Saga — Generation 13
(Fuel2000 FLD-1019, 1995/2003, CD)
by Mike Grimes, Published 1995-11-01
There's so many good things about this album that I don't know where to begin. It marks a giant step forward for Saga – a 25-track, 69-minute concept album that includes some of the best material that the band has ever done. Generation 13 picks up where Security of Illusion should have left off, covering a lot of new ground for the band. The band uses odd time signatures for the first time (I think). "The Learning Tree" is a prime example of trademark Saga syncopation and blistering riffs, with the new twist of being in seven. It's amazing. Primarily known for their synth and piano sounds, they broaden the keyboard textures here by utilizing both Hammond and pipe organ for the first time. They also incorporate several types of musical styles into the pieces – jazz, lounge, big band, hip hop, everything. Unlike so many of their contemporaries from the 70s, Saga haven't lost their playing edge. As usual, guitarist Ian Crichton is stellar. He has to be one of the most underrated guitarists in all of rock music. His patented staccato style, unusual chord selection, and soloing technique are second to none. His guitar has always been the trademark sound of Saga, even though he's having to cut through as many as three keyboards in the mix sometimes. Most all of the songs melt together with several keyboard drones, spoken parts, and sound effects continuing during song transitions and tying the album together.
What's the concept behind the album? Well... I'm still working on that part. On a basic level, the story is about an orphaned boy who grows up under some less than ideal circumstances and finds companionship in the form of a toy puppet. However, after a while, the boy becomes at least a little bit confused, and then it's not clear who is pulling who's strings – the boy or the puppet. The bigger picture implication is, of course, our present society in general. There's enough thematic variety in the music that it doesn't sound like the same song over and over, yet several of the melodies reappear at various times on the album. The lyrics tell a story and skillfully tie the music together. I'm looking forward to the CD-ROM version of Generation 13 that is supposedly being released soon. If it's anything like this album, it should be great.
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more
Neil Peart RIP – One of rock music's defining drummers has died at the age of 67. Neil Peart's work with Rush provided one of the templates for percussion in rock, and he certainly ranks in the top ten most influential drummers of the 20th Century. Peart retired from playing in 2015 due to health issues, and succumbed to brain cancer on January 7, 2020. » Read more
Joel Vandroogenbroeck RIP – Word has reached us of the death of Joel Vandroogenbroeck, best known as one of the founders of Brainticket, He also recorded electronic music under a variety of names. He was born August 25th, 1938 in Brussels, Belgium and died December 23, 2019 in Arlesheim, Switzerland, aged 81. » Read more