Saga - Chapters Live

Year of Release: 2005
Label: SPV/Steamhammer
Catalog Number: SPV 80000899 CD
Format: CD
Total Time: 82:14:00

This has more episodes than Star Wars, Lord Of The Rings, and The Matrix combined. Truth be told, the story began in 1978 and it has spread throughout sixteen chapters over the course of eight studio albums. Aside from maybe a mix tape, this album marks the first time you can hear them all in order and in one single place. The bassist and co-conspirator, Jim Crichton, jokes that it's quite possibly the only album that took over twenty-eight years to complete. I haven't compiled the statistics required to confirm such a statement, but something tells me it just might be true.

The concept was inspired by two ideas: The Cold War and an odd article on the aftermath of Albert Einstein. Supposedly, the brain of this mathematical and philosophical genius sat on the shelf of pathologist Thomas S. Harvey. Whether the article holds any truth, and if it does, what the justifications may be, it makes for one truly intriguing premise. As I'm no expert on the band, all this explanation was found in the epilogue of the 36-page booklet that comes included. Without giving too much away, the notes give insight and hints into a twisted tale that ranges from alien abduction to the human flaw that directs our destructive tendencies. While aliens and astronauts are nothing new in Progressive Rock, it's still a unique notion and an atypical prime directive. It kind of reminds me of Henning Pauly's account on Douglas Adams (author of Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy) in "Last Chance To See."

Michael Sadler is the vocalist who fronts this grand extravaganza. On this album, his attitude and intonations are ultra-impressive. When he's not on the road touring with this showy circus act, the ringleader can be seen making the rounds in and about various other circuits. He recently put out a solo album aptly christened Clear, which took his talents in an alternate, more commercial, direction. He's even collaborated with other creative forces such as the aforementioned Henning Pauly by providing crucial parts and useful participation in Chain's most recent production. While this could easily congest the schedule of a busy multi-tasking bumblebee, his efforts don't end there. Sadler's name is supposedly on the sign-up sheet for other future side-projects.

As for the others, Jim Gilmour plays the keyboards like John Beck of It Bites while Steve Negus' drums snap, crackle, and pop with the hydraulic reflexes of War's "Low Rider." Then there's Jim Crichton's bass, which ricochets in the same poignant manner as John Jowitt of IQ. Other times the gears shift as he injects the gas with the same raw power as Dave Meros of Spock's Beard. His brother and guitarist, Ian Crichton, draws from Queen's Brian May and in turn, quite possibly influenced Al Morse, who along with the other king of torts is another affiliate in the grossly successful firm of Spock's Beard. Interestingly enough, Saga's style overlaps in several areas with these tactful trial horses, especially when it comes to the quirky pop progeny they produce. Then again, they whack the mole with the same blunt and bulky edge as bands like Threshold, Dream Theater, Arena, and Enchant. Even so, it never really breaches the contours of metal, but brushes so close to the ledge, it frequently threatens to do so.

The more I listen to the album, the more it becomes apparent their registry lists a group of products that are unusually varied. We get fantastically flamboyant solos on both the keyboards and the guitars, randomly rebounding into dark shadows and arriving inbound out of nowhere. Ian's outcries, in particular, are sweet lucidity when it comes to the unaccompanied escapades he goes on during "Images" (Chapter 1), "Will It Be You?" (Chapter 4), and "Ashes To Ashes" (Chapter 12). It's as if the ostentatious ace from Queen is making an unannounced appearance. In addition, there are many times when a duo or trio of instruments square off in a duel. For example, in the closing quivers of the album, that would be "World's Apart" (Chapter 16), Ian and Jimmy G do a synchronized dance. This fiercely spirited sombo prompts thoughts of an aggravated assault by Al Morse and Ryo Okumoto.

It's amazing that this was linked between separate releases as some of the transitions between the songs are quite seamless. The space that separates "Images" (Chapter 1) from "Don't Be Late" (Chapter 2) is so microscopic it's undetectable to the untrained ear. Afterwards, they don't rest as they do the same into the next song, "It's Time" (Chapter 3). Keeping pace, they don't substitute the picante sauce for a salsa that's mass-produced or manufactured in New York City. Instead, they incorporate an out-of-this-world theme that would actually suit Ralph Hinkley for the role of Greatest American Hero. Likewise, the third track fits snuggly within the catacombs of Styx. From each pioneering piece into the next fruitful frontier, they continue the rush with one golden nugget after another.

We are privileged to partake in a mixed bag of prestigious pieces. None have folds of fat or sport a portly potbelly, but most, if not all, are pickled in salty brine and slathered with pretension. "No Regrets" (Chapter 5) and "Not This Way" (Chapter 10) are classical, madrigal, and balladic in nature. This is proof they aren't fixated on a stringent structure nor do they feel compelled to stick compulsively to a certain design. In the first, I hear a soprano sax that captures the characteristics of Kenny G. Since no such instrument is mentioned in the credits, it's either the result of special effects on the guitar or careful calibration on the keyboards. These poised and polished passages are jewels in an ornate arrangement, hearkening back to the elegant armlets worn by Queen for their Night At Tthe Opera.

