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Saga: Live In Hamburg

Live In Hamburg came into being in an unusual fashion, a selection of the material revealed here first seeing the light of day as bonus live tracks as part of a Saga studio album reissues campaign. These partial introductions were then followed by a limited release of Live In Hamburg in 2016, with the full two disc show brought together again. And it is that full version of this 2015 set which earMUSIC are now giving a wider reissue.

Whatever the convoluted path that brings us this sixteen track show, Live In Hamburg is one of the more interesting live releases from Canadian prog masters Saga, featuring a less expected song selection and a rawer sound than you might expect. Hence we get unanticipated versions of “Wildest Dreams”, “Once Upon A Time” and “Someone Should” rubbing shoulders with stone cold classics “On The Loose”, “Don’t Be Late” and “Careful Where You Step”. Having shocked the prog world by leaving Saga in 2007, vocalist Michael Sadler returned in 2011, his replacement Rob Moratti doing a sterling job in his place, without ever really sounding like the voice of Saga. The band recorded two albums after Sadler’s reappearance and “On My Way”, from 2014’s Sagacity, proves a welcome addition, sounding positively vibrant in this setting.

Previous Saga live albums have suffered from either being a little too keyboard heavy, or mixing them right out of the sound entirely, but here the rawer mix actually finds the perfect mid-point between Ian Crichton’s guitar and Jim Gilmour’s keys-work. “Humble Stance” being an excellent example of how when they were combined in this way, this pair were about as good as it got. The bass contribution from Jim Crichton is sparkling throughout, while drummer Mike Thorne gets a chance to shine during a slightly too long solo slot in the middle of “Don’t Be Late”; although he is a hell of a player. If there’s another slight grumble, it’s that Sadler often lets the crowd sing the better known chorus lines rather than handling them himself and while I’m sure this was magnificent fun while standing in the audience, on disc it does feel like a wasted opportunity. Especially with the crowd neither particularly high in the mix, nor all that enthusiastic with their singing. Still, these are minor quibbles and as someone who was never lucky enough to actually experience Saga in the flesh before they split earlier in 2018, this live document arguably feels more like ‘being there’ than any other.

Although Saga had their ups and downs over the years, with numerous different configurations and an ever changing style and approach (even if they all sounded remarkably like no one other than Saga), it’s still difficult to believe that these Canadian prog experts won’t be making any more fantastic new music. Live In Hamburg illustrates perfectly just how much we’re missing out in their absence, and just how fantastically brilliant they always were.

Track Listing
1. (Goodbye) Once Upon A Time
2. Someone Should
3. You're Not Alone
4. Hot To Cold
5. On The Loose
6. On My Way
7. Scratching The Surface
8. Time To Go
9. I'll Be

1. Don't Be Late
2. Wildest Dreams
3. Ice Nice
4. Humble Stance
5. Careful Where You Step
6. Wind Him Up
7. The Flyer

Added: May 18th 2018
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: earMUSIC
Hits: 1465
Language: english

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