Saga

Saga are a Canadian rock band from Oakville, Ontario, formed in 1977. They achieved cult status with the 1978–80 Polydor albums Saga, Images at Twilight, and Silent Knight. Rupert Hine produced their 1981 international breakthrough Worlds Apart and its 1983 followup Heads or Tales. The classic five-piece splintered after 1985’s Behaviour. Their most popular songs from this period include “Don’t Be Late,” “On the Loose” (both early MTV staples), “Scratching the Surface,” and “What Do I Know.” 

A slimmed Saga cut the 1987–89 albums Wildest Dreams and The Beginner’s Guide to Throwing Shapes. They resumed with 1993’s The Security of Illusion, the first of their five-disc Nineties run that included the 1995 concept album Generation 13.

With Germany as their main market, they released eight discs between 2001 and 2014, including one (2009’s The Human Condition) recorded in the brief absence of perennial frontman Michael Sadler. In 2021, Saga returned with Symmetry, their 22nd studio album.

Members: Jim Crichton (bass, keyboards, vocals), Ian Crichton (guitar), Michael Sadler (vocals, bass, keyboards, 1977-2007, 2011-present), Steve Negus (drums, 1977-86, 1991-2004), Peter Rochon (keyboards, 1977-79), Gregg Chadd (keyboards, 1979-80), Jim Gilmour (keyboards, vocals, 1980-86, 1991-present)


Background

Saga formed from the ashes of early Seventies Ontarian popsters Fludd, which featured bassist Jim Crichton, drummer Steve Negus, and keyboardist Peter Rochon. They hired Welsh-born singer Michael Sadler (b. July 5, 1954; Penarth), who fronted a latter-day incarnation of soul-rockers Truck. Jim’s younger brother, guitarist Ian Crichton, completed the new band, which rehearsed as Pockets and settled on the name Saga.

In 1977, Saga signed with Polydor and linked with producer Paul Gross, a former Rochon bandmate in the pop-trio Wishbone.


Saga

Saga released their self-titled debut album on April 8, 1978, on Polydor.

Singer Michael Sadler and keyboardist Peter Rochon both play Moog synthesizer on Saga, which also features bassist Jim Crichton and drummer Steve Nugus on Moog equivalents of their standard instruments.

Saga consists of J. Crichton–Sadler co-writes (“The Perfectionist,” “Give ’em The Money”) with select contributions from Ian and Rochon (“Humble Stance,” “Climbing the Ladder”). Jim wrote all the lyrics apart from two Sadler-penned numbers (“How Long,” “Climbing…”). Jim lone-wrote the epic “Ice Nice,” an enduring fan favorite.

Each side ends with a group-written composition: “Will It Be You? (Chapter Four)” and “Tired World (Chapter Six),” the first two installments of their out-of-sequence “Chapters” series about a young Albert Einstein. 

A1. “How Long?” (3:58)
A2. “Humble Stance” (5:54)
A3. “Climbing the Ladder” (4:42)
A4. “Will It Be You? (Chapter Four)” (7:10)
B1. “The Perfectionist” (5:41)
B2. “Give ’em the Money” (4:22)
B3. “Ice Nice” (6:47)
B4. “Tired World (Chapter Six)” (7:08)

Sessions occurred in the winter of 1977–78 at Toronto’s Phase One Studios with co-owner Paul Gross and staffer Alan Thorne, Saga’s soundteam for the two subsequent albums. Gross produced concurrent titles by FM (Direct to Disc) and Aerial. The multi-national Thorne engineered a different 1978 album titled Direct to Disc (by Australian jazz-rockers Crossfire). Artist Rene Zamic did the alien butterfly cover with Saga visual designer Zoran Busic.

Polydor lifted “How Long?” as Saga’s first single; backed with “Humble Stance” (Canada, Netherlands) and “Climbing the Ladder” (Germany). Saga reached No. 33 on the Swedish albums chart.

In December 1978, Peter Rochon left Saga to focus on instrument production. Saga hired keyboardist Greg Chadd, a sideman of guitarist Tony Ray on the 1975 Polaris release 4 DB Hot.


Images at Twilight

Saga released their second album, Images at Twilight, in May 1979 on Polydor and Maze.

J. Crichton wrote “See Them Smile” and co-wrote “Slow Motion,” “Take It or Leave It,” and “Images (Chapter One)” with Michael Sadler, who also lyricized “Hot to Cold,” a composition by erstwhile member Peter Rochon, who collaborated with Jim and Steve Negus on “Mouse In a Maze” and “You’re Not Alone,” the latter with rare writing input by Ian Crichton.

Images continues the Einstein theme on the title-track and the group-credited opener “It’s Time! (Chapter Three),” the only writing contribution by keyboardist Greg Chadd, who does vocoder effects and juggles Moog synthesizer with Sadler, the song’s bassist in lieu of Jim, who plays Moog and standard bass.

