My first question that popped up in my head when I was picked to do this review was: How can I review a re-do of an album that has been one of the most influential on my “musical upbringing”? At the same time it was the bands fourth record that provided them their commercial breakthru’, originally recorded in ’81.
It turns out, that it’s not “only” a live re-do of Worlds Apart, but apart from all the tracks from the before mentioned album (Played in a row almost in the same order as on the album) it’s furthermore a lot of their classic live- and album-hits over the years (Humble Stance, Don’t Be Late and Careful Where You Step to mention a few), and like always they’ve also included some not so well known/often played tracks like The Runaway, Keep It Reel and We’ve Been Here Before.
In my book Saga is and always was (since I saw them live for the first time in ’83), one of the coolest, checked and attentive live bands around.
Contrary to a lot of other Saga fans, I’ve always liked the studio albums better than the legendary “In Transit” live album, which in my opinion didn’t quite catch the full live feeling of the band (they were far better live!) – I think this one is better in catching the real live feeling of Saga.
Strangely I still know the lyrics for most of the songs by heart, and so does the audience at the concert, the sing-along mood of the concerts is captured very well.
The sound is (almost) as perfect as the studio versions of the tracks (says a lot), but the vocals is maybe not quite as strong as on the studio recordings, but when you think about that Michael Sadler has been a (very) active vocalist for more than 30 years, it’s quite impressive that there’s still so much voice left, he’s still top class.
Too bad this seems to be Mr. Sadlers farewell document, as he has announced his departure from the band after the next tour. If Saga goes on (as I surely hope they will) there will be a very big gap to fill.
Needless to say for Saga fans, that the “old guys” of the band does hell of a job as usual, and though I’m a big fan of original drummer Steve Negus (I’d like to think he was a great inspiration for my kind of drumming) new drummer Brian Doerner does a very competent job too – very tight! These guys really know their way around their instruments.
Just a short note on the cover art: The cover is made as a mix of the two different covers of the original release – no doubt I like the one with the old man with the map a lot better than the very 80s-looking lady with the sunglasses. The first captures the mood of the album a lot better, and is more timeless. Another thing is, that I think it was too bad they then gave up the very cool artwork of album 2 and 3 (by Tony Roberts).
If you know Saga as well as I do, you’re not in for any surprises on this album, but I think you’ll enjoy the pleasure of recognition, and it’s impressive how these numbers stands the test of time – 26 years (and even more for some of them) and certainly not outdated in style or technique.
This double album presents the essence of Saga: Catchy and memorable melodies, groovy rhythm, solid vocal work (from both Sadler and Gilmour), and virtuously played guitar (and keyboards).
The release comes in three versions: double CD, Double DVD and a combined package with all of it. “Unfortunately” I’ve “only” got the CDs to review – I think the double DVD hides the real gems of this release: Studio footage and so on from the recording of Worlds Apart, “Worlds Apart road stories”, “Live in England ’81” (5 songs recorded only for promo-use), a documentary section from ´82 - ´83 (around the In Transit and Heads Or Tales tours and more. This must be an absolute must for Saga-fans (and other fans of melodic and progressive rock in the absolute elite). With the inclusion of the DVD material mentioned before, I’d probably get very close to the ultimate rating of this release!