Saga

The Chapters Live

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The Chapters Live was 28 years in the making. Flash back to 1978: a young Canadian band releases its debut LP, an attempt at bridging the gap between progressive rock and FM radio. Two tracks, "Will It Be You?" and "Tired World," are subtitled Chapters 4 and 6 for no apparent reason. Over the next three LPs, Saga will release a total of eight "chapters," seemingly at random, then drop the project, originally sketched for 16 pieces. In the early 2000s, as the group is getting back on track (literally and figuratively), eight new chapters pop up, spread across three albums. On the Marathon tour in 2003, the group performed the complete "Chapters" sequence, in its right order, a moment fans of Saga had been awaiting for a long time. The sci-fi story revolves around Albert Einstein, revived by aliens so that he can help them save humanity from self-destruction. Some of its constituents are well-known ("No Regrets," "Don't Be Late"); others are more obscure. The surprise factor in The Chapters Live is the actual continuity from beginning to end. This truly sounds like a single album written in a short amount of time -- surely not in 28 years, with dozens of studio albums laid down in the process. The fresher pieces sit down marvelously well with the earlier material. Capturing the material live also levels down asperities created by shifts in technology and production values between 1978 and 2003. The result makes a very strong proposition, definitely one of Saga's best albums (only Generation 13 -- which, incidentally, contained no chapters -- features similar levels of cohesion and quality). Not quite a best-of, as key hits like "On the Loose" were not part of the sequence, this still makes a good entry-level album, despite the fact that it is rather short (84 minutes across two discs). Eric Fulghum's pencil drawings add extra value to this much-awaited release.

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