A1. “It’s Time! (Chapter Three)” (4:01)
A2. “See Them Smile” (3:25)
A3. “Slow Motion” (3:52)
A4. “You’re Not Alone” (5:22)
B1. “Take It or Leave It” (3:58)
B2. “Images (Chapter One)” (6:31)
B3. “Hot to Cold” (5:02)
B4. “Mouse in a Maze” (5:41)

Sessions occurred between Ian Thomas and Max Webster bookings at Phase One, where Paul Gross produced Images at Twilight in cooperation with Alan Thorne, who engineered the album in sequence with 1979 titles by Surrender and fellow Aussie’s Air Supply and Renée Geyer.

Images at Twilight is the first of two Saga albums with cover art by sci-fi painter Tony Roberts, whose image depicts a blade-wing dragon that hovers over the post-nuclear ruins of Manhattan with the severed top of the Chrysler building in its claws.

Polydor lifted “See Them Smile” as Saga’s second single (b/w “Mouse in a Maze”), followed by “It’s Time!” (b/w “Take It or Leave It”). In 1980, “Slow Motion” reappeared as their second single in the German market.

Three months after the album’s release, Chadd left Saga, which found a permanent keyboardist in Scottish-born Canadian Jim Gilmour (b. February 25; 1958, Carfin).


Silent Knight

Saga released their third album, Silent Knight, in August 1980 on Maze (Canada) and Polydor (abroad). It’s their last of three albums with producer Paul Gross and their first of four with the classic lineup of Michael Sadler, Jim Crichton, Ian Crichton, Steve Negus, and new keyboardist Jim Gilmour.

Silent Knight refines the Moog|vocoder sound of its predecessor with two J. Crichton–Sadler songs (“Time to Go,” “Careful Where You Step”), and select tracks with third-man input by Negus (“Help Me Out”), Ian Crichton (“Don’t Be Late”), and Gilmour (“Too Much to Lose,” “Someone Should”). Side A features two group-written numbers: “What’s It Gonna Be?” and “Compromise.”

Saga continue the “Chapters” series with “Too Much to Lose” and “Don’t Be Late,” a harrowing call-and-response between Michael and Jim.

A1. “Don’t Be Late (Chapter Two)” (6:02)
A2. “What’s It Gonna Be?” (4:27)
A3. “Time to Go” (4:20)
A4. “Compromise” (3:20)
B1. “Too Much to Lose (Chapter Seven)” (4:38)
B2. “Help Me Out” (5:50)
B3. “Someone Should” (4:06)
B4. “Careful Where You Step” (4:18)

Sessions occurred at Phase One with Gross, who also produced the 1980 singular album by hard-rockers Reckless. Silent Knight is one of the final Canadian credits for Alan Thorne, who returned to his native Australia and worked with The Expression, Moving Pictures, and The Hitmen. His Phase One assistant, Mick Walsh, also co-engineered 1980 titles by Instructions and Triumph.

Twilight artist Tony Roberts painted a sequel image for Silent Knight that depicts a foreign planetary station (under torrential night sky) modeled on the Einstein Tower, an astrophysical observatory in Potsdam, Germany. Roberts painted subsequent album covers for Robin Trower and Verity, the eponymous band of guitarist journeyman John Verity (Argent, Phoenix, Charlie).

Maze lifted “What’s It Gonna Be?” (b/w “Compromise”) as Saga’s fourth Canadian single, followed with “Don’t Be Late (Chapter II)” (b/w “Time to Go”). Silent Knight reached No. 15 on the Norwegian albums chart.

In the “Don’t Be Late” video, Saga mime on a pink-lit soundstage where Sadler (leather sleeve-rolled coat) enacts the dialog with Gilmour. During Ian’s guitar break, dry ice saturates the stage. On the climax, Jim Crichton cuts from Moog to standard bass while Michael overtakes his arsenal. In late 1981, the video went into medium rotation on the fledgling US cable network MTV.


Worlds Apart

Saga released their fourth album, Worlds Apart, in September 1981 on Polydor and Maze. It’s their first of two albums produced by English soundman Rupert Hine and the second of four by the classic lineup of Michael Sadler, Jim Gilmour, Steve Negus, and the Crichton brothers.

It features six group-composed numbers, all lyricized by Michael Sadler apart from two penned by Jim Crichton (“Time’s Up,” “Wind Him Up”) and the co-worded “Conversations.”

Side B contains three Crichton–Sadler compositions, including “No Stranger (Chapter VIII)” and the Jim Gilmour-sung “No Regrets (Chapter V),” the last two installments (for now) of the Einstein-themed “Chapters” series.

