Origin: Oakville, Ontario
Saga is a progressive rock quintet, formed in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. Jim Crichton and Welsh-born vocalist Michael Sadler have been the principal songwriters for Saga. Ian Crichton is the band's guitarist; apart from his work with Saga, he has recorded several solo albums as well as sessions with Asia. The band's keyboardist, Jim "Daryl" Gilmour replaced Greg Chadd in 1980 (Chadd replaced original member Peter Rochon—who left the band to become a full-time music equipment company executive—after the first album).
After the 2003 Marathon tour, Steve Negus announced his retirement as Saga's original drummer. Christian Simpson, a Canadian-American, replaced Negus for 2004's Network album, until sidelined by a neurological condition that affected his drumming. In late 2005, former Helix member Brian Doerner became Saga's third drummer in as many years. Doerner suffered a heart attack in 2007 and was replaced by Chris Sutherland (of the Kim Mitchell Band) for the 10,000 Days Tour and Contact DVD. Lead singer Michael Sadler left Saga for family reasons at the end of the 2007 tour. Rob Moratti replaced Sadler in April 2008, after an Internet talent search, spanning Europe and both Americas, failed to yield a potential lead vocalist. On January 28, 2011, an official statement was made announcing Michael Sadler's return as the lead singer of Saga. Saga has been awarded gold and platinum albums worldwide and has sold more than 8 million albums.
Originally known as Pockets, Saga formed in 1977 from the nucleus of Canadian rock band Fludd. In June 1978, they released their self-titled debut album. A modest success in Canada, it would eventually sell over 30,000 copies in Germany as an import. It also became a major seller in Puerto Rico, after a local stereo equipment store featured the guitar-keyboard duet of the band's single, "Humble Stance" as part of its radio advertisements. Two other songs, "How Long?" and "The Perfectionist" (a song about a psychopath, Ellery Sneed, who secretly poisons the attendants to a feast he has organized), also became local favourites.
Their 1979 follow-up album Images at Twilight gave them their first charting single in Canada with the song "It's Time" peaking at #84 in the Canadian Charts. From the album, the songs "See Them Smile" and "Slow Motion" became strong radio favourites elsewhere. Saga's next album, Silent Knight was released in 1980 and included the singles "Don't Be Late" and "Careful Where You Step".
In 1981, the band's 4th album Worlds Apart was released. The lead single "Wind Him Up", finally broke them into the Top 40, peaking at #22 on the Canadian Charts in January 1982. A second single "On the Loose" also fared well, and in December 1982, proved to be their breakthrough in America where it peaked at #26 on the Billboard Charts in March 1983. "Wind Him Up" became the second single in America, peaking at #64 on Billboard the following month. Eventually, Worlds Apart was certified Gold in the USA in 1983.
Following on the success of Worlds Apart, the band won the 1982 Juno Award for "Most Promising Group of the Year.
A 5th album Heads or Tales was released in late 1983 and became another success. The lead single "The Flyer" fared well in Canada and also became their final U.S. hit, peaking at #79 on Billboard in November 1983. A follow-up single "Scratching the Surface" was popular in Canada, peaking at #45 in April 1984.
Their 6th album Behaviour was released in 1985, and included the singles: "Listen to Your Heart" and "What Do I Know" (#57 Canada).
In 1986, Steve Negus and Jim Gilmour left the band over management concerns, later recording one album as the Gilmour-Negus Project (GNP). Meanwhile, Saga continued to record and tour, with Michael Sadler and the Crichton brothers augmented by session musicians.
Their 1987 release Wildest Dreams enjoyed better distribution under new label, Atlantic Records, but it failed to match expectations in America. The lead single "Only Time Will Tell" became a popular Chart favourite in Canada (#93), with a memorable video rotated on MTV for a brief period. However, the remainder of the album suffered from over-reliance on technology, with armies of sequencers and drum machines replacing much of the band's earlier trademark sound with Gilmour and Negus.
For 1989's The Beginner's Guide to Throwing Shapes, Saga refocused on their earlier European popularity which marked a return to their earlier progressive style. In 1993, Steve Negus and Jim Gilmour returned to Saga. The band's next album, The Security of Illusion, was well received by Saga fans in Canada and Europe. The 1994 followup, Steel Umbrellas, was considered uneven when compared to their previous release, perhaps due to the material originally being produced for the short-lived television series Cobra. However, despite lacklustre album sales, Saga's 1993 and 1994 tours helped maintain some of the band's early popularity; their reputation as live performers was not lost among the band's long time fans.
In 1995, Jim Crichton composed and produced the majority of Saga's next album, the conceptual Generation 13. Inspired by a popular political treatise by the same name, the story follows main character Jeremy's troubled search for his real father. The concept is somewhat reminiscent of the storyline in The Who's Quadrophenia. The album's heavier compositions have a sound similar to fellow Canadians, progressive rock legends Rush, and even early Kansas.
