The veteran Canadian progressive rock band Saga has been quietly re-releasing remastered versions of most of its albums this year. Given that the band has been active since the latter 1970s, there are many releases to go through. Factor in the raw material shortage for pressing vinyl and CDs (thanks, COVID hysteria and new Adele album, in that order), and it’s taking longer than anticipated. Nevertheless, this provides a solid opportunity to talk up a band way too many rock’n’rollers remember for but one song, if that much.
The song in question, which to date remains the band’s sole American hit, reaching the Top 30 in 1982, is “On The Loose” from the band’s fourth album, Worlds Apart.
Before and after, Saga has followed its muse, fusing progressive rock notions of keeping things on the adventuresome side of melodic and hard rock with the philosophy that one does not need to constantly throw irregular rhythms out there to maintain proper prog credibility. The result foreshadowed what Asia briefly brought to the table in the early 1980s, that being music in, but not of, the mainstream. A prime example is this should-have-been hit from 1987’s Wildest Dreams.
Digging into the available re-releases, we focus on Worlds Apart. Sonically, the remaster is a noticeable improvement over previous releases, adding more punch and depth without succumbing to the dreaded volume wars that have over-compressed many CD releases to the point of being unlistenable.
Musically, the album is as good as any to approach Saga. It’s progressive rock you can dance to at least once in a while. Michael Sadler’s voice is strong without being overpowering. The band nimbly works through its arrangements with dextrous playing, particularly on guitarist Ian Crichton’s part, as he fires rapid-fire staccato leads without breaking a sweat.
Lyrically, Saga comes from a storyteller tradition, eschewing the usual non-stop love found/love lost formula in favor of musings on topics such as life energy spent at work instead of on, well, life.
Or an addicted gambler.
What is unknown — save to the loyal fans — is that Saga has maintained a high-quality standard throughout its career, not only during its brief moment in the 1980s spotlight. A case in point is this song from the band’s most recent studio album featuring new material, 2014’s Sagacity.
But enough talking. If you’re looking for some music that insults neither your instrumental nor lyrical sensibility, check out Saga and grab some tuneage. You’ll be glad you did.