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Articles Home » 2009 Articles » Saga - 2009 The Human Condition
Saga - 2009 The Human Condition

ALBUM: The Human Condition
LABEL: SPV/Inside Out Music
SERIAL: SPV 79642, IOMCD 286
YEAR: 2009


LINEUP: Rob Moratti - vocals * Ian Crichton - guitars * Jim Crichton - bass * Jim Gilmour - keyboards * Brian Doerner - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 The Human Condition * 02 Step Inside * 03 Hands of Time * 04 Avalon * 05 A Number With A Name * 06 Now Is Now * 07 Let It Go * 08 Crown of Thorns * 09 You Look Good To Me



I've had this album for a few weeks now, but have taken my time getting it to the review stage. You see it's not everyday I have to approach a Saga album without Michael Sadler being in the picture. After all these years, Saga face a challenge quite unlike anything they've faced in the past. A band with an identifiable sound, but now faced with the prospect of a new singer: Rob Moratti, well known on this website due to his association with AOR faves Final Frontier. The recent reviews for 'The Human Condition' alternate between very good and very bad. Why the polarised opinions? Musically and sonically, this album is as awesome in the production stakes as anything they've delivered previously. No problem there. Moratti is not Sadler. Ok, let's get that off our chest. I like Rob's voice, and with Saga, the band sound completely different. He's not a singer that well-versed in the prog environment, but then we could've said the same about James LaBrie when he joined Dream Theater from the band Winter Rose. In time, I'm sure Rob will grow into the role. That will be the fun thing to look forward to. So, to recap, the production is good, I think the new singer is ok. So could it be the songs? Err no. I like most of these, but admittedly you'll need to play them a few times to get to the bottom of it.

The Songs
It's pure Saga of old thanks to the opening instrumental title track. Occasionally you'll hear some of Moratti's voice-overs coming through, but mostly this is a launchpad for the music yet to come. Static and digitized white noise leak out into speaker-space on the track 'Step Inside'. The vocal harmonies carry an eastern exotic vibe, but musically it's as tight as a ducks arse. The warmth of 'Hands Of Time' is especially ambient, and it's here Moratti shows his promise - his vocal sung in a lower register and shifting with the music easily. 'Avalon' is Saga moving back to traces of their AOR inspired past, it's no surprise that Moratti can sing the phone-book off this song. Some unusual sequences present themselves on 'A Number With A Name'. I can imagine this being sourced from one of their earlier albums, though I'm sure if Sadler was singing this it would have a whimsical quality to it.. not so with Rob. I quite liked the point of difference on 'Now Is Now', with its slower funky hi-tech beat and layered keys. Saga decide to pick it up on 'Let It Go', guitarist Ian Crichton finally gets an opportunity to truly unload, while some of those vocal melodies seem to have been lifted from Rob's Final Frontier albums! Perhaps the heaviest song on the album is 'Crown Of Thorns'. Not quite prog metal, but it shows another shade to the band's colourful disposition. Finishing up with 'You Look Good To Me', it's a quirky effort, with typical Saga like panache, but I wasn't sold on it unfortunately.

In Summary
After spending time with the album, I came away feeling good about it. I acknowledge the differences that the band had to go through to get where they are. I consider myself an extremely long time Saga fan and have (like a few of our readership) ridden the good and bad times during their career. In Rob Moratti, they have an excellent vocalist onboard, they just need to find that perfect balance where both the singer and the band can bring out the best in each other. This will come in time, and will (I feel) become a voyage of discovery for all concerned, including hard-to-please fans. In the meantime, Saga deliver another pleasing album, if an altogether different listening experience for the tried and true Saga completist!

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#1 | Jez on June 05 2009 12:33:16
Spot on review George and the best and most open minded one I have read so far on this excellent album. clap

Here's my 2 cents worth!

After the real treat of Michael Sadlers final Saga show on the recent 'Contact' live CD/DVD package, the new studio album arrives with new singer Rob Moratti. I had already heard 4 tracks off this new one, so new half of what to expect, but hearing and having the final product in my hands (nice digipack and all) I can now enjoy the whole thing properly. A new Saga album is always a major highlight of my year and as I have said before, apart from the patchy 'Pleasure and The Pain' album, they have NEVER let me down in the 30 years I have been listening to them (yes that long). Obviously Moratti is the main focal point on this one and everyone is gonna want to know what the end result is. Well, after a couple of spins I can gladly report that this new one hits all the right spots for existing Saga fans (the open minded ones anyways) and hopefully will bring some new ones along for the ride aswell.
Take out Moratti and you have the typical, if slightly more progressive, Saga sound, although there is nothing on here radically different than they have done before. Moratti's vocals are definitely toned down from some of his usual high pitched 'Helium' stuff and he actually fits in with the band and new musical direction very well. Songwise after a couple of spins, 'Step Inside', 'You Look Good To Me' and 'Avalon' are my top picks, but there are no fillers on here to my ears.
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