“The Human Condition” by Saga

Artist: Saga
Title: “The Human Condition”
Label: InsideOut Music
Release Date: 5/19/2009
Genre: Progressive Rock
Rating: 3.5/5

You probably know this already if you are a long time fan of the band Saga, and that is the fact that long time lead singer Michael Sadler is gone from the lineup, having chosen to move on after some thirty years as its front man. That being said, you are probably already either still interested in the band or have chosen to switch your loyalty and if the latter is the case then we thank you very much for your brief attention and wish you well on your opting to give up on a band that you have probably been supporting for decades. While this is a view that I never truly admire, I can see how it happens because it is never easy for ones ears to accept “the new guy” in a band that had such a hard core following for such a long time. Let’s face it, we saw this happening to Steve Hogarth for almost 10 years after replacing Fish in the equally legendary Progressive Rock band Marillion. “The Human Condition” is a release that finds Saga also choosing to keep it going and in the place of Sadler we now find Rob Moratti who comes to them with previous work being done in the band Final Frontier. If you’ve heard Final Frontier in the past you should already know how much different a voice he possesses from Sadler, but in all honesty I hardly expected the band to successfully find a clone for the “voice of Saga” all that easily. The upside of this choice is that Moratti is a great new addition to the lineup.

Musically this is an interesting listen and shows the band as continually capable players with their very sleek introduction to the new release via the largely instrumental track “The Human Condition”. It’s loaded with guitar and keyboard runs that will appease long time Prog fans but the only vocals we get from Rob are in the continually repeated phrase of “running from the human condition”. That struck me as funny since I had expected the band to introduce their new voice from the get go but instead they wait for the second tune “Step Inside” which delivers a nice heaviness that Saga would do well to keep working with going forward. The band grooves at a number of turns on the recording and even delivers a lot of radio friendly fare with the closing tune of “You Look Good To Me” and “Now Is Now”. Sadly, it is pretty safe to say that we will not be finding much of Saga on your mainstream radio stations like we did when “On The Loose” was running rampant on the airwaves. That’s a shame since what is often sold as “rock” on these outlets continually surprises me in its failure to do what its name implies. The band lineup remains as Ian and Jim Crichton on guitars, bass and keyboards, Jim Gilmour on keyboards and Brian Doerner on drums with the new Moratti only doing the lead vocalizing. I don’t think the absence of a third keyboardist which we found in Sadler from time to time will matter in the end with the new technology that is available to a band like this. Over the years I was never much more than the casual Saga listener, but despite this enjoyed their sound. I think they are in good hands with Moratti on the vocals and I am very curious to hear how he handles their legacy material. He is a sound vocalist with a lot of power so I am rather hopeful of what he brings to the table for the long time listener.

There is a great packaging on this one with some super cool artwork across its foldout sections and pages of the booklet. There are also lyrics provided so those new tracks will be stuff you are singing along to in no time. It’s a brave and admirable effort from one of the longest running Progressive Rock bands out there and something that even their most critical fans will probably enjoy after a couple of spins. I wish Moratti and the guys a lot of success together as they take the music of Saga into the next chapter of an already illustrious career. Good luck guys and thanks for a solidly put together new release with “The Human Condition”.

Track Listing:
1. The Human Condition
2. Step Inside
3. Hands Of Time
4. Avalon
5. A Number With A Name
6. Now Is Now
7. Let It Go
8. Crown Of Thorns
9. You Look Good To Me

Official Website: http://sagaontour.moonfruit.com

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