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(82 min, InsideOut)
TRACK LIST: Disc I (43 min) Chapters 1 to 8: 1. Images 5:03 2. Don't Be Late 6:27 3. It's Time 4:09 4. Will It Be You 6:27 5. No Regrets 3:48 6. Tired World 6:36 7. Too Much to Lose 3:18 8. No Stranger 6:23 Disc II (39 min) Chapters 9 to 16: 1. Remember When 5:24 2. No This Way 2:57 3. Ashes to Ashes 4:37 4. You Know I Know 4:01 5. Uncle Albert's Eyes 4:55 6. Streets of Gold 4:11 7. We'll Meet Again 5:40 8. World's Apart 6:44 LINEUP: Jim Crichton - bass; keyboards Ian Crichton - guitars Michael Sadler - vocals; keyboards Jim Gilmour - keyboards; vocals Steve Negus - drums
Prolusion. This double CD album, "The Chapters: Live", was recorded during one of the live performances SAGA did in 2004, although the process of writing, or, rather, collecting the songs for the project has stretched out throughout their career and taken more than 25 years. Right from the beginning of their activity, Saga devised to tell a long concept story, which would unfold from album to album. The initial versions of the Chapters 1 to 8 are present on their first four studio releases, and those from 9 to 16 on the last three (except the newest one, "Network"), all being placed in a seemingly random order. Finally, here are all of them gathered together, following one another in a traditional order. Lyrically, this is a kind of sci-fi story about the dead-end way of development of a technocratic earthly civilization and the 'good' extraterrestrials' interference in the process. My rating on each of the essential albums by the Canadian legend can be seen here.
Analysis. As ever, I still regard Saga the true pioneers of Neo Prog and the most original band among those working in this field, highly appreciating them, especially for their strikingly independent compositional thinking, hallmarking all their creation. There have been highs and lows in their long career, but their unique songwriting style has always been unchangeable. The seven albums featuring the Chapters' studio counterparts: "Saga", "Images at Twilight", "Silent Knight", "Worlds Apart", "Full Circle", "House of Cards" and "Marathon" are in all respects very kindred works and are quintessentially Saga: if not at their most progressive (as on "Generation 13"), then certainly at their most classic. So not surprisingly, "The Chapters: Live" turned out to be one of their most distinctively sounding albums as well, the 'live' factor imparting even more identity to its overall appearance. All the most notable aspects of Saga at their most glorious: originality, power, melody, emotion, technical filigree and precision are here in abundance. A classic, unalloyed, Neo Prog aesthetics (I believe the concept is really apt in this case) is evident throughout the sixteen Chapters, most of which are very similar among themselves by structural and stylistic characteristics. In fact, there are only two types of songs here, although all the tracks, without exception, are instantly and uniquely Saga. Images, No Regrets and No This Way are beautiful symphonic ballads built around piano and synthesizers, each possessing a light classical sense, particularly the former, which is largely instrumental. All thirteen of the other songs are Saga's typical, rather edgy, Art-Rock with a touch of Metal, running normally in an intense up-tempo groove. Well, Will It Be You and No Stranger are somewhat heavier than the others, so one might want to refer them to Neo Prog-Metal, but not me. Performed with a surprisingly youthful vigor, the thirteen representatives of the band's classic sound come with an approximately equal number of vocal and instrumental sections, the latter being notable for long virtuosi guitar solos, either taking the lead positions alone or sharing them with keyboard patterns.
Conclusion. As is typical for Saga, there are no overtly intricate passages, but the stuff possesses that essential zest, which makes it at least satisfying in the eyes of anyone who is a good judge of good progressive music, regardless of the level of its complexity. If you, accidentally, still aren't acquainted with Saga, check this album out together with "Generation 13", and you won't miss.
VM: January 4, 2006
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