“Heads Or Tales Live” by Saga

Artist: Saga
Title: “Heads Or Tales Live”
Label: Eagle Records
Release Date: 6/14/2011
Genre: Progressive Rock
Rating: 4/5

Depending on your musical genre of preference and your location in the world the name of the band Saga is either one that brings you to hushed inspiration or a quizzical “why do I remember that name” and while I liked some of their material over the years, I have to admit to being in the latter grouping when it comes to their very rich catalog and history. That being said, I still enjoyed their sound and was very surprised to find longtime singer Michael Sadler moving on to pursue other interests in 2007 only to be replaced by Rob Moratti. With Moratti on vocals the band released the fine “Human Condition” album and while I found it a solid piece of music the longer standing band support structure gave the singer about as much love as when Gary Cherone joined Van Halen. It was a shame because the dude did a great job on their new stuff and as is evidenced with this live album was more than capable of handling their legacy material as well. That being said, the tenure of Moratti has already ended and the band welcomed back into the fold Michael Sadler in 2011 but we get this fine example of what Rob brought to their musical table as he helps the band deliver in full their third album “Heads Or Tales”. Recorded during the 2010 tour for “The Human Condition”, the band members were Moratti (vocals), Ian Crichton (guitar), Jim Crichton (bass), Jim Gilmour (keyboards) and Brian Doerner (drums). Oddly enough instead of giving us the new material with this release, the band instead gives us a full from back to front focus on their 3rd album “Heads Or Tales”.

I was not sure what made the band choose to do this particular album in full for the fans but we have been finding groups delivering full presentations of pivotal career work over the last few years and “Heads Or Tales” is cited as one of the bands best over the course of their career. To me it would have been wiser to deliver the album that broke them to audiences in the USA which was how I first heard of them and hence as a listener view this as a much more important album than the one being reviewed. Nonetheless, “Heads Or Tales” is viewed as one of the group’s best from start to finish and given its vintage of 1983 I can agree that it had all the elements of quality necessary for a band like this to continue their rise to success in the scene. Winners came for me in tunes like “The Flyer” and “Cat Walk” but had to say some of the more soaring notes came from Moratti during “Intermission” and there was some awesome keyboards care of Jim Gilmour on this one. “Social Orphan” was a driving tune and just said 80’s to your ears. Listening to it I am still amazed at how they managed to escape the public eye and kept more of a true underground following for so many years. Clearly people were missing the boat on a very talented band. Part of me wishes that they had expanded this into a double CD issue to allow for more of the concert being done to be delivered. It would have been awesome to hear Moratti’s take on “On The Loose”, “Wind Him Up” and of course his own material from “The Human Condition”. Oh well there is always YouTube and I am sure that someone has uploaded clips to the medium from the few years he was front stage. A two page foldout comes with the release that gives you the lyrics for the album being performed and that was nice. There are some photos as well but they are too small to properly enjoy. The great thing about the recording is its overall sonic quality as the band sounds fantastic and at times you are hard pressed to think that this is live. It’s crystal clear and the band is as tight as a drum. The release did have me wondering if there was a companion DVD waiting in the wings as we often find Eagle Rock delivering something like that after the CD hits the shelves. Your guess is as good as mine on this of course.

As mentioned the band continues to tour with Michael Sadler once again at the microphone and fans should get out to see them in concert and thank them for making music for over thirty years. Moratti continues to belt out the tunes and now has a solo release entitled “Victory”. He did a fine job during his tenure in Saga and I would enjoy hearing him sing in the live sense if he ever does anything in my region.

Track Listing:
1. Intro
2. The Flyer
3. Cat Walk
4. The Sound Of Strangers
5. The Writing
6. Intermission
7. Social Orphan
8. The Vendette (Still Helpless)
9. Scratching The Surface
10. The Pitchman

Official Website: http://www.sagaontour.ca/
Official Website: http://robmoratti.net

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