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|Origin||Oakville, Ontario, Canada|
|Genres||Rock, progressive rock, new wave, power pop, neo-progressive rock|
|Labels||Portrait, Warner Bros., Atlantic|
|Associated acts||Fludd, Gilmour-Negus Project, Helix, My Wicked Twin, Asia|
|Past members||Brian Doerner|
Saga is a Canadian rock band, from Oakville, Ontario. Jim Crichton and Welsh-born vocalist Michael Sadler were the principal songwriters, and guitarist Ian Crichton also recorded several solo albums as well as sessions with Asia.
Saga has had numerous line-up changes over the years. The Crichton brothers were the only two original members who appeared on every album. Sadler appeared on every release, apart from the 2009 album The Human Condition, in which he was replaced by Rob Moratti. Though not present on the first two albums, keyboardist Jim Gilmour was with the band from 1979, making his debut on the album Silent Knight. He departed in 1986 and returned in 1992. Drummer Steve Negus performed with Saga until 1986, departing that same year with Gilmour and returning in 1992, only to leave the band for good in 2003. His replacement was Brian Doerner from 2005 until 2012, when Mike Thorne replaced him until the band's split in 2018. There were also a number of session musicians and live performers from the late 1980s to the late 2000s.
Saga have been awarded gold and platinum albums worldwide and have sold more than 8 million albums.
Originally known as Pockets, Saga formed in 1977 from the nucleus of Canadian rock band Fludd. In June 1978, they released their self-titled debut album Saga. A modest success in Canada, it would eventually sell over 30,000 copies in Germany as an import. It also became a major seller in Puerto Rico, after a local stereo equipment store featured the guitar-keyboard duet of the band's single, "Humble Stance" as part of its radio advertisements. Two other songs, "How Long" and "Perfectionist" (a song about a psychopath, Ellery Sneed, who secretly poisons the attendants to a feast he has organized), also became local favourites.
Their 1979 follow-up album Images at Twilight gave them their first charting single in Canada with the song "It's Time" peaking at No. 84 in the Canadian Charts. From the album, the songs "See Them Smile" and "Slow Motion" became strong radio favourites elsewhere. Saga's next album, Silent Knight was released in 1980 and included the singles "Don't Be Late" and "Careful Where You Step".
In 1981, the band's 4th album Worlds Apart was released. The lead single "Wind Him Up", finally broke them into the Top 40, peaking at No. 22 on the Canadian Charts in January 1982. A second single, "On the Loose", also fared well with the help of its music video receiving heavy rotation on MTV, and in December 1982, proved to be their breakthrough in America where it peaked at No. 26 on the Billboard Charts in March 1983. "Wind Him Up" became the second single in America, peaking at No. 64 on Billboard the following month. Eventually, Worlds Apart was certified Gold in the USA in 1983. The band opened for Jethro Tull on their North American tour in 1982.
A 5th album Heads or Tales was released in late 1983 and became another success. The lead single "The Flyer" fared well in Canada and also became their final U.S. hit, peaking at No. 79 on Billboard in November 1983. The follow-up single entitled "Scratching the Surface" became popular in Canada, peaking at No. 45 in April 1984.
Their 6th album, Behaviour, was released in 1985 and included the singles, "Listen to Your Heart" and "What Do I Know?" (charted No. 57 in Canada).
Separation and Reunion
In 1986, Steve Negus and Jim Gilmour left the band over management concerns, soon deciding to form a new band project under the name Gilmour-Negus Project (GNP). In 1988, they released their one and only album, Safety Zone (featuring Robert Bevan on lead vocals). Meanwhile, Saga continued to record and tour, with Michael Sadler and the Crichton brothers augmented by session musicians.
Their 1987 release Wildest Dreams enjoyed better distribution under new label, Atlantic Records, but it failed to match expectations in America. The lead single "Only Time Will Tell" became a popular Chart favourite in Canada (No. 93), with a memorable video rotated on MTV for a brief period. However, the remainder of the album suffered from over-reliance on technology, with armies of sequencers and drum machines replacing much of the band's earlier trademark sound with Gilmour and Negus.
For 1989's The Beginner's Guide to Throwing Shapes, Saga refocused on their earlier European popularity which marked a return to their earlier progressive style with a few pop elements to it. In 1992, Steve Negus and Jim Gilmour returned to Saga. The band's next album, The Security of Illusion, was well received by Saga fans in Canada and Europe. The 1994 followup, Steel Umbrellas, was considered uneven when compared to their previous release, perhaps due to the material originally being produced for the short-lived television series Cobra. However, despite lackluster album sales, Saga's 1993 and 1994 tours helped maintain some of the band's early popularity; their reputation as live performers was not lost among the band's long time fans.