Saga's next release, Pleasure and the Pain was released on the eve of their 26th anniversary tour in 1997. The album failed to maintain the interest created by the previous release. On the same anniversary tour the album Phase 1 was released. Phase 1 was an album containing demo songs from the 1979 album Images at Twilight — some of them were songs found not good enough for the album, some of them were different version songs. The album quickly sold out and a second issue was printed. The album was hard to get and it soon became a most wanted item for Saga collectors and fans.
Their 1998 tour was captured on the next album, Detours, a double-live album released worldwide. Saga's next three albums, 1999's Full Circle, 2001's House of Cards and Marathon released in 2003 have all been popular with the band's longtime and loyal fanbase. House of Cards, in particular enjoyed renewed interest. Its acoustic-flavoured single, "Money Talks" received Top 5 video airplay in Canada. All three albums included new "chapters", representing a return to the progressive rock of the band's early days. Saga released a new studio album, Network, in the fall of 2004. Their next album, Trust, was released in 2006, featuring Brian Doerner as their new drummer. Doerner made his debut on a live Canadian television broadcast in late 2005.
Even though Jim Crichton and Michael Sadler both live in Los Angeles, they have not committed Saga to any full-length American tours since 1986. However, in late 2005, Michael Sadler announced a limited tour on the West Coast to promote his solo album, Clear. The trek featured Ian Crichton as touring guitarist. Saga also played one show in New York City during their summer 2006 tour in support of Trust.
Despite the band's fluctuating musical styles and limited commercial success in The United States, their fans have remained extremely loyal over the decades. Their musical style was defined by Ian Crichton's staccato guitar riffs, often in harmony with a synthesizer, and complex keyboard arrangements, frequently featuring three players.
The band's multi-song cycle "The Chapters" spanned their first four albums and were continued on later releases beginning in 1999. Songs from the cycle have been performed in concert throughout their career.
The band has been constantly successful in Germany since its inception. It is also very popular in Puerto Rico: Saga has visited the island twelve times. Saga's second concert in Puerto Rico (1981) caused riots from fans trying to crash into a sold-out concert that sold over 10,000 tickets. Most of the inner cover photographs from the original vinyl release of In Transit were taken in Puerto Rico, including a live photograph from the 1981 concert. For a few years, a keyboard riff from their song "No Regrets" became the background music for station breaks at WCAD-FM in San Juan. The band received formal recognition as distinguished visitors from the Puerto Rican legislature in February 2005. Their concert on December 9, 2007 (at the Pier 10 Arena club in Old San Juan) was the last concert that Michael Sadler did with Saga -until his announcement of returning to the band on January 2011-.
On January 16, 2007, it was announced by InsideOut, the band's current record label, that lead singer Michael Sadler would be leaving Saga for personal reasons at the end of 2007. Later that year on Michael's personal site, michaelsadler.com, a note was posted by the singer revealing that his departure was due to a desire to focus on his family life and retire from the stress of being in an active travelling band. A farewell tour of sorts is in the works which will also commemorate Saga's 36th anniversary as a band. Saga announced on July 15, 2007 that they were recording a new album in Los Angeles. Titled "10,000 Days," the album was released on November 6, 2007 in conjunction with their planned European tour. ("10,000 days" equates to 27 years, 4.54 months, approximately the amount of time Sadler spent with the band). Sadler also recorded a forthcoming DVD commemorating his last European tour with Saga. Just prior to the release of "10,000 Days", in October 2007 drummer Brian Doerner suffered a heart attack. He has since made a full recovery, but a stand-in drummer (Chris Sutherland) was required to fulfill touring commitments.
Saga announced they were auditioning lead vocalists to continue the band's career. The musicians recorded instrumental versions of "On the Loose" and "Wind Him Up" for prospective singers to perform on YouTube, with the winning candidate to be announced at a later date. During the search, Ian Crichton remarked that hopeful candidates "should have a set of pipes" as well as personality. The guitarist also remarked that a Canadian would be preferable, presumably because of travel considerations and the band's nationality. Over 20 candidates (including one woman) submitted demos from across the Atlantic and Caribbean.
SAGA's Michael Sadler in August, 2011
SAGA's Ian Crichton in August, 2011.
On 15 April 2008, Saga announced that Rob Moratti of Toronto, former singer of Final Frontier, had joined the band as the new lead vocalist. Moratti's background included more than a decade of experience in the Canadian rock music industry, recently working with the respected guitarist-producer Mladen. Throughout his tenure with the band, Moratti concentrated on lead vocals, leaving the band's instrumental dynamics somewhat changed from the Sadler era, where the lead vocalist often doubled on bass guitar and keyboards. Saga's first gig with Moratti took place in the summer of 2008. Also, 2008 saw the release of a book about the band's history, 'Saga: The Biography,' by renowned rock journalist (and long-time friend of Saga), Edwin Ammerlaan.
In 2009 Saga released their first CD with Rob Moratti. This CD is titled The Human Condition and was released in the spring 2009. The band toured in Europe and Canada.
On January 28, 2011, an official statement was made announcing Michael Sadler's return as the lead singer of Saga.