Slightly better than casual recognition in their own country, but superstar status in Europe is the story of Saga. Formed from the core of Fludd, bassist Jim Chricton, Peter Rachon on keyboards and drummer Steve Negus, they recruited Chricton’s younger brother Ian on guitars. Pockets was born.
The group toured the local Toronto area doing bars for a few months until singer Michael Sadler left a local group called Truck to become their frontman. His vocal stylings blended with their progressive yet eclectic sound. It wasn’t long before the group was noticed by Maze Records and signed to a deal shortly thereafter. Recorded by Paul Gross at Toronto’s Phase One Studios, their self-titled debut was released in ’78 and was instantly met with rave reviews for their tight, sophisticated approach. Though the single, “How Long” failed to make an impression on the charts here, it received constant airplay in Britain and Germany. Also heavy on the charts overseas was “Humble Stance”.
Gross returned as producer for the next project. IMAGES AT TWILIGHT came out a year later and again was met favourably by the critics. With new keyboardist Greg Chadd, “It’s Time” and “See Them Smile” did receive airplay in the Toronto area, but both failed to make much of an impression anywhere else in North America. Again though, the band’s hard-edged guitar sound mixed with progressive keyboard rhythms were more appreciated in Europe, sparking an overseas tour.
1980 saw the release of SILENT KNIGHT. Maturity showed in the writing, evidenced by “Don’t Be Late” becoming their first gold single. New keyboardist Jim Gilmour also brought a new element to the songwriting process. Even so, the album still failed to garner the success they already enjoyed in Europe. So again the band spent a good deal of their time touring England and Germany venturing into the former eastern block countries, in support of other radio hits there such as “Help Me Out” and “Careful Where You Step”.
Their breakthrough album in North America came in the form of 1981’s WORLDS APART. Produced by Rupert Hine, whose credits included The Fixx, Howard Jones, Thompson Twins, Chris DeBurgh, Tina Turner and Stevie Nicks, it instantly saw “On The Loose” go platinum followed by “Amnesia” and “Wind Him Up”, the tale of an obsessive gambler. The album also saw Gilmour sing lead on “No Regrets”. A more commercially acceptable sound supported a North American tour, but for the most part, Europe was their bread and butter.
The group’s first live record came out in ’82. Recorded in Copenhagen and Munich, IN TRANSIT, though nothing particularly mesmerizing, did showcase the versatility of the group,spanning all four albums. Also noteable was Negus’ drum solo on a briefcase, called, oddly enough, “A Briefcase”. HEADS OR TAILS hit the stores the next year and saw the group take a slightly heavier path with “The Flyer”, but stayed true to their sophisticated roots with “Catwalk” and “Scratching the Surface”. Though still not anywhere near their status in Europe, SAGA was finally getting fairly steady airplay on this side of the ocean.
BEHAVIOUR came out in ’85 and contained the hit “What Do I Know”. Although still a fine record, the record failed to hold the same magic as some of their earlier efforts. Outside projects resulted in both Jim Gilmour and Steve Negus. This also kept the group from recording until 1987’s WILDEST DREAM. “Only Time Will Tell” did go gold here, but the true appreciation of their return was in Europe as always. The group cut BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO THROWING SHAPES in ’89 after another hiatus. The time off proved to do more harm than good, as it turned out to be their worst seller. They put the group on hiatus again soon after, giving them time to pursue individual projects, including Crichton and Gilmour both releasing solo albums over the next few years. Gilmour also teamed up with Saga-mate Steve Negus for the Gilmour-Negus Project’s 1993 release SAFETY ZONE.
A greatest hits package was released in ’93 and the attention given them saw SAGA reunite again to put out SECURITY OF ILLUSION. Now situated out of Los Angeles, the record marked a turning point for the band. Backed by the driving guitars of “Mind Over Matter” and eclectic rhythms of “Without You”, the album quickly went gold in practically all four corners of the earth. They quickly followed up the next year with STEEL UMBRELLAS. True to Saga fashion, it contained the usual carefully layered rhythms and leads. GENERATION 13 was released in ’96, followed by PLEASURE AND PAIN the next year. Though the record execs had long by now abandoned properly supporting the supergroup, both records exemplify Saga’s musicianship and sheer brilliance.
1998 saw the release of their double live album, DETOURS. Capturing the group in their brilliantly live best in several European venues, it was more of a treat for the die-hard fans, as no singles were released, but recapped the band’s 25 years entertaining the masses, including “In The Hall Of The Mountain King,” “Don’t Be Late,” “Scratching The Surface,” “On The Loose,” “Humble Stance” and “Don’t Be Late.”
They followed it up with FULL CIRCLE a year later, featuring the lead-off “Remember When,” “Uncle Albert’s Eyes,” “Don’t Say Goodbye” and “Time Bomb.” More tours of mainly Europe ensued to sold out crowds before the band ventured off to do outside projects again, including Crichton joining the ranks of Asia in 2000 for their AURA album. But he was back in the Saga fold for 2001’s HOUSE OF CARDS, FEATURING “That’s How We Like It,” “Once In A Lifetime,” and “Always There.” Althought the tours were shorter,the band continued to record throughout the decade, releasing MARATHON in 2003 and NETWORK in 2004. 2005 saw the release of the live album, THE CHAPTERS LIVE.
With Negus now formally gone from the group, they recruited Brian Doerner, ex of Helix as the new drummer, releasing TRUST in 2006, the same year IT’S YOUR LIFE, a three-track EP was released to fan club members only, and REMEMBER WHEN – THE VERY BEST OF SAGA, featuring both studio and live recordings, and WORLDS APART REVISITED, a double live album, were unleashed on the general masses.
10,000 DAYS came out in 2007, the final album with Michael Sadler behind the microphone. The next spring, the band announced Rob Moratti, a native Torontonian and one of dozens of those who auditioned for the part, was their new singer. The band took the time to work on other projects again, including Doerner setting up his side project, The Evil Twin.
In 2009, their first album with Moratti as frontman was released, THE HUMAN CONDITION, which featured the lead-off title track, “Avalon,” “Hands of Time,” and “A Number and a Name.” A series of North American and extensive European engagements followed. In 2010 Saga jumped on the bandwagon of performing their most popular album in its entirety while on tour in Europe. In this case, HEADS OR TALES.