In 1995, Jim Crichton composed and produced the majority of Saga's next album, the conceptual Generation 13. Inspired by a popular political treatise by the same name, the story follows main character Jeremy's troubled search for his real father. The concept is somewhat reminiscent of the storyline in The Who's Quadrophenia. The album's heavier compositions have a sound similar to fellow Canadians, progressive rock band Rush, and even early Kansas.
Saga's next release, Pleasure and the Pain was released on the eve of their 20th anniversary tour in 1997. The album failed to maintain the interest created by the previous release. On the same anniversary tour, the album Phase 1 was released. Phase One was an album containing demo songs from the 1979 album Images at Twilight — some of them were songs found not good enough for the album, some of them were different versions of songs released on Images. The album quickly sold out and a second issue was printed. The album was hard to get and it soon became a most wanted item for Saga collectors and fans.
Their 1998 tour was captured on the next album, Detours, a double-live album released worldwide. Saga's next three albums, 1999's Full Circle, 2001's House of Cards, and 2003's Marathon have all been popular with the band's longtime and loyal fanbase. House of Cards, in particular enjoyed renewed interest. Its acoustic-flavoured single, "Money Talks", received Top 5 video airplay in Canada. All three albums included new "chapters", representing a return to the progressive rock of the band's early days. Saga released a new studio album, Network, in the fall of 2004. Their next album, Trust, was released in 2006, featuring Brian Doerner as their new drummer. Doerner made his debut on a live Canadian television broadcast in late 2005.
Even though Jim Crichton and Michael Sadler both live in Los Angeles, they have not committed Saga to any full-length American tours since 1986. However, in late 2005, Michael Sadler announced a limited tour on the West Coast to promote his solo album, Clear. The trek featured Ian Crichton as touring guitarist. Saga also played one show in New York City during their summer 2006 tour in support of Trust.
The Chapters is the name given to a series of songs that the band revealed over a 28-year period in a mixed-up order, creating a conceptual puzzle. Each song in the sequence was subtitled "Chapter One", "Chapter Two", etc. In its final form, The Chapters tells a cohesive science fiction story concerning the preservation of Albert Einstein's brain, aliens who are concerned with humanity's self-destruction, and the resurrection of the dead through technology.
The first eight Chapters were issued, out of order, across the band's first four albums, issued between 1978 and 1981. After a long layoff, Chapters 9 through 16 were issued, again out of order, across three album releases between 1999 and 2003. Songs from the cycle have been performed in concert throughout their career. The Chapters were finally released all together in a 2 CD live recording called The Chapters Live in 2005.
Legacy, Future Plans and Disbandment
Despite the band's fluctuating musical styles and limited commercial success in the United States, their fans have remained extremely loyal over the decades. Their musical style was defined by Ian Crichton's staccato guitar riffs, often in harmony with a synthesizer, and complex keyboard arrangements, frequently featuring three players.
The band has been constantly successful in Germany since its inception. It is also very popular in Puerto Rico: Saga has visited the island twelve times. Saga's second concert in Puerto Rico (1981) caused riots from fans trying to crash into a sold-out concert that sold over 10,000 tickets. Most of the inner cover photographs from the original vinyl release of In Transit (1982) were taken in Puerto Rico, including a live photograph from the 1981 concert. For a few years, a keyboard riff from their song "No Regrets" became the background music for station breaks at WCAD-FM in San Juan. The band received formal recognition as distinguished visitors from the Puerto Rican legislature in February 2005. Their concert on December 9, 2007 (at the Pier 10 Arena club in Old San Juan) was the last concert that Michael Sadler did with Saga until his announcement of returning to the band on January 2011.
On January 16, 2007, it was announced by InsideOut, the band's current record label, that lead singer Michael Sadler would be leaving Saga for personal reasons at the end of 2007. Later that year on Michael's personal site, michaelsadler.com, a note was posted by the singer revealing that his departure was due to a desire to focus on his family life and retire from the stress of being in an active travelling band. A farewell tour of sorts is in the works which will also commemorate Saga's 36th anniversary as a band. Saga announced on July 15, 2007 that they were recording a new album in Los Angeles. Titled 10,000 Days the album was released on November 6, 2007 in conjunction with their planned European tour. ("10,000 days" equates to 27 years, 4.54 months, approximately the amount of time Sadler spent with the band). Sadler also recorded a forthcoming DVD commemorating his last European tour with Saga. Just prior to the release of 10,000 Days, in October 2007 drummer Brian Doerner suffered a heart attack. He has since made a full recovery, but a stand-in drummer (Chris Sutherland) of the Kim Mitchell Band was required to fulfill touring commitments.
Saga announced they were auditioning lead vocalists to continue the band's career. The musicians recorded instrumental versions of "On the Loose" and "Wind Him Up" for prospective singers to perform on YouTube, with the winning candidate to be announced at a later date. During the search, Ian Crichton remarked that hopeful candidates "should have a set of pipes" as well as personality. The guitarist also remarked that a Canadian would be preferable, presumably because of travel considerations and the band's nationality. Over 20 candidates (including one woman) submitted demos from across the Atlantic and Caribbean.
