Michael Sadler - Clear

(2004, 56:53, PRIVATE RELEASE)

Most of 'us' will know Michael Sadler as Saga's frontman. From doing all kinds of different jobs in the seventies, he eventually teamed up with Jim Crichton with whom he has a relationship that stood the test of time up to this very day: over 27 years, longer than most marriages! Now, after almost 10 years since he started composing for his first 'real' solo-album, the day of release has finally come. Unintentionally rather bad timing perhaps, one might say, because 'his' band SAGA also released a new album in September '04 ("Network"). Nevertheless there' s more than one good reason to take notice of this album too, also because it is the replacement more or less to the prelude of this album, "Back Where You Belong" (1998), which was available only a limited period of time and solely through the internet. Slightly different versions of six out of the eight original songs on "Back Where You Belong" ended up on "Clear". Most of these songs show distinct similarities with a more pop-music orientated Saga like some of the songs on "Steel Umbrellas" ("Lonely" and "One Minute" for instance) or even "Behaviour" and "Wildest Dreams". No powerful guitar-riffs but a more gentle sound from Lino (a versatile guitarist playing techno-rock just as easily as ambient music) and the keyboards are used for orchestrations and are only predominant as sequencers in tracks like "Whos' Sorry Now", "Too Much Time On My Hands", "I'm Not The Enemy" and "Surrender Your Heart". The drums by Chris Frazier (Edgar Winter, Steve Vai) do sound very well indeed. They are more subtle and not as pounding as if Steve Negus would have been sitting behind the drum-kit. I incline to categorize this album, with a! total of twelve songs, as symphonic pop, showing resemblances with the synthi-pop from the eighties, rather than 'progressive' or symphonic rock. "Clear" has got a similar kind of warm and mellow atmosphere to me as for instance the Rudy's Journey album, a very nice offering indeed. It's not shocking though, in the sense of phenomenal originality or a sudden change of musical direction. Surely it would have been an illogical surprise if one of SAGA's main composers would have come up with something 'completely different'! Just listen to the MP3's available on Michael's website (currently from "Back Where You Belong" and presumably from "Clear" in the near future) and appreciate the beauty of a ballad like "Can't Let Go". This album is a very personal statement from the voice of one of Canada's most renowned bands from the symphonic rock scene. Jim Crichton did some final touches on the mix. For the time being, one can order "Clear" through Michael's website: www.michaelsadler.com or directly at www.progrockrecords.com

Menno von Brucken Fock
(Background Magazine & iO Pages, Magazines on Progressive Rock, Netherlands)

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