sands of time wait for no one. That was no more evident as I arrived early for my interview and caught the last bit of the band's sound check; watching the boys put their glasses on to read their notes, then take them off to play, then on again to read. But to say that advancing age has been detrimental to the band would be completely, totally and irrevocably erroneous. Much like their fans, who withstood the withering heat and humidity to stand in line over an hour before the doors opened, Saga's performance exhibited a determination and forceful taking of their rightful place in their as-yet-unfinished history in musical excellence.

From the moment the curtain opened, till the last note of their second encore tune, fans had their cell phones (which have replaced lighters) in the air. Blasting off with "Anywhere You Want To Go" from the new CD, Michael, Ian, Jim Crichton on bass, Jim Gilmour on keys and Mike Thorne on drums, took us on a musical adventure that spanned the decades of their, and our lives.

When watching a band that has been around for so long, you can't help but be in a somewhat retrospective frame of mind. The title of the new CD alludes to that fact as well.

Ian – "Well, usually when we do records, a lot of the time we'll bring up a title and a subject, like The Human Condition, that was like the last record we did. That was about basically people who won a lot of money and spent it right away. It was on TV this show, The Human Condition, we saw that and we actually named the record after that. It was this whole concept about all that. When you come up with a concept for the lyrics, it's easier to write about what subjects you're going into if you've got a subject matter. This time, it just kind of landed in our laps. We were wondering what to call it, we were writing the songs before the album was called anything of course, and during the last tour Jim Gilmour had corrective eye surgery. His lens had detached. He had to stay in the hospital and we had to run around, we had some hot session guys, even had two guys take his place at one time. We had to change the set up just to finish the tour. The whole idea came to eyes, vision, and Mike came up with 20/20, actually. And 20/20, hindsight is 20/20, anything you could have fixed, or repaired better, your sight is 20/20 meaning you're really focused, it's our 20th album. So it all sort of tied into what is going on with us right now."

So if you're reading all this and saying to yourself, 'I didn't even know that Saga was still around,' I forgive you. I didn't know either. Blame it on the radio powers that be. The band has been recording and touring consistently all this time. Our German readers know all of this. The band has a fiercely loyal fan base there, and across Europe. Saga even played their first reunion show in Germany before coming back home to release the CD. Don't worry kids, they're returning to see you in August, then a big tour in the fall!

Ian says about their German fans, "They are very important to us! They stayed with us all these years. We were big in America, and then with the boy bands, grunge and all this came in, progressive rock just wasn't as popular. We went down in America, but Europe's always stayed, they're into that stuff. It's just like the province of Quebec; they've always been big for us."

So I am hot and sweaty in the club, and hanging on every note. Michael's stated mastery of the crowd was never more evident then when he had the whole crowd singing for him on several occasions. He even got a girls-vs-guys sing-along going. Moving seamlessly from older classics to several cuts off the new CD, trekking along into hour two of the show, you could tell that the crowd still wanted more. We were not disappointed! The band came back out to rousing applause, and finished the show with "Wind Him Up".

I can now cross another wish list band off of my list. If you get the chance, you will be amazed at seeing Saga live. They play Aug 3rd with April Wine and Tom Cochrane in Kenora, Ontario, then Manitoba and off to Quebec, and then Europe, here they come! Check their website for a full listing of shows.

Oh, and go buy their CD, NOW!


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