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Saga - The Human Condition CD (album) cover

THE HUMAN CONDITION

Saga

 

Crossover Prog

3.52 | 88 ratings

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SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
3 stars Step inside

As I have already pointed out in some of my previous reviews, 1999 to 2009 has been a really prolific and consistent period in Saga's long career with no less than seven good studio albums in a row (of which the previous 10.000 Days is my personal favourite). The Human Condition is the most recent studio release by Saga at the time of writing and the latest in this uninterrupted series of good albums reaching back to the Full Circle album at the end of the 90's. Even if they never again came close to matching my all-time favourite Saga album - the excellent and very progressive concept album that was Generation 13 - the string of solid albums from the group in the new millennium is indeed impressive and, in my opinion, easily outshines anything they did in the 80's.

A criticism commonly directed against Saga is that most of their songs and albums sound the same. This has at least sometimes been true and made it somewhat difficult to digest their vast output despite its generally good quality in recent years. The present album is a bit different though, as it is the one and only Saga album without lead vocalist Michael Sadler who is here replaced by one Rob Moratti. The result of this is that The Human Condition does indeed sound different and, to be honest, this album could just as well have been made by a completely different band. Rob Moratti has the same kind of effect on Saga as Ray Wilson had on Genesis. Like Genesis' Calling All Stations (the only Genesis album with Wilson on lead vocals), Saga's The Human Condition is good but rather anonymous. Moratti has a fine voice, but it is not really Saga anymore. Still, it is impossible to deny that The Human Condition is a good album with some very good moments.

There are hints and touches of Yes and Gentle Giant here and there, but the general direction the band has taken here is a step towards (light and melodic) Prog Metal and (harder-edged) Neo-Prog. I hear a bit of Dream Theater and maybe IQ and Pallas in the better tracks, but also an AOR/classic Hard Rock flavour. The typical "Pomp" of classic Saga is not really here anymore, but the catchy melodies are still here. The opening, nearly seven minute title-track is almost entirely instrumental, and despite it being one of the best tracks on the whole album it did make me wonder if they were deliberately postponing the appearance of the new singer as far as possible. The only lyrics featured in this track is "running from the human condition" sung in a very Yes-like melody. Very good stuff! Morratti finally stepped up on Step Inside, which is another strong track. Indeed, the whole first half of the album is really strong with the superb Avalon standing out as my favourite. The second half of the album is weaker, however, with only Crown Of Thorns being up to the standards set by the first half. The closer You Look Good To Me seems especially disappointing.

Style-wise this album is different from other Saga albums in a refreshing way. Quality-wise it is not as good as the previous 10.000 Days - in my opinion, the peak of 00's Saga and the culmination of a long series of good albums - but on a par with other recent albums like House Of Cards, Network and Trust. I'm sure that many Prog fans would enjoy this album, even some of those that normally don't like Saga.

SouthSideoftheSky | 3/5 |

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