It seems odd that 1999's Full Circle has been reissued so suddenly, and with no extras; at first glance, all that differs from the original is a stapled booklet, versus the original foldout which bore printed lyrics on one side, and a large-scale reproduction of Fabian Kraus's excellent album cover art of the insect warrior. The rear design looks virtually identical save for updated copyright information and slightly different typesetting. But there is one more catch: all of the reissues contain one booklet-sized coupon—collect ten coupons and send them to SPV North America, and receive a free limited collector's box of Saga CDs (how many are included is not known, as these boxed sets probably have yet to be arranged).
Returning to the album, Full Circle's appearance in 1999 wiped clean the memory of 1997's dismal "contractual obligation" offering Pleasure and the Pain (which drummer Steve Negus was notably absent from). Full Circle heralds the return of the Chapters, bassist/synthesist/songwriter Jim Crichton's narrative about the brain of Albert Einstein retrieval & transference of Albert Einstein's brain by an alien intelligence aware of Earth's self-destructive folly; in "his" new form, Einstein can attempt to undo Mankind's own undoing. "Remember When (Chapter 9)" opens with the quarter-note pulse of synthbass and the ephemeral trim of ghostly synthetic strings. Melodic symphonic rock—as Saga does it best, along with fellow Canadians, Rush—is what this song entails, from lead singer Michael Sadler's majestic pipes, to Ian Crichton's wrenching guitar solos, and Jim Gilmour's stealthy yet meaty keyboard work.
"The One" follows up with an equally great hook and another of Ian Crichton's patently space-metal guitar leads. "Follow Me" is a lullaby in the form of a ballad, complete with children's choir; the inclusion of the choir has drawn much fire from Sagarians, but the effect works perfectly, as the choir is not overloud. In fact, Full Circle benefits from pristine yet warm production, similarly to [their conceptual masterpiece] Generation 13 (1995). Time for the thirteenth Chapter, "Uncle Albert's Eyes." [Ian] Crichton & Gilmour's guitar-keyboard tandem (check the hi-speed parts in the break before the final chorus) counter Sadler's poignant vocal: All alone thinking about the resurrection/Don't you think it's time that everyone knew/We read the news but we all forgot/Now the Garden of Eden was a parking lot/I think it's time for a new direction.
A ballad ("Home") and two moderate rockers ("Don't Say Goodbye" and "Time Bomb") encompass the middle of the album. Punctuated by the beefy bass and fuzzed guitar sounds of the Brothers Crichton, "Time Bomb" is yet another vehicle which demonstrates what a versatile performer Saga has in Michael Sadler—he continues to sing circles around many vocalists who feel they must strain in order to express themselves properly.
The final trio of tunes cement the album's solidarity in the band's repertoire: we have the tenth Chapter, "Not This Way," followed by "Night To Remember," a steadfast rocker which became a show-opener (and a tune that may be lyrically connected to "God Knows" from 2001's House Of Cards). The instrumental section which begins at 3:12 with a quirky synth line, followed by Ian's six-string manipulations, may even remind one of Gamma (the band led by Ronnie Montrose, for those not in the know). Sagarians know that keyboardist Jim Gilmour is a lead vocalist in his own right, and "Not This Way" features Jim's refined style for the first time in some time! J.G. sang "Scratching The Surface" from 1982's Heads Or Tales, a now-classic number. A bedding of delicate acoustic guitar & smooth synth tones frames Gilmour's ghostly vox in this very somber track (which is not the only one, here). Full Circle concludes with "Goodbye," a percussionless document of a painful separation which can only be heard, rather than referenced.
Impeccable songwriting, efficient (not flashy) performances, and Jim Crichton's perseverance in the producer's seat yielded one hell of an album; this is doubtlessly one of Saga's finest latter-day recordings, one which even finds its way into Saga's Top Five Albums lists…including that of yours truly.