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Saga: Symmetry

Haven’t Saga, well, retired? That was the story anyway, 2017 meant to be the year they slopped off into slippers and tartan blankets and yet, here they are once more, this time with some Symmetry. Obviously, what with this being Saga, we all know what to expect - fiery flowing keyboards, dextrous guitar forays and tight vocal interplays all wrapped up in perfectly pompous prog majesty - but nothing could be further from the truth, Sadler, Crichton and Gilmour, flanked these days by Mike Thorne on drums and Dusty Chesterfield on bass and additional keys, flicking the switch to ‘off’ and going acoustic.

So… acoustic prog, how does that work then? Well, when you basically strip some of the band’s very own favourite songs right down to the ground and then completely restructure them, the answer is actually, rather well. There’s violin, hand percussion and all matter of other bells and whistles (OK, acoustic instrumentation, there are no actual bells or whistles) utilised to turn most of these songs on their heads. So much so that some - opener “Pitchman” for example - are initially difficult to place, even though I’ve listened to the original song countless times over the years. In all fairness, you really do have to doff your cap to the band here, no easy options taken and no quick fixes accepted as some songs are even spliced and then conjoined. Instead, from the almost country plucking of “Always There” to the, in places, baroque meets Middle Eastern swirl, via some classical guitar of the band’s calling card, “Wind Him Up”, all of these tracks have been completely rearranged and reinterpreted. That this process hasn’t either resulted in a complete wreckage of entangled fan favourites or flaccid second rate copies really has to be applauded.

And yet - and you knew it was coming - the question that nearly all of these type of albums raise is never far away. Will I choose to listen to any of these versions over the originals, or does it merely inspire me to visit old albums and old times? In truth, I’d have to say that it’s the latter option that I’ve been left with here. Symmetry is impressive, it should be applauded and I do like it. Saga have done an incredible job of breaking some of their best songs down and offering them up in a totally new light, and yet, once the novelty has worn off, will I listen to it again? Probably not, and while I’m grateful for any new Saga at all, I’m left more impressed than I am involved with this release. I feel churlish, because this IS a good album and yet I still, even weeks and many listens down the line, simply can’t get excited by it.

Track Listing
1. Pitchman
2. The Perfect Time to Feel Better
3. Images - Chapter One
4. Always There
5. Prelude #1
6. Say Goodbye to Hollywood
7. Prelude #2
8. The Right Side of the Other Hall
9. La Foret Harmonieuse
10. Wind Him Up
11. No Regrets - Chapter 5
12. Tired World - Chapter 6

Added: April 16th 2021
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Saga online
Hits: 776
Language: english

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