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Articles Home » 1989 Articles » Saga - 1989 The Beginners Guide To Throwing Shapes
Saga - 1989 The Beginners Guide To Throwing Shapes

ALBUM: The Beginners Guide To Throwing Shapes
LABEL: Bonaire
SERIAL: CD 260 367-222
YEAR: 1989


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: www.saga-world.com

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' was by no means 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 the band 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 the same year. 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' (an instrument that was experimented with by the likes of Lee Ritenour, Gary Moore and Christopher Cross back in the day), 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 Songs
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 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..'.

In Summary
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.

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#1 | AOR Lee on June 03 2012 08:33:36
Agree, it's a better album than many realize. Starting All Over, Shape, As I Am and Waiting In The Wings are killer technical AOR tunes
#2 | reyno-roxx on June 03 2012 11:34:24
'Giant' is absolutely fantastic!
#3 | Eric on June 03 2012 13:51:25
I did pick it up when it came out, liked it and still do. I'll second Dave's comment on 'Giant'.
#4 | AOR Lee on June 03 2012 14:56:18
Giant had always gone right by me, maybe the banjo and narrative etc ... But just listened to the whole thing and it is a winner - complex and uplifting and charming all at once, not to mention Ian Crighton's blistering guitar all over it
#5 | Nick C on June 08 2012 18:20:00
One of my fave Saga albums.
#6 | AORboyo on June 15 2012 07:48:22
I remember walking into the mighty 'Shades' record store in London which had this cranking outta the stereo, wall of Hi-Tech genius, was never a massive fan back then until I purchased this album which totally blew me away and still does, still play this dittie on a regular basis.

IMO this is a monster album, NOT a duff track on it if you ask me.
#7 | Jez on December 30 2012 12:42:48
This was a better release after the slightly dissapointing 'Wildest Dreams' release, although the band still missed having Jim Gilmour and Steve Negus around.,(they returned for the '93 release 'The Security Of Illusion' which proved how missed they had been!).Some great tracks on this one and definately worth checking out.
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