Over the course of a career that's spanned five decades, Saga have established themselves as one of Canada's most successful progressive rock bands, and have found a loyal, international audience for their ambitious music. Emerging in the late 1970s, the band broke big in 1981 with the release of their fourth full-length effort, World's Apart, which featured the hits "On the Loose" and "Wind Him Up." Despite enduring myriad lineup changes over the decades, Saga maintained a huge European fan base, specifically in Germany, and managed to release over 20 albums (and sell over eight million of them), before ceasing operations in 2018. Saga was formed in Oakville, Ontario by bassist and keyboard player Jim Crichton, and singer, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist Michael Sadler; Crichton had been a latter-day member of Toronto rockers Fludd and when he struck up a friendship with Sadler, they began writing songs. Crichton recruited fellow Fludd alumni Steve Negus (drums) and Peter Rochon (keyboards), as well as his brother, Ian Crichton (lead guitar), and the first lineup of Saga was complete, with the new band making their live debut in June 1977. From the outset, Saga was committed to playing original material their own way, and with close to 30 songs already in their repertoire, Saga went into the studio to record an album six months after their first show. The self-financed project was picked up for release by the Canadian branch of Polygram Records, and Saga's self-titled debut was released in June 1978; the album also featured two songs in what would become known as "The Chapters," a non-sequential song cycle which formed a futuristic narrative spread out over several albums. The album sold well in Canada and did surprisingly well in Germany as an import item, and Polygram signed the band to an international deal. For Saga's second album, 1979's Images at Twilight (which spawned a minor hit single in Canada, "It's Time"), Greg Chadd replaced Peter Rochon, and on 1980's Silent Knight, Chadd was out and Jim Gilmour became the band's new keyboard player. Silent Knight sold well in Canada, and Saga's next effort, 1981's World's Apart, would be their international breakthrough; produced by Rupert Hine, the album featured a major hit single in "On the Loose" ("Wind Him Up" also reached the Top 40), and earned platinum sales awards in Canada and the United States; the tour that followed produced a live album, 1982's In Transit. 1983's Heads or Tales also sold well, if not as well as its predecessor, and featured another successful single, "The Flyer," while 1985's Behaviour included the hit "What Do I Know." However, Behaviour was Saga's last album with Hine as producer, and their next effort, 1987's Wildest Dreams, found Gilmour out of the band and Steve Negus replaced by session drummer Curt Cress. Gilmour and Negus formed the Gilmour-Negus Project, and Saga went on hiatus following 1989's The Beginner's Guide to Throwing Shapes, which was a commercial disappointment. In 1993, Saga returned with their classic lineup -- Sadler, the Crichton Brothers, Gilmour, and Negus -- for a new album, The Security of Illusion. The album marked a return to the more purely progressive style of Saga's early work, and while it didn't fare well on the Canadian or American sales charts, it sold well in Germany, Sweden, and Scandinavia, where the group had developed a passionate following, and from this point onward, Saga would focus most of their touring and promotional efforts on these markets as well as their native Canada. In 1994, Saga wrote and recorded musical scores for a short-lived American television series, Cobra; this music would become the basis of the 1994 album Steel Umbrellas. 1995's Generation 13 was that prog rock staple, a concept album, and in 1997, as the band celebrated their 20th anniversary, they released two discs -- a new studio set, Pleasure and the Pain, and an archival release, Phase 1, which collected demo recordings of the songs from Images at Twilight. In 2001, the band scored an unexpected hit single in Canada with "Money Talks," an acoustic-flavored tune from the album House of Cards. In 2003, Steve Negus left Saga, and Christian Simpson became the band's new drummer, making his recorded debut on the 2004 album Network. Simpson only lasted two years with Saga, and in 2005, Brian Doerner, formerly of Helix, took over behind the drums. More surprising for many fans was the announcement by Michael Sadler that he would leave Saga at the end of 2007, citing the stress of traveling and a desire to spend more time with his family. Rob Moratti, ex-Final Frontier, was tapped to become Saga's new singer, and he appeared on their 2009 album The Human Condition. In 2011, Saga announced that Michael Sadler had rejoined the lineup, followed by major tours of Europe and Scandinavia. They released a live album from a Munich concert in 2013, and a full-length studio album, Sagacity, in 2014. In 2017 Sadler announced that the band would be calling it quits upon the conclusion of their Final Chapter farewell tour. A concert album and film, So Good So Far -- Live at Rock of Ages, was issued in September, 2018, followed by a pair of final performances in Montreal and Quebec City, later that December. ~ Mark Deming