On April 15, 2008, Saga announced that Rob Moratti of Toronto, former singer of Final Frontier, had joined the band as the new lead vocalist. Moratti's background included more than a decade of experience in the Canadian rock music industry, recently working with the respected guitarist-producer Mladen Zaron. Throughout his tenure with the band, Moratti concentrated on lead vocals, leaving the band's instrumental dynamics somewhat changed from the Sadler era, where the lead vocalist often doubled on bass guitar and keyboards. Saga's first gig with Moratti took place in the summer of 2008. Also, 2008 saw the release of a book about the band's history, 'Saga: The Biography', by renowned rock journalist (and long-time friend of Saga), Edwin Ammerlaan.
In 2009, Saga released their first CD with Rob Moratti. This CD was titled The Human Condition and was released in the spring 2009. The band toured in Europe and Canada.
On January 28, 2011, an official statement was made announcing Michael Sadler's return as the lead singer of Saga.
On February 1, 2012, Saga announced that after 6 years of touring and recording together, Brian Doerner and Saga have parted ways. Following YouTube auditions, Mike Thorne (a native of Toronto ) was announced as the new drummer of Saga. On July 6, 2012, Saga's twentieth studio album, 20/20, was released. It marked the return of original vocalist Michael Sadler.
On June 27, 2014, Saga released their 21st album entitled Sagacity, which received mostly positive feedback from fans. The album quickly topped the iTunes rock lists around Europe (most notably in Germany).
A reissue campaign covering the later years (from 1989 to 2007) was announced in 2015, spanning twelve albums in twelve months. However, after five remastered albums the campaign was seemingly aborted without any official statement from the record company, the live recordings intended for the series instead appearing as a live album Live in Hamburg 2015, which is strictly limited to 5000 copies worldwide.
In January 2017, Michael Sadler announced that Saga would retire following their farewell tour dubbed Final Chapter. He also said that a "special one-off performance" would take place at the 2018 edition of Cruise to the Edge in February 2018.
On August 9, 2018 earMUSIC announced the release of a new live album named "SO GOOD SO FAR - LIVE AT ROCK OF AGES" on 28 September, 2018.
On December 25, 2018, Michael Sadler confirmed on Facebook that the band will play two concerts, one on April 12, 2019 at Club Soda in Montréal and the other on April 13, 2019 at Salle Sylvain-Lelièvre in Quebec City.
|Title||Release||Peak chart positions|
|Images at Twilight||1979||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|Heads or Tales||1983||17||92||3||4||4||4||—|
|The Beginner's Guide to Throwing Shapes||1989||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|The Security of Illusion||1993||—||—||46||—||41||38||—|
|Pleasure & the Pain||1997||—||—||93||—||—||—||—|
|House of Cards||2001||—||—||34||—||—||100||—|
|The Human Condition||2009||—||—||91||—||—||—||—|
|Detours - Live||
|The Chapters Live||
|Worlds Apart Revisited||
|Contact - Live in Munich||
|Heads or Tales - Live||
|Spin It Again! Live in Munich||
|Live in Hamburg||
|So Good So Far - Live at Rock of Ages||
|1978-1993 All the Best||
|The Very Best Of||
|How Do I Look||
|Remember When - The Very Best of Saga||
|Best Of - Now and Then - The Collection||
|The Polydor Legacy||
|Title||Release||Peak chart positions||Album|
|"It's Time (Chapter Three)"||1979||84||—||—||—||Images at Twilight|
|"Wind Him Up"||1981||22||7||64||24||Worlds Apart|
|"On the Loose"||—||26||26||3|
|"The Flyer"||1983||—||—||79||19||Heads or Tales|
|"Scratching the Surface"||45||—||—||—|
|"What Do I Know"||1985||57||65||—||24||Behaviour|
|"Only Time Will Tell"||1987||93||—||—||—||Wildest Dreams|
|"It's Your Life"||2006||—||—||—||—||Trust|
|"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.|
|The Official Bootleg||
|All Areas - Live in Bonn||
|Worlds Apart Revisited||
|Contact - Live in Munich||
|Spin It Again! Live in Munich||
- "SAGA Reunite With Singer Michael Sadler - Bravewords.com". Bravewords. Retrieved January 29, 2011.
- "Mike Thorne Interview - Meet Saga's New Drummer - TMAKWorld.com". TMAKWorld. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- "SAGA To Call It Quits After 'Final Chapter' Of Touring". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
- "Cruise To The Edge 2018: The Successful Reinvention Of A Progressive Rock Festival". Sonic Perspectives. 16 February 2018. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
- "Saga: SO GOOD SO FAR - LIVE AT ROCK OF AGES". August 9, 2018.