Saga – Symmetry

Saga – Symmetry

Canadian proggers Saga toured a large number of packed venues at the end of 2017 as part of their 40th Anniversary – The Final Chapter tour. The Come-back Kids of prog invariably started said series of farewell concerts with a relative first: a (semi-)acoustic set. Seated behind some kind of reading table in a décor that resembled a library, a number of well-known songs were energetically performed in this acoustic setting. The success of this part of the show may have made the musicians think. Despite corona, a new tour in 2019, The Full Compass tour, was followed by another, of course shortened, Out Of The Shadows tour in 2020 (who said Farewell tour?). But in 2020 the band finally went into the studio to record a fully acoustic album, the success of the live shows still fresh in their minds.

With some delay, the Symmetry album was actually released at the beginning of 2021. Why it took so long is unclear, but the result is what counts. It is perhaps the best album the band has released in recent years. Because they didn’t just choose stripped-down versions of existing material, the band has selected a number of songs to, in most cases, write completely new arrangements. This benefits the freshness of the material and kudos for this initiative by the Canadians. Some songs stay a bit closer to the original, others are almost unrecognisable in their new ‘outfit’. Moreover, these guys have not chosen the easiest way by opting for some kind of ‘greatest hits’. On the contrary, the selection may bear the predicate ‘eclectic’ as far as I am concerned. How about ‘deep cuts’ like Say Goodbye to Hollywood? All of a sudden it becomes worth reaching into your pocket again and digging out your wallet to purchase a new Saga album.

The Perfect Time to Feel Better is the cryptic title of a small medley of just over eight minutes, in which Time to Go, The Perfectionist (Ellery Sneed) and We Hope You’re Feeling Better are successively strung together. Now the strange title probably makes more sense. The band repeats this with The Right Side of the Other Hall, with Footsteps in the Hall, On the Other Side and You Were Right, respectively. Humorous and creative at the same time.

Against all these praises there is also some criticism: when renowned ‘shredder’ Ian Crichton lets rip across the strings in the same lightning-fast way he is used to in the electric versions, it sounds a bit different. And not necessarily better. Of course it is tempting to try to rival Django Reinhardt or Stochelo Rosenberg, but now and then it sounds a bit too showy, a (too) high-level of ‘look at me going fast’. A bit over the top if you ask me.

Prelude #1 and #2 are new pieces entirely from Crichton’s hand, both clocking in under one minute and can therefore be better qualified as ‘small pieces’. Also new, and at two minutes rather short, La Foret Harmonieuse contains spoken words by singer Michael Sadler. The album is on the short side as a whole, with just over fifty minutes it could have been an ounce more.

Nevertheless, thumbs up for the Canadians who show themselves from a completely different side on this album. Well off the beaten track and augmented by providing the well-known repertoire with a (totally) different arrangement, they manage to make everything sound new and fresh and fruity again. If they keep this up, there is a chance that the world record for ‘making comebacks’ will soon get another owner.

01. Pitchman (5:19)
02. The Perfect Time to Feel Better (8:18)
03. Images – Chapter One (4:57)
04. Always There (4:09)
05. Prelude #1 (0:50)
06. Say Goodbye to Hollywood (5:05)
07. Prelude #2 (0:52)
08. The Right Side of the Other Hall (5:49)
09. La Foret Harmonieuse (2:01)
10. Wind Him Up (5:09)
11. No Regrets – Chapter 5 (3:47)
12. Tired World – Chapter 6 (6:25)

Total Time – 52:41

Michael Sadler – Lead Vocals
Jim Gilmour – Piano, Clarinet, Accordion, Vocals
Ian Crichton – Acoustic Guitars, Banjo
Jim Crichton – Acoustic & Fretless Bass
Mike Thorne – Percussion
~ with:
Shane Cook – Fiddle
Stephany Seki – Cello
Beth Silver – Cello
Seren Sadler – Guest Vocals

Record Label: earMUSIC
Country of Origin: Canada
Date of Release: 12th March 2021

– Symmetry (2021)
– Sagacity (2014)
– 20/20 (2012)
– The Human Condition (2009)
– 10,000 Days (2007)
– Worlds Apart Revisited (2007)
– Trust (2006)
– The Chapters Live (2005)
– Network (2004)
– Marathon (2003)
– House Of Cards (2001)
– Full Circle (1999)
– Detours [live] (1998)
– Pleasure & the Pain (1997)
– Generation 13 (1995)
– Steel Umbrellas (1994)
– The Security Of Illusion (1993)
– The Beginner’s Guide To Throwing Shapes (1989)
– Wildest Dreams (1987)
– Behaviour (1985)
– Heads or Tales (1983)
– In Transit [live] (1981)
– Worlds Apart (1981)
– Silent Knight (1980)
– Images At Twilight (1979)
– Saga (1978)

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