A1. “On the Loose” (4:12)
A2. “Wind Him Up” (5:48)
A3. “Amnesia” (3:29)
A4. “Framed” (5:42)
A5. “Time’s Up” (4:08)
B1. “The Interview” (3:51)
B2. “No Regrets (Chapter V)” (4:44)
B3. “Conversations” (4:44)
B4. “No Stranger (Chapter VIII)” (7:05)

Produced By Rupert Hine
Recorded & Engineered By Stephen W Tayler

Michael Sadler — lead vocals, Moog synthesizer
Ian Crichton — guitar
Jim Gilmour — lead synthesizer, backing and lead (B2) vocals, clarinet
Jim Crichton — bass guitar, Yamaha Electric Grand Piano, synthesizer
Steve Negus — acoustic & electronic drums, percussion

A: Wind Him Up
B: No Regrets (Chapter V)

Mar 1982
A: On The Loose
B: Conversations


In Transit

In August 1982, Saga released In Transit, a live album recorded six months earlier on their European tour.


Heads or Tales

Saga released their fifth album, Heads or Tales, in September 1983 on Portrait and Maze. It features varied writing input Michael Sadler, Jim Gilmour, and the Crichton’s.

Tales contains two group-composed numbers (“The Sound of Strangers,” “The Pitchman”) and the Jim Crichton–Sadler songs “Social Orphan,” “The Flyer,” and “The Writing.” Ian Crichton collaborated with the pair on the Side A epic “Intermission.”

The two Jim’s co-wrote “Scratching the Surface,” a Gilmour-worded and sung Canadian hit. Gilmour and the Crichton’s co-wrote “Cat Walk” and co-composed “The Vendetta (Still Helpless),” a Sadler-worded number.

A1. “The Flyer” (3:37)
A2. “Cat Walk” (4:24)
A3. “The Sound of Strangers” (4:09)
A4. “The Writing” (4:14)
A5. “Intermission” (5:28)
B1. “Social Orphan” (3:24)
B2. “The Vendetta (Still Helpless)” (3:55)
B3. “Scratching the Surface” (5:26)
B4. “The Pitchman” (5:46)

Recorded At – Farmyard Studios
Producer – Rupert Hine
Engineer – Stephen W. Tayler

Bass, Keyboards – Jim Crichton
Drums, Percussion, Percussion [Electronic] – Steve Negus
Guitar – Ian Crichton
Keyboards [Lead], Vocals, Saxophone – Jim Gilmour
Lead Vocals, Keyboards – Michael Sadler

Art Direction, Design – Judith Salavetz, Spencer Drate
Illustration – Stephen Durke
Photography By [Innersleeve] – Larry Williams


Behaviour

Saga released their sixth album, Behaviour, in August 1985 on Portrait and Maze. It was their fourth and final album by the classic lineup with keyboardist Jim Gilmour, who left afterwards with drummer and co-founder Steve Negus.

Behaviour features four group-written numbers: “Listen to Your Heart,” “Misbehaviour,” “Easy Way Out,” and “(Goodbye) Once Upon a Time” — all lyricized by Michael Sadler apart from the Gilmour-worded “Easy Way Out.

Jim Crichton co-wrote two songs each with Sadler (“You and The Night,” “Out of the Shadows”) and Gilmour (“Take a Chance,” “What Do I Know?”). The three-writers co-composed “Promises” and “Here I Am,” both Sadler-worded. 

A1. “Listen to Your Heart” (3:52)
A2. “Take a Chance” (3:52)
A3. “What Do I Know?” (3:39) features backing vocals by UK R&B singer Sharon Benson.
A4. “Misbehaviour” (4:03)
A5. “Nine Lives of Miss Midi” (1:17) is an interlude co-written by Gilmour and Negus.
A6. “You and the Night” (5:17)
B1. “Out of the Shadows” (4:46)
B2. “Easy Way Out” (3:57)
B3. “Promises” (4:10)
B4. “Here I Am” (3:35)
B5. “(Goodbye) Once Upon a Time” (6:35)

Produced by Saga and Peter Walsh

Michael Sadler — lead vocals, keyboards
Jim Crichton — bass guitar, keyboards
Jim Gilmour — keyboards, backing vocals
Ian Crichton — guitar
Steve Negus — drums, percussion, electronic percussion


Wildest Dreams

Saga released their seventh album, Wildest Dreams, in late 1987 on Atlantic.


Discography:

  • Saga (1978)
  • Images at Twilight (1979)
  • Silent Knight (1980)
  • Worlds Apart (1981)
  • Heads or Tales (1983)
  • Behaviour (1985)
  • Wildest Dreams (1987)
  • The Beginner’s Guide to Throwing Shapes (1989)
  • The Security of Illusion (1993)
  • Steel Umbrellas (1994)
  • Generation 13 (1995)
  • Pleasure & the Pain (1997)
  • Phase 1 [archival] (1998)
  • Full Circle (1999)
  • House of Cards (2001)

Sources:

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