Saga - House Of Cards

Year of Release: 2001
Label: SPV/Steamhammer
Catalog Number: 085-72162-P
Format: CD
Total Time: 49:54:00

Ever since the band?s debut Saga in 1978, Canadian band Saga has introduced a breath of fresh air into the domain of progressive rock. Especially their introduction of various chapters spread over various albums was something completely new, something which introduced the band to a string of avid fans and collectors. On their first four albums, released between 1978 and 1982, chapters 1-8 were released. Then they left this idea until the Full Circle album in 1999, when they introduced us to "Uncle Albert?s Eyes (chapter 13)" and to "Not This Way (Chapter 10)." So I?m pretty convinced Saga fans will welcome the new album House Of Cards with open arms as it includes once again two new chapters in the form of "Ashes To Ashes (Chapter 11)" and "We?ll Meet Again (Chapter 15)." Surely the saga continues!

Once jokingly described as "medieval funk" the Saga sound can be recognized from miles away whether it concerns old material or the brand new album. Especially Michael Sadler?s distinct voice is the pure trademark of the band but you certainly shouldn?t forget the other band members who have been around since day one! Although the music includes its fair share of progressive elements, Saga?s music is more direct, maybe more pop oriented, more radio friendly than what most of us consider prog. Chosen from a total of 30 newly written songs House Of Cards contains eleven brand new Saga songs of which opener ?God Knows? is pure Saga all the way. Just listen to Ian?s guitar leads blending with Jim?s keyboards and the pumping rhythms of Steve Negus and you know that you have firmly landed in Saga territory. The uptempo ?The Runaway? talks about the fascination of the Internet in a very addictive way (just like the WWW?). Great song with great guitars!

The album balances between heavy rock sections and quiet acoustic passages. One of those acoustic highlights is "Always There," where soft guitars form the backbone whilst original keyboard interventions add the exclusive touch. "Ashes To Ashes" opens with what could be the sound of mandolins before a heavy bass riff leads the song towards what could be described as "vintage Saga," also including one of the strongest choruses on the album. "Once In A Lifetime" could well be a Styx outtake, including a strong singalong section. Pity the orchestal arrangement is once again coming out of a machine. Why can?t these bands look for a good sounding classical ensemble? One of my favourites on the album has to be ?Only Human? because of the construction of the song which incorporates both acoustic and electric passages and has Sadler singing at ease. Throughout the album I have also been pretty much impressed by the talents of drummer Steve Negus. One of the best examples of his skills can be found in the steaming ?That?s How We Like It? where he?s really impressive.

A short resting point comes in the form of the instrumental ?Watching The Clock? which has the piano of Jim almost playing the main theme from Zeppelin?s ?Stairway To Heaven?! Another great highlight which in years will prove to be a "classic" certainly is ?We?ll Meet Again,? also known as Chapter 15 in the ongoing "saga." This song could be a strong candidate for radio airplay as it combines all of the right ingredients. The same could be said for ?Money Talks,? which is built around an acoustic setting and due to Michael?s unique singing this could well be a hit single. I can already see all those waving hands during the forthcoming tour! Ian Crichton can explore the possibilities of his guitar during the title track which closes this album. To me this is the least interesting of the bunch with loads of voices interspersed throughout the song. Nevertheless House Of Cards, the album, certainly puts Saga firmly on the map, although prog purists may of course discuss whether at all this band belongs under the heading "progressive" or not. Regardless of whatever heading you want to put this band under, this album is a nicely crafted and well executed piece of superb rock. Full house!

Remember what Betty Davis once said: ?growing old ain?t for sissies?!

God Knows (5:29) / The Runaway (5:35) / Always There (3:52) / Ashes To Ashes (Chapter 11) (5:05) / Once In A Lifetime (4:21) / Only Human (4:20) / That:s How We Like It (4:49) / Watching The Clock (Instrumental) (1:39) / We'll Meet Again (Chapter 15) (5:58) / Money Talks (4:07) / House Of Cards (4:20)

Michael Sadler - vocals
Jim Critchon - bass
Ian Critchon - guitars
Jim Gilmour - keyboards, vocals
Steve Negus - drums

Images At Twilight (1979/1987/2002)
Silent Knight (1980/2002)
Worlds Apart (1981/2003)
In Transit (1982)
Heads Or Tails (1983)
Behavior (1985/2002)
Wildest Dreams (1987)
The Beginner's Guide to Throwing Shapes (1989)
The Security of Illusion (1993/2003)
Defining Moments (1994)
Steel Umbrellas (1995/2002)
Gen 13 (1996)
Pleasure and The Pain (1997)
Detour - Live (1998)
Full Circle (1999)
House Of Cards (2001)
Marathon (2003)
Network (2004)
Chapters Live (2005)
Trust (2006)
Remember When: The Very Best Of Saga (2006)
Worlds Apart Revisited (2007)
10,000 Days (2007)
The Human Condition (2009)

Silhouette (DVD) (2003)
All Areas: Live In Bonn 2002 (CD/DVD) (2004)
Worlds Apart Revisited (CD/DVD) (2006/2007)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin CA

Added: January 1st 2001
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

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Hits: 1274
Language: english


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