Saga - House Of Cards

Year of Release: 2001
Label: SPV/Steamhammer
Catalog Number: SPV 085-72162
Format: CD
Total Time: 49:54:00

I first discovered Saga via an article in a magazine that listed 10 prog albums to seek out. The Saga entry on that list was In Transit. From that time, I purchased their back catalogue and kept up with their current releases through Full Circle. When I learned of House Of Cards, I was excited, determined to not let the opportunity to purchase this CD pass me by. But as it was initially a Germany only release... anyway, fast forward a bit and much to my surprise and pleasure, this CD had arrived on my doorstep (figuratively) -- seemingly the PR firm handling the release had read my mind.

Unfortunately, that was months ago. I have been listening to the CD off and on over the past couple of weeks, and the thought that keeps striking me is that this is undeniably Saga. And especially with a track like "The Runaway," it's classic Saga ... it's so very 80s sounding stylistically. Here's some irony for you. The theme of the song is the proliferation of the Internet, how it has become not only an accepted part of our lives (though not quite as universal as 'fridge, stove, ... phone, etc.) but in the case of some, the sole part of our lives. And yes, I see a little bit of myself in there. And yes, the Internet has been a "household" name since late 1996, but Saga are very much on the pulse of the communication medium, name checking a still-in-its-infancy technology XML (its basis aside). Without it being heavy handed and preachy, it even addresses the whole music piracy issue with a few simple lines -- "Can't you see / It doesn't matter where you are / Get it free / I do it with a CDR." I will respect Saga's restraint and expounded upon that topic -- at least not here. The irony? The topic is 21 Century the music 20th ... and isn't interesting that only year separates now from then, and yet we already expect our music to maybe sound a little different. But then again, it's not like we're suddenly wearing silver lamé geometric space suits and flitting around in air-cars and jetting off for weekend getaways to the moon. I mean, we're still 20th century people even if we now say it's the 21st.

Anyway ... if Gen 13 was Saga taking chances, everything else after was returning to formula. While the jury's still out for me on Gen 13, there is a fraction of disappointment that Saga have returned to the sound that worked for them. House Of Cards sounds great, has that instant appeal that gives the album repeat-plays ability, but there's nothing that makes you stop in your tracks and say, "This is Saga?" and be pleasantly surprised. So, in strict dictionary terms, Saga have not progressed. Cynics will posit that the band have regressed by falling back on that "tried-and-true" formula. Or maybe it's just me. Maybe in the years that I have been listening to stuff outside of this pocket of the prog spectrum, I've become jaded towards music that is easygoing AOR.

"That's How We Like It" is another track that, lyrically, seems very relevant even now. House Of Cards was released in Europe earlier this year, so it predates the current conflict in Afghanistan, but what is true now, was true in 2000 and has been true for the past 10 years. The theme here is about how war has become a "spectator sport" -- we are glued to our sets 24/7. Though I wonder if this isn't true more so of those living in North America than in other parts of the world. I can only speak from my experience here in the US, of course, just as Saga can only from their Canadian perspective, but...darn if they aren't right. Again, I see myself there, sort of. Less so than in "The Runaway," but I do find I watch a lot of MSNBC right now, and watched a lot of CNN in 1991.

The songs on House Of Cards aren't all cynical, as "Once In Lifetime" has a positive message (or seemingly so) - of someone triumphing over obstacles and doubts. "Always There" is a love song, and refreshingly free of sugary sweetness, though the lyrics do seem to echo a great many other songs (maybe that's who the one loved is -- music).

I've decided that I'm afraid to admit I like this, and yet, I do like it. It's classic Saga, as I said. There are no surprises, and yet, somehow, that's reassuring. Here is the warm, comfortable place one can find, and even if it's critical and cynical, it's not abrasive, abusive, or nasty. There's nothing here that the band will regret years later, the music is solid, the sound is great... yes, I can certainly recommend it to Saga fans.

God Knows (5:29) / The Runaway (5:35) / Always There (3:52) / Ashes To Ashes (Chapter 11) (5:05) / Once In A Lifetime (4:21) / Only Human (4:20) / That's How We Like It (4:49) / Watching The Clock (Instrumental) (1:39) / We'll Meet Again (Chapter 15) (5:58) / Money Talks (4:07) / House Of Cards (4:20)

Michael Sadler - vocals
Jim Critchon - bass
Ian Critchon - guitars
Jim Gilmour - keyboards, vocals
Steve Negus - 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: December 21st 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 730
Language: english


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