04 April 2009

Some Brief Thoughts on Saga’s new album, The Human Condition

…I miss Michael Sadler.

…Rob Moratti has a decent voice, but it is a bit less individual than Sadler’s was.

…Saga has gotten heavier on this release! At times I thought I was listening to Dream Theater…

…keyboards seem less heavily involved in the mix.

…Ian Crichton is entirely far too underrated as a guitar player.

…many moments don’t really sound like the Saga that I know from past releases.

…having said this, “Avalon” and “You Look Good To Me” really do remind of older Saga…but different.

…I’m not sure how Moratti will handle the older material, and I am intrigued to find out.

Yes, this is Saga reborn for the later end of the 21st century’s first decade. Saga has gotten heavier while still maintaining several of the classic Saga elements. As Ian Crichton puts it, “It’s still us, of course with a different twist, some of the ideas on the CD are more prog than before.”

I do think Jim Gilmour’s keyboards could either be mixed higher, or he could pick patches that are less guitar like (this is something that bothers me about Jordan Rudess at times with Dream Theater...he can pick patches that sound so close to a distorted guitar that it can be difficult to discern his playing until he steps out to solo at times)…he’s shown himself to be a very able player, and he should be showcased more. Ian Crichton is as strong as ever on guitar, and his brother Jim’s bass playing is solid and in the pocket. Jim pairs up exceedingly well with Brian Doerner (ex-Helix) on drums, and they are the pulse that drives Saga’s music forward.

(NB: Doerner will be replaced on tour by Chris Sutherland, as Doerner is dealing with health issues)

Of course, everyone is curious how new boy Rob Moratti carries himself. His singing is good. His voice is perhaps a little less unique than Michael Sadler’s…Sadler has a voice that you immediately recognise, and Moratti simply can’t match that personality. He handles the material very well, and I can’t agree with some criticism I have read that says his voice is flat and featureless. Having said that, he’s simply not a Michael Sadler clone. That’s a good thing for Saga in a way…the new guy sounds different, and that means change and growth. I might have been more upset had they picked a clone, as it’d infer a fear of change that would result in stagnancy and petrifaction/ossification. I think it’s going to take some getting sued to a far different voice fronting Saga…the proof is going to be in how Moratti handles the classic material in a live setting, and we’ll find that out soon.

For me, the highlights of The Human Condition include the opening title track, a 7-minute slice of music verging on prog metal, with heavily processed vocals that hint at a potential interesting direction for the band. As mentioned above in the pseudo-bullet points, “Avalon” and “You Look Good to Me” hint at the older Saga sound, with just enough new shine to make them different from what has come before. The band is playing with confidence, and Moratti doesn’t show any hesitance in fronting a band with a history that stretches back over 30 years. One hopes Saga gives Moratti more than one album to prove himself, unlike some bands who changed singers and only gave the new guy one album and tour before hanging it up (coughGenesiscough)…
The Human Condition is a solid, if sometimes unspectacular rebirth of a band for a new generation of listeners.

Track Listing:

1. The Human Condition

2. Avalon

3. A Number And A Name

4. Let It Go

5. Now is Now

6. Crown of Thorns

7. You Look Good To Me

8. Hands of Time

9. Step Inside

Band Lineup:

Rob Moratti - Vocals

Ian Crichton - Guitars

Jim Crichton - Bass

Jim Gilmour - Keyboards

Brian Doerner - Drums


martine juron said...

no opinion on the music as i have no experience with Saga but the cover is kicking.

Bill K. said...

3 MP3 samples can be heard here:


Click on the tracklist and MP3s link.