SAGA - Network

Saga - Network

10 songs
49:51 minutes
***** ***
Steamhammer / SPV


We all are allowed our guilty pleasures, and when I decided to give the new Saga album Network a chance, only wanting to listen to a song or two, I caught myself, 50 minutes later, having listened to the entire album in one go. Where some underground music people indulge in some of today's popular rock music (and I know a lot of people listening to Pink, Robbie Williams, etc. whom you wouldn't suspect of it), I sometimes get caught in Eighties arena rock.

Saga started back in 1977, a rather absurd year for a progressive rock band to emerge when punk decided that prog was dead. And like their label mates Asia, true success came in the early Eighties with the advent of MTV, which was (ab)used by new prog bands to make some money for themselves, and who can blame them? So after Wind Him Up and On The Loose had brainwashed my pre-teen years, I only got back to Saga with their ambitious Generation 13 in 1995, and then even saw them live a couple of years ago.

Sure, Network is not another Generation 13, and to be sincere, I prefer their new album, because of its more simple method of just making it ten accessible pop prog songs, bound together by the concept of media and all its form which it affects our lives. Already the opener On The Air is not just typical Saga, but even a tremendously crafted song, starting with prominent keyboard sounds, just to develop into the dynamic kind of arena prog we are so used of these Canadians. Michael Sadler's voice is still as charismatic (or even more) as in the past, and Ian Chrichton's guitar is played totally sharp, never venturing into hard rock or heavy metal territory, but having this very own searing sound that later on was copied by more than one prog band. I always like Saga best when they do their longer epic stuff, like the opener or the closing Don't Make A Sound, the only two songs over six minutes. And when I say "epic", I don't mean swords and dragons stuff, but a somewhat retro look at the future, the way it was presented 20 years ago by themselves but also Styx and Yes, for instance.

While I'm Back is another great rocking tune, there are also a lot of ballads, and while Outside Looking In surprises with cute mellotrons and a beatlesque atmosphere, I would have preferred one less slow song, and instead one more rocker. But apart from that, Network is a far better album than any of us would have dared to hope. Yes, this is retro, and Saga themselves call it conservatively tried-and-tested, but if you liked these guys when they were young, you will certainly find a place in your heart for their new album.

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