1989 was the last great year for AOR, not withstanding this effort from Canadian legends Saga.
Written by: gdmonline
ALBUM: The Beginners Guide To Throwing Shapes
SERIAL: CD 260 367-222
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Canada
LINEUP: Michael Sadler – vocals, keyboards * Jim Crichton – bass, keyboards, synthaxe * Ian Crichton – guitar, synthaxe
TRACK LISTING: 01 How Do I Look * 02 Starting All Over * 03 Shape * 04 Odd Man Out * 05 The Nineties * 06 Scarecrow * 07 As I Am * 08 Waiting In The Wings * 09 Giant
WEBLINKS: Site Link
As I have mentioned on this site on numerous occasions, 1989 was the last great year for AOR, not withstanding this effort from Canadian legends Saga. 1987’s ‘Wildest Dreams’ wasn’t a great album, it polarised a few long time fans but in reality it wasn’t a bad effort despite the criticism.
However by the end of the decade Saga were down to a trio and the resulting sound of the album showed. Jim Gilmour and Steve Negus had departed the band in 1986 and subsequently formed the GNP Project who coincidentally released their ‘Danger Zone’ lp in 1989. The remaining trio of Sadler, Crichton and Crichton pursued a vastly modern sound, not unlike Canadian cousins Rush.
The trio employed the use of electronic drum machines and the exotic ‘Synthaxe’ so much of the analog warmth was lost in favour of the stark coldness of the digital environment. Still, we are talking Saga here so anything musically is possible. Apparently the theme of the album revolves around a schizophrenic boy, suggesting the music could be equal to the task.
The musical collage on ‘How Do I Look’ is deceivingly complex if you listen a bit deeper. Hop under a set of headphones and you’ll discover a whole new universe of music not immediately apparent through a set of speakers. The solo section comes alive with Ian Crichton’s over the top playing. ‘Starting All Over’ has passages which evoke past material, particularly during the mild chorus.
I liked the pulsing and rhythmic sound to ‘Shake’, this one moves along on a metronome of percussion while ‘Odd Man Out’ is the first ballad we encounter and is lovely in its gentle mood and melodic nature. The next song ‘The Nineties’ sounds like a lyrical denial, refusing to let the 80’s go and refusing to embrace the new decade and century just around the corner. Musically, this is similar to The Tubes, so that in itself is an endorsement of sorts.
‘Scarecrow’ is part of the new era of Saga’s sound, harder than usual with more guitar in the mix, and a bouncy keyboard arrangement with an emphasis on percussive instruments. ‘As I Am’ continues the harder direction, and is a song I quite like because it tries to keep to the Saga heritage, particularly the piano lines while fusing new initiatives with crisp digital synth patterns and Ian Crichton’s sharp guitar parts.
‘Waiting In The Wings’ is another to impress, less about prog and pomp, but more hard rock with a hi-tech twist. With only nine tracks on the album, ‘Giant’ introduces a spoken word piece amid a banjo arrangement and some hokey old chap talking about ‘strangers’. It soons makes way for an interesting song from a lyrical perspective.. ‘the day the stranger came to town..’.
During this period, I had lost touch with what Saga were doing, and didn’t actually pick this album up until mid 1990. So it’s attachment value isn’t that high for me, unlike some of their previous albums. In hindsight though, that was an obvious error from my perspective, as I have been listening to this with alarming regularity recently. Still, from a collectors point of view, all Saga albums are a compulsory addition to your collection, if only to track their musical progress from one era to the next.
How Do I Look
Waiting In The Wings