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Rock - Released July 13, 2012 | InsideOutMusic
Saga have had their share of lineup changes along the way; one of the most talked about came in late 2007, when longtime frontman Michael Sadler left the band (Rob Moratti was hired as a replacement the following year). Sadler had been Saga's lead singer from the beginning; he was around back when the Canadian prog rockers were still calling themselves Pockets (which was also the name of an Earth, Wind & Fire-ish soul-funk band that recorded three LPs for Columbia in the late '70s), and his departure came after no less than 30 years with the band. Documenting a 2007 show in Munich, Germany, Contact: Live in Munich was recorded/filmed during Sadler's final tour with Saga. InsideOut/SPV released Contact in three different formats: a two-DVD set, a two-CD set, and a limited-edition two-DVD/two-CD set. The Munich performances are heard in all three formats, although the two-CD version lacks some bonus tracks from an appearance in Mannheim, Germany. Saga's 2007 lineup -- Sadler, guitarist Ian Crichton, bassist Jim Crichton, keyboardist Jim Gilmour, and drummer Chris Sutherland -- is in good form during a concert that offers a lot of early favorites (including "Careful Where You Step," "Wind Him Up," "Scratching the Surface," "On the Loose," "Humble Stance," and "The Flyer"), but also contains some more recent material such as "Book of Lies" and "Can't You See Me Now" from 2007's 10,000 Days (which turned to be Sadler's final studio album with Saga). Contact: Live in Munich obviously isn't designed with the casual listener in mind; casual listeners would be better off sticking to collections of early Saga recordings. But longtime followers will find it to be an enjoyable document of Sadler's final tour with Saga. ~ Alex Henderson
Rock - Released July 13, 2012 | InsideOutMusic
Although they'll forever be best known Stateside for one of the most action-packed videos to ever grace the MTV airwaves -- the jailbreak-themed "On the Loose" -- Canada's prog-popsters Saga have carved a pretty comfortable niche for themselves in other parts of the world, where their albums continued to sell steadily over the years. And their last album to feature longtime singer, Michael Sadler, 2007's 10,000 Days (not to be confused with the Tool album of the same time), shows that the group was still able to offer albums on par with their best work right up until the end. While it features a more modern production, the songwriting and much of the instrumentation is straight out of 1982 (in fact, in many cases, 10,000 Days could have easily been issued as the follow-up to their 1981 hit album, Worlds Apart). Sadler is in fine voice throughout (which makes his exit from the band a bit puzzling -- it isn't like he is having a hard time hitting the high notes), while the group's secret/underrated weapon remains guitarist Ian Crichton. An impressively consistent album -- especially the opening one-two-three punch of "Lifeline," "Book of Lies," and "Sideways" -- the Sadler-led version of Saga certainly went out on a high note with 10,000 Days. ~ Greg Prato
Rock - Released July 13, 2012 | InsideOutMusic
With a career spanning 30 years, Saga remain something of a torchbearer for the old-school progressive rock scene, a scene that they left at least partially behind for a while but rejoined with renewed vigor and with some tricks learned in the melodic rock trenches. They're not going to win any new converts with Trust; those who shy away from Michael Sadler's bombastic vibrato will still do so when he launches into "That's as Far as I'll Go," and those who find the band's more extravagant flights of musical fancy overly precious won't be won over by "Back to the Shadows" (with its synthesized horn fanfares) or the somewhat overly earnest "My Friend," either. And no one should be willing to put up with the bad Peter Gabriel impersonation that is "Time to Play," a song that is not only embarrassingly derivative but also unforgivably snarky in its putdowns of others' music. However, fans will be sure to enjoy the nice counterpoint between frenetic guitar and keyboard lines and the slower, more languid sung vocals and chord progression on "I'm OK" and the bracing "Ice in the Rain." Lyrics are a problem from time to time (couplets about going back to school and learning the rules are not normally acceptable from songwriters in their forties), but really, Saga are about great sound, and you get plenty of that here. ~ Rick Anderson
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