On the opposite end of the scale, "Tired World" (Chapter 6) and "Too Much To Lose" (Chapter 7) are less reserved and reticent, bordering on the whimsical and wacky. The former is lubed with a groovy section on bass that's so fluid it's greasy. The keyboards, conversely, are a rainbow of sprinkles that resemble the gaudy intro to Spock's Beard's "Go The Way The Way You Go". The other instruments, however, chug along with the crazy locomotion of a steam engine. Then there's the following chapter, which adorns a symphonic stamp that instantly traces back to their conventional stash.

The most impressive and ambitious aspect of this concept is the storyline. It was meant to be seen with an analytical eye and epic acuity. Yet, when breaking it down into its individual installments, you are left with more than a few exceptional song-oriented stand-outs. My favorite "Ashes To Ashes" (Chapter 11) comes in the second half of these extraterrestrial archives. I really like how the steamy keyboards sizzle and then evaporate from the surface. Lost in space, they scream for rescue with the high-pitch shrill of a siren. It's a distress call that is sure to cause a ticklish sensation. Rewinding the ribbon, "Will It Be You" (Chapter 4) proves to be a highlight early on. In its many breakout sections, it provides flash floods and flares as it flickers on and off with a strobe light of sparklers and streamers. With each bridge is crosses, it's like Flash Gordon exploring Planet Mongo, while in his quest, encountering many weird and outlandish scenarios. They flaunt their abilities, strut their stuff, and function in a form so fit it would draw the attention of Charles Darwin. Their exploits are so imperious in this piece; they're meant solely for the princes of the universe and nobody else.

It seems they not only deliberated to great length on the melody and the lyrics, but also considered the chronology of the pieces. Each one lines up side-by-side like jagged fragments flung from a jigsaw. Many themes are reprised, which is remarkable when you consider how these songs have spanned the generations (for the record, none of them were on Generation 13). The instrumental oboe section in "Images" (Chapter 1) shows up in the vocal verses of "World's Apart" (Chapter 16). Before the repeated section becomes stagnant, it trickles into a nebulous interlude on the piano. Also, "Don't Be Late" (Chapter 2) and "Remember When?" (Chapter 9) parallel each other when pampering themselves with the powder and putting on the make-up to the chorus. Plus, to put a spin on the singing, when Michael breaks away from leading the steering committee, Jim Gilmour provides his grizzly voice. In "Don't Be Late" (Chapter 2) and No Stranger (Chapter 8), he drowns these ditties in buckets of weighty words thus pouring on the extra gravy and giving the music much added gravity.

While "You Know I Know" (Chapter 12), "Uncle Albert's Eyes" (Chapter 13), "Streets Of Gold" (Chapter 14), and "We'll Meet Again" (Chapter 15) have yet to be mentioned, these gelatinous gems are so salacious; they squirt with an abundance of sugar-coated sap. Liquid spurts and spews from the fountain in jet streams of mouth-watering fluid. It's the same response one usually gets when biting down on one of those juicy candy wax conduits.

They've put a lot of verve into these classic cuts. They keep the energy flowing as they warp through hyperspace, taking us from "Images" to "World's Apart". The great space coaster takes us far, covering a distance that spans two discs. I may have jumped around in my analysis, but it's important to point out that the puzzle pieces were never presented in any particular order. There wasn't really any rhyme or reason to how they were released. However, they each stand on their own and provide the factors needed to fill in the fuzzy logic. Once you understand the concept, all the graphics they've used over the years will come quickly into focus. While it will become immediately evident that those insect-like beings are from outer space, you will be made aware they're not annoying pests or unwelcome invaders. As a whole, this live performance reads like a novel as we take this cutting-edge craft from one chapter to the next. It might be one small step for music, but it's a giant leap for a band.

Disc One: Chapter 1 - Images / Chapter 2 - Don't Be Late / Chapter 3 - It's Time / Chapter 4 - Will It Be You? / Chapter 5 - No Regrets / Chapter 6 - Tired World / Chapter 7 - Too Much To Lose / Chapter 8 - No Stranger

Disc Two: Chapter 9 - Remember When / Chapter 10 - Not This Way / Chapter 11 - Ashes To Ashes / Chapter 12 - You Know I Know / Chapter 13 - Uncle Albert's Eyes / Chapter 14 - Streets Of Gold / Chapter 15 - We'll Meet Again / Chapter 16 - Worlds Apart

Michael Sadler - vocals
Ian Crichton - guitar
Jim Crichton - keyboards
Jim Gilmour - bass
Christian Simpson - drums

Images At Twilight (1979/1987/2002)
Silent Knight (1980/2002)
Worlds Apart (1981/2003)
In Transit (1982)
Heads Or Tails (1983)
Behavior (1985/2002)
Wildest Dreams (1987)
The Beginner's Guide to Throwing Shapes (1989)
The Security of Illusion (1993/2003)
Defining Moments (1994)
Steel Umbrellas (1995/2002)
Gen 13 (1996)
Pleasure and The Pain (1997)
Detour - Live (1998)
Full Circle (1999)
House Of Cards (2001)
Marathon (2003)
Network (2004)
Chapters Live (2005)
Trust (2006)
Remember When: The Very Best Of Saga (2006)
Worlds Apart Revisited (2007)
10,000 Days (2007)
The Human Condition (2009)

Silhouette (DVD) (2003)
All Areas: Live In Bonn 2002 (CD/DVD) (2004)
Worlds Apart Revisited (CD/DVD) (2006/2007)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin CA

Added: January 20th 2006
Reviewer: Joshua "Prawg Dawg" Turner
Artist website:
Hits: 994
Language: english


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