Security Of Illusion is one of the latest group of remasters celebrating Saga’s twenty-five year recording career, originally brought forth in 1991. Following five years in their own group, the Gilmour-Negus Project (GNP), keyboardist Jim Gilmour and original drummer Steve Negus returned to the fold with this recording, restoring the 1980-1985 lineup, which continues to this day. The booklet also contains some great stage pix of the lineup dating from the early 1980’s, including one of Jim Gilmour playing his [portable] Moog Liberation. [And once again, each remaster issued by SPV contains a coupon which can be redeemed for a collector’s box set of Saga CDs, provided you have at least ten coupons.]
A bit heavier than its predecessors Wildest Dreams (their most commercial effort) and Beginner’s Guide To Throwing Shapes, The Security Of Illusion flexes some sonic muscle that Saga lacked during the late 1980’s. The ever-resilient Michael Sadler’s pipes practically sound great in any scheme, any scenario—it’s almost unfair to many other singers. In a band featuring two keyboardists, it's not uncommon for a guitarist to fight to be heard, but Ian Crichton punched a hole or two in the iso-booth: his guitar parts have almost never sounded better, in terms of sonic dynamics—every lick has punch, every chord has bite, the tone is robust yet clear while dodging sterility. “Mind Over Matter” doesn’t sound like typical Saga: Ian’s guitar antics and the rather ordinary-sounding chorus skirt the fringes of bar band rock & roll, and dangerously so.
“Once Is Never Enough” is a nudge back in the right direction; the instrumental bridges & bits are more interesting, and Negus lets go with some nice, economical fills during the choruses. What’s a Saga album without a slow ballad anchored by Sadler’s voice? “Alone Again Tonight” serves that quota. Gilmour’s digilog keys provide the intro for “I’ll Leave It In Your Hands,” which, again, doesn’t seem to differentiate in purpose from “Mind Over Matter,” while still being a better track. Ian switches to acoustic guitar for the celebrated title track, Security’s one true gem. The superb vocal melody and guitar work equally well sans percussive & synthetic accompaniment, which explains the addition of an all-acoustic version tacked on as a bonus track. Almost worth the price of admission, alone!
Ian’s guitar tone extends itself towards a raunchy plateau on “Stand Up”—were it consistent throughout the entire cut, certain Sagarians would not be able to cope. Ian’s bassist brother, Jim, holds down a deep-groovin’ bottom; that & Negus’ Tower-Of-Power shuffle make up for the embarrassing chorus. In fact, Jim & Steve begin the next track, “Days Like These,” with a couple of bars all to themselves. Sadler’s pipes take a rest on “Days,” for this is one of those once-per-album instances where Jim Gilmour assumes the lead vocal part. Coincidentally, it happens to be one of the album’s best tracks, hoisted up by steel-padlocked rhythms, a moderate sense of grandeur, and the beast that is Ian’s guitar kept at a leash’s length—very nice solo by Ian, however. The focus on Gilmour continues with the short piano & synth instrumental, “Voila!” The rapid outro could be George Winston on a caffeine high.
The Security Of Illusion’s ruse finally fades with the two closing tracks (not counting the bonus track), “No Man’s Land” and “Without You.” While listenable, the former adheres to the album’s scheme like a fly’s wings caught on paste; the lyrics are snared in banality, though Ian Crichton’s patented guitar squeals and Gilmour’s lead keyboards approach restoration. “Without You” is the longest track, at 6:10. Ribbons of synthetic steel and an industrial flavor laid down by Negus’s heavy-handed tom-tom barrage only persist for the first minute, to return in the final fifteen seconds. Aside from these spare moments of illusory variety, everything in-between is formulaic with a capital F. A solid album of passionate pomp-rock with some genuinely delightful moments, though it does not foretell the coming conceptual brilliance of Generation 13, by any means.