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Saga: The Human Condition

After a successful run of 30 years with Saga, founding member and lead singer Michael Sadler stepped down from the band to pursue other endeavors, and in comes former Final Frontier vocalist Rob Moratti for The Human Condition. Musically, Saga's latest platter of pop infused prog-rock continues where the band left off on 2007's 10,000 Days, the main difference here are the vocals of Moratti, whose style greatly contrasts what we've come to expect from Sadler over the years. That being said, Moratti brings a fresh element to the band, The Human Condition ultimately being a very enjoyable release that shows a veteran band that's not ready to throw in the towel just yet, despite a major change in personnel.

Lead in title track shows that Saga still have every intention of keeping the 'prog' in their sound, with blistering torrents of notes from guitarist Ian Crichton and keyboard player Jim Gilmour (who now seems the be the lone keyboardist in the band), in what is essentially an instrumental piece save for Moratti's single repeated line "running from the human condition'. Plenty of crunchy guitar riffs and majestic keyboard tapestries abound on this one, setting the stage quite nicely for the rest of the album to follow. "Step Inside" is a heavier, groovier number, more closely related to some of the recent wave of prog-metal bands than the traditional Saga sound, but it is an effective track nontheless. Moratti's vocals are strong and powerful here, as he soars alongside the waves of riffs from Crichton and fluttering synths & piano from Gilmour. On "Hands of Time" the band dives into melodic, almost tranquil territory, Moratti's passionate delivery surrounded by lush keyboards and acoustic guitars, while "Avalon" is a more upbeat piece that harks back to the classic Saga sound with more than a slight resemblance to British band Pendragon as well. Very catchy chorus on this one, and Gilmour once again lays down plenty of colors with his array of keyboards. The one song that is going to surely send Saga fans into fits of joy is "A Number With a Name", a real quirky, complex song with all the familiar elements, such as intricate guitar/keyboard arrangements, catchy vocal harmonies, beefy power chords, and tight rhythms from bassist Jim Crichton & drummer Brian Doerner. Imagine classic Saga meets Gentle Giant and you have an idea what to expect on this one! Ian's guitar solo on this track is a thing of beauty, his legato lines bursting with energy and flowing with a killer tone.

"Now is Now" is pure AOR, and though a catchy tune will probably be the least favorite song here for most listeners due to its overall poppy nature and overuse of electronic drums. Thankfully, the band comes roaring back on "Let It Go", a dramatic rocker led by the commanding pipes of Moratti and plenty of thick & muscular riffs from Crichton. The band burst once again into prog-metal territory on "Crown of Thorns" (surprisingly almost sounding a bit like modern day Uriah Heep, but heavier), and close out the CD with the hard rocking but quirky "You Look Good To Me", a real fun piece with a memorable and catchy chorus.

Seeing as Saga lost one of their most important members, The Human Condition is a remarkable achievement. Though not perfect by any means, this is a CD that sees this veteran Canadian act opening up a new 'chapter' in their storied career and putting themselves back out into the market with a collection of strong songs that should please their older fans and win them over some new ones.

Track Listing
1. The Human Condition 6:50
2. Step inside 4:57
3. Hands of time 5:31
4. Avalon 4:47
5. A number with a name 4:52
6. Now is now 4:14
7. Let it go 4:48
8. Crown of Thorns 5:49
9. You look good to me 5:22

Added: June 23rd 2009
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Saga Website
Hits: 4596
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Saga: The Human Condition
Posted by Scott Ward, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-06-23 06:16:20
My Score:

Over a 30 year career, there is no doubt going to be ups and downs for a band. To come through it and produce a disc of this quality shows that these Canadian rockers deserve all the accolades that this disc should bring. While not earth shaking, it is a record that will find a way into your player many, many times.

With a touch of grace and elegance that you get from the classic Yes albums, Saga has come full circle and on The Human Condition shown that they are very comfortable with their past and have come up with a disc that is the culmination of all that experience and musical savvy.

Even though they don't take off into any uncharted territory on the disc, they have covered so much area in their career that at this point all they have to do is find those spots that are the highlight of the history and revisit them again.

Such is the case with The Human Condition. From the soaring vocals on songs like "Avalon" and "Step Inside" to the musical ability that permeate the title song "The Human Condition" and "You Look Good To Me" there is a feeling of a band that is comfortable with itself and where they are now as well as where they have been.

For the most part this is a disc that stays to the lighter side of the band. They do kick up the metal edge a bit on the song "Crown of Thorns" but for the most part this is a melodic disc that does not lean to far either way. The softest moment comes in the song "Hands Of Time" which is a very good power ballad that reminds me a lot of a Queensryche slow tempo melody.

