No one will ever be able to hang any label of 'softie' or 'all talk, no action' on the Failed Bands of Oklahoma. To conclude the first-annual, partially successful first-annual SAGA WEEK, the FBO did something no prog rock fan, or otherwise, has ever done:
Listen to Saga's eight-chapter 'concept album' in order, five times, back to back.
Over each of Saga's first four albums -- the underrated disco/prog Saga (1978), the overworked Images at Twilight (1979), Silent Knight (1980) and the masterpiece Worlds Apart (1981) -- the Ontarian band released two songs subtitled by 'chapters.' They came out in a scrambled order (eg Chapter 6 in 1978, Chapter 2 in 1979 etc). Most songs are gloomy, meandering, synth-based songs -- frequently with chants. Debatably the 'chapter' subtitles provided a prod to what were often the least interesting songs on the albums.
* 7 or 8 songs begin with synths, the other begins with piano -- the full deal is nearly 50 minutes
* 5 of 8 songs are over six minutes, none are under four-and-a-half
* 3 of 8 have clear-cut sissy vocals, while 4 of 8 have very Dennis DeYoung-sounding vocals (no, that's not always the same thing)
* 5 of 8 songs have touches of macho guitar riffs
* 2 of 8 songs have obviously unnecessary musical segways
* 1 of 8 songs sound like the band Europe (who, by the way, still exist and at last have decided to do an 'almost unplugged' record... in 2008)
--> FBO Observers: Saga never named this Chapters album! We need ideas for a name of the Saga 'Chapters Concept Album.' We'll send on our suggestion. To help the brainstorm, here's an overview of each song.
IMAGES (Chapter 1)
Synopsis: guy sits with chalk drawing pictures that the rain blurs while people circle him and laugh.
Sound: Sissy piano, almost operatic/Antony vocals, hard to pump up at traffic lights, gets stronger at musical outro
Lyrical highlight: the character uses 'small bits of chalk' to draw
DON'T BE LATE (Chapter 2)
Synopsis: The song (a single, appearing as a live video in early MTV days) is a dialogue between Saga's long-haired, whispering keyboardist (playing a robot/humanbot?) and lead singer Michael Sadler (as The Lead Character/Parcel Carrier). The robot/keyboardist wants the other to 'not be late.' And is really worried about it, it seems. The Lead Character (LC) must deliver 'a parcel' at 10:00 (presumably night) and seems rather blase about it all.
Sound: Spooky, prodding with water-stream keyboards and classical-music outro with distorted guitars. Not unenjoyable in all fairness.
Lyrical highlight: 'can you pick up this slowing pace' -- slowing?
IT'S TIME (Chapter 3)
Synopsis: The elusive story plot starts to unravel here, something akin to a prequel to Styx's 'Kilroy Was Here'. The Lead Character has 'metal thoughts' and yells out 'it's time -- make me now!' Apparently he's being transformed from human to machine.
Sound: Sound-wise this again sounds like what Styx would pick up for 'Mr Roboto,' with full synth chords playing off overly busy sissy acoustic guitar fills -- then going into a rather poppy song, and turning into a pre-'Red Barcheta' solo (to simulate machine construction?).
Lyrical highlight: 'Even larger than I dreamed/this metal shift, a perfect shift'
WILL IT BE YOU (Chapter 4)
Synopsis: Lead Character is feeling good, under a joyful keyboard pattern, and deliriously tells us that 'only one will survive -- 'will it be me? will it be you?' (Apparently talking to the tense keyboardist/robot character, but it's unclear.) In the end, he sassily predicts 'yes! it will be me!'
Sound: Possibly a single if the 'Chapters' album were packaged together (and it should be), with a sing-along chorus but the dreary chord-changing musical bridge should be edited out and brought right into the guitar-chugging last verse.
Lyrical highlight: 'computer dance, metallic romance, it really seems you had no chance'
NO REGRETS (Chapter 5)
Synopsis: A classic 'morning after' song with Lead Character pausing for reflection following the narcisstic romp of Chapter 4. Casual listens beckon thoughts of gay human/humanbot sex and abandonments, but it's more likely LC betrayed the keyboard/humanbot by escaping some sort of 'transformation precedure' half done...
Sound: Synthetic bells lead into an unbearably sissy vocal and deceptively interesting melodic lines that lead gradually into the one-time-only robotic chorus 'can you say there are no regrets?'
Lyrical highlight: 'Far down below, he could see the scars, left from the night before.'
TIRED WORLD (Chapter 6)
Synopsis: The Lead Character wanders into an abandoned city. Hey man, where is everyone?
Sound: Fuzzy '70s keys slip into a rhythmic song with a lot of high-hat action and chants, and a little Brian May guitaring in the unsatisfying chorus.
Lyrical highlight: 'This cry has no one left it can bother'
TOO MUCH TO LOSE (Chapter 7)
Synopsis: Ah! The Lead Character wakes up from a dream, but 'one picture still stood clear' -- he looks around him and sees nothing but hordes working and working. Apparently on something 'metal' to 'enable its flight.' Matrix? Bladerunner?
Sound: A roaming keyboard leads into a peppy, open-guitar-chord song with uplifting, Queen-style choruses and Brian May-style guitar overdubs.
Lyrical highlight: 'As the numbers grew, their swarm blackened his view'
NO STRANGER (Chapter 8)
Synopsis: The keyboardist/humanbot character returns here to confront Lead Character in a 'something is happening here and you don't know what it is, do you Mr Jones?' moment. Apparently they'll both lose their memory of everything; New Character sighs at the end, 'I suppose we'll have to miss what you'll decide to do.' Perhaps sit and draw images with chalk? (See Chapter 1.)
Sound: This song is fantastic: the lost Saga classic you may not know. Again starting with a pokey keyboard softly winds its way into an explosive, summer-single guitar riff with quarter-note piano notes and infectious vocal line. (Unlike Geddy, Sadler CAN sing.) Curious the chorus comes about once, then sits buried under the verse later on. Long meandering musical outro.
Lyrical highlight: 'It wasn't long ago... I was one of your kind'
And such concludes the FBO's first-annual Saga Week.
Mobile/Semi-Permanent HQ -- Brooklyn, NY