After a brief break, Michael Sadler is rightly back fronting the Canadian proggers, and it’s made a huge difference. It’s fair to say that the band and Sadler needed a break from one another, and his return – after an absence of about three years – has re-energised everyone in the current line-up, which is close to the full classic incarnation responsible for some fine music in the early 80s. The result is an album that reflects what Saga have always been good at – juxtaposing melody and intricacy in a unique and exciting manner – yet it also takes them firmly into the modern era.
With their original singer back in the story, the Saga continue...
Sadler’s unmistakable tones are clear from opening track Six Feet Under, which has style and a sense of refreshing agitation. The sense of power and bravura here set the tone for what follows, as Saga stretch themselves in a way we’ve probably not heard from them in over a decade.
While Anywhere You Wanna Go allows Ian Crichton to display some of his guitar chops and verve, Spin it Again offers the chance for the five musicians to prove how well they work together, with a mix of synthesizer, keyboards, guitar and vocals that has real sharpness, yet also a sense of tranquility. It’s this ability to mix and match seemingly disparate approaches which has always coloured Saga’s work at its finest, and here they actively this balance again with the sort of confidence and ease that was their trademark in their heyday.
There are one or two moments when things wobble a little – for instance, One Of These Days comes across as being a little confused – but for the most part this is Saga right back on track and making music which we want to hear from the Maple Leafers. But, it’s also something a little more. The comfortable thing for them would have been simply to become nostalgic and merely to rehash past glories. That’s never been the Saga way, though. Always looking to push the envelope, they offer enough here to underline the fact that they’re moving forward, determined to take things to a new level. You get the feel for what is possible on Till The Well Runs Dry, which has almost eerie movie soundtrack vibe.
If this is to be the way Saga progress over the next couple of releases, then they will come up with a classic album to rival anything they’ve done so far. In the meantime, 20/20 is a positive step forward for musicians who might know each other inside out, but are clearly revelling in working together again.