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Saga: Silhouette (DVD)

It's heeeeeere! Two birds, one stone. Silhouette is Saga's first official video document and DVD (and it's region-free, thank goodness). All ten promo videos, an hour of live performances (seven from one '83 show), and forty minutes of interviews for a total of two hours' viewing time. Slated for release last November, the DVD got pushed back along with the new album, Marathon. Being one of Canada's best exports, times have been good for Saga's fans since 1998, when a new live offering appeared. Called DeTours, the double-disc set focused on material from their first five years on record (read: proggiest), with only several songs from more recent years thrown in. The next two studio albums marked a serious return to form — Full Circle (1999) and House Of Cards (2001), which have won the band many new fans, are full of the verve and ingenuity their first five albums from 1978-1982 are known for. [Marathon's release will coincide with the next set of four remasters — Worlds Apart, In Transit, Heads Or Tales and The Security Of Illusion — details can be found at Saga-World.Com.]

Silhouette opens with two videos for their 3rd album, Silent Knight. "Don't Be Late" was the very first video they ever shot; it remains my favorite promo of theirs, a purely nostalgic choice. "Careful Where You Step," the second video, was shot on the same stage but incorporates 70s-style psychedelic "blurring." "Don't Be Late" is the better of the two – more individual member shots, more a resemblance to a live performance, and better angles and editing. Video #3 is the biggest-selling, most well-known single they ever had, "On The Loose" (from the fourth album Worlds Apart). It adheres to the good ol' 80s "theme" video recipe; footage which captures (no pun intended) vocalist Michael Sadler as a fugitive on the run bleeds into footage of the band performing in a club, down to the old "cops-entering-the-club-as-the-band-plays" gimmick. "Wind Him Up" was also a huge single from WA—this version is a 'mix' which incorporates live & promo archival footage & photography into the storyline of a compulsive gambler, portrayed by Sadler (the other band members also appear in character). Two spritely rockers with great guitar leads by Ian Crichton, "Catwalk" and "The Flyer" (both from Heads Or Tales) were obvious choices for singles/videos. Visually, they're similar to the two videos before them. 1985's Behaviour was a rather commercial turn for Saga; a single video was produced, for "What Do I Know." Slick and to-the-point, the video parallels the song, which was nothing more than a slice of adult-contemporary pop; this must be seen to be, er, appreciated (tongue-in-cheek placard, please). The last two videos are from House Of Cards, surprisingly enough; no promo-videos were produced between 1985 and 2000, apparently (quite a stretch). "Always There" & "Money Talks" are ballads of differing tempo, topic and tone; the latter was the album's first single, and enjoyed semi-regular rotation on Canada's Much Music channel (you'd never see something like this on eMpTyVee).

The seven-song-long live sequence from the Heads Or Tales tour is what this reviewer was waiting for (well, I cheated, and watched this section before the videos). These 45 minutes are the DVD's best, and will demonstrate what a cool show Saga put on. A slanted X-shaped ramp divides the stage into three levels: Steve Negus' electronic drumkit and Michael Sadler's and [bassist] Jim Crichton's keyboard rigs occupy the top level; at mid-level, Jim Gilmour's setup of seven all-analog synths rests at stage left, across from Steve Negus' acoustic drumkit; guitarist Ian Crichton remains on the stage floor at all times, while Sadler moves between synths and the mike stand at stage center (he also plays bass, often while Jim C. plays his synths). These seven tracks are seven of Saga's best, with generous camera-eye devotion towards nimble-fingered keyboard runs—check out Gilmour's tasty solo on the [portable] Moog Liberation during "Ice Nice." Moog was definitely the flavor of the time, with Minimoogs, Memorymoogs, Multimoogs, Polymoogs, and at least one Micromoog (look for it at Negus' side). Gilmour, who with his vocal ability turned out to be a perfect & better replacement for Peter Rochon, sings the lead vocal for "Scratching The Surface" at Sadler's setup while the frontman is offstage for the duration. Gilmour's hands have minds of their own on "Don't Be Late," as his left hand never lets up on the sequence-like arpeggio while his right hand plays an accompaniment (all the while he faces the audience, not his keyboards, which are assembled in a standard "U" config). Too bad it had to end and give way to three bootleg live videos of "It's Time," "Humble Stance," and "Intermission"—all filmed with a single cam from the audience. The audio is cleaned-up, but these clips interrupt the groove begun with the previous segment. This is the only complaint I have with regard to the contents of this entire DVD.

The Interviews section is by no means less entertaining. The band's career, their popularity (and lack of) in certain countries, tours, a years-long rift between certain members, and their gear are all discussed in moderate-to-great detail. Screen insets play videos for "Once In A Lifetime" and the excellent "We'll Meet Again (Live)" at the start and halfway through (a nice touch). We're even taken on a brief tour of Jim Crichton's Sound Image Studios in Los Angeles, California. Expect some amusing if not hilarious anecdotes (the funniest is saved for all the way at the end, after credits have rolled, during an outtakes montage).

For a single-disc DVD, Silhouette packs a lot of goodies (and no coal) into the burlap sack. Don't drop the curtain just yet: a DVD of Saga's 25th Anniversary concert in Bonn, Germany will be out later in the year. I'd better end this review. "It's Time" to watch this DVD again.

Added: January 26th 2003
Reviewer: Elias Granillo
Related Link: Saga World
Hits: 11348
Language: english

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