All in all, this is a disc that I cannot say is the best I have heard but it is a very good one that will be enjoyed many times. It is well worth the purchase price!

Saga: The Human Condition
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-06-01 17:35:06
My Score:

You probably know this already if you are a long time fan of the band Saga, and that is the fact that long time lead singer Michael Sadler is gone from the lineup, having chosen to move on after some thirty years as its front man. That being said, you are probably already either still interested in the band or have chosen to switch your loyalty and if the latter is the case then we thank you very much for your brief attention and wish you well on your opting to give up on a band that you have probably been supporting for decades. While this is a view that I never truly admire, I can see how it happens because it is never easy for ones ears to accept "the new guy" in a band that had such a hard core following for such a long time. Let's face it, we saw this happening to Steve Hogarth for almost 10 years after replacing Fish in the equally legendary Progressive Rock band Marillion. "The Human Condition" is a release that finds Saga also choosing to keep it going and in the place of Sadler we now find Rob Moratti who comes to them with previous work being done in the band Final Frontier. If you've heard Final Frontier in the past you should already know how much different a voice he possesses from Sadler, but in all honesty I hardly expected the band to successfully find a clone for the "voice of Saga" all that easily. The upside of this choice is that Moratti is a great new addition to the lineup.

Musically this is an interesting listen and shows the band as continually capable players with their very sleek introduction to the new release via the largely instrumental track "The Human Condition". It's loaded with guitar and keyboard runs that will appease long time Prog fans but the only vocals we get from Rob are in the continually repeated phrase of "running from the human condition". That struck me as funny since I had expected the band to introduce their new voice from the get go but instead they wait for the second tune "Step Inside" which delivers a nice heaviness that Saga would do well to keep working with going forward. The band grooves at a number of turns on the recording and even delivers a lot of radio friendly fare with the closing tune of "You Look Good To Me" and "Now Is Now". Sadly, it is pretty safe to say that we will not be finding much of Saga on your mainstream radio stations like we did when "On The Loose" was running rampant on the airwaves. That's a shame since what is often sold as "rock" on these outlets continually surprises me in its failure to do what its name implies. The band lineup remains as Ian and Jim Crichton on guitars, bass and keyboards, Jim Gilmour on keyboards and Brian Doerner on drums with the new Moratti only doing the lead vocalizing. I don't think the absence of a third keyboardist which we found in Sadler from time to time will matter in the end with the new technology that is available to a band like this.

There is a great packaging on this one with some super cool artwork across its foldout sections and pages of the booklet. There are also lyrics provided so those new tracks will be stuff you are singing along to in no time. It's a brave and admirable effort from one of the longest running Progressive Rock bands out there and something that even their most critical fans will probably enjoy after a couple of spins. I wish Moratti and the guys a lot of success together as they take the music of Saga into the next chapter of an already illustrious career. Good luck guys and thanks for a solidly put together new release with "The Human Condition".

Saga: The Human Condition
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-05-24 22:45:44
My Score:

Everybody surely knows by now that Michael Sadler is no longer a member of Saga and has been replaced by Rob Moratti. Talk about giant shoes to fill. This must have been difficult as not only was Sadler a fine singer with an incredibly distinctive voice but also played keyboards and shared songwriting duties. I give Moratti full credit as he does an admirable job. His singing is nothing like Sadlers so it may take some time to get used to the new voice and consequently new sound. Perhaps it is better the band found someone with a different voice making it easier to break away from the old sound and to make way for the new. There is still that unmistakable Saga feel at times but I found this album slightly heavier than before with perhaps a touch more AOR influence which really suits Moratti's voice.

The album is off to a fine start with the progressive metal sounding title track, and yes, you did read that right. Progressive metal is not a term I would normally associate with Saga but at times they come awfully close here. Some excellent riffs and fine interplay between keys and guitar makes for a rocking beginning. Heavy guitars and ominous keyboards begin the heavy "Step Inside". Moratti is in fine form and delivers a catchy chorus to go along with some ripping guitar courtesy of Crichton. Waves of synths and keys laid over the clear voice of Moratti begins the mellow "Hands of Time". Crichton's guitar playing is quite imaginative as are the use of keys. Perhaps the catchiest song is the melodic "Avalon" filled with AOR leanings but somehow has a progressive sophistication that is hard to ignore reminding me of early 80s Toto. This would make a great single. I could go on but suffice to say there are no weak tracks here according to my ears.

So there you have it. I give the band kudos for tweaking their sound and finding renewed energy in these nine songs that ooze the classiness we have come expect from this fine band. This is an enjoyable listen and should appeal to fans of cross-over prog and those who do not mind a little change from past efforts.

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