Reviews February/01

Saga / House of Cards / SPV 085-72162-P CD


Saga - House of Cards Tracklisting:God Knows; The Runaway; Always there; Ashes to Ashes (Chapter 11); Once in a Lifetime; Only Human; That's how we like it; Watching the Clock (instrumental); We'll meet again (Chapter 15); Money Talks; House of Cards.

Saga has survived to this day in their original line-up, and has always been one of my favourite bands in the genre that was referred to as "Art Rock". They have always been progressive remained faithful to themselves stylistically all these years. Their only week period from 1979 to now was in the mid-80's, when they made records as a trio + guest musicians. But the original line-up started playing again at the beginning of the 90's and Jim Crichton (bass), Ian Crichton (guitar), Steve Negus (drums), Michael Sadler (vocals) and Jim Gilmore (keyboards) has kept the fire burning - in fact, I think their latest releases are their most interesting.
Saga's new album "House of Cards" has this very significant sound that always will identify Saga - and they still continue their "Chapter ..."-serie. But on the other hand on this one the band venture even more strongly into different extremes. There are some very quiet passages where only an acustic guitar can be heard, and then there are heavy sections - heavier than ever before.
Tracks to remember are opener "God Knows" which is a classic Saga anthem with big big sound and lots of power, guitar and keyboards. But also the more mellow "Ashes to Ashes" and the beautiful "Once in a Lifetime" are among the best tracks the Canadian quintet has ever made.
I am a sucker for a good melody and musical ability - and Saga has lots of both - I think "House of Cards" are very good, and will be one of my favourites.

Savatage / Poets and Madmen / SPV 085-72152CD


Savatage! Tracklisting:Stay with me awhile; There in the Silence; Commissar; I seek Power; Drive; Morphine Child; The Rumor (Jesus); Man in the Mirror; Surrender; Awaken; Back to a Reason.

Savatage's career goes back to the early 80's. They started out as Metropolis/Avatar but quickly changed their name to Savatage. But after a career with lots of musicians starring on one album and gone on the next I have always considered Savatage as being a power metal outfit two steps behind.
But on the other hand I have to admit that I like some of their preveous works such as "Hall of the Mountain King" from 1987, "Gutter Ballet" from 1990 and "A Handful of Rain" (1993). Especially Alex Skolnick's fretwork on "A Handful..." was impressing. The band has of course "suffered" from the many musicians and of course by the loss of original guitar player Chris Oliva in 1993.
But enough of the history lesson back to "Poets and Madmen". Like some of Savatage's previous albums the whole concept of it is to tell one story - and this time it's a storyline follows three kids who unwittingly break into a closed-down psychiatric hospital. Here they discover a cabinet with old patients files. One of the patients used to be a succesful press photographer, who covered the civil wars in Central Africa and ending up losing his mind. After the clinic closed down, the photographer returned to the empty building in search for shelter and peace!!! Spooky
Stylistically the new material takes the same direction as the bands work from the mid 80's - it dark, melodic and very powerful, and it tells a story that is important for Oliva & Co. to come out with.
After the release of "Poets and Madmen" Savatage will go on a major tour around the world maybe as a foursome, like now with Jon Oliva taking care of the vocals - but maybe departed vocalist Zackery Stevens will return on part of the tour or maybe they will get a new vocalist or maybe....?

Cafe´ne / Nouveaux Mondes / CD FGBG 4340.AR (2000)


Cafe´ne - progressive Franchaise! Tracklisting:Hubble; L'or des Indes; Voler en Eclats; Les Conquerants; Don Juan; Atomik; Alexandre; My Only Quest; Cathedrale.

Cafe´ne and the french progressive music scene are total strangers to me. But it sounds very fresh and vital.
This group is a foursome and featuring Patrick Jobard on guitars, Christophe Houssin on keyboards, Jean-Christophe Lamoureux on bass and Regis Bravi on drums. And Cafe´ne delievers a very fine piece of work with the album "Nouveaux Mondes" (New Worlds) with both long instrumental passages and different singers and folklore instruments to tell the stry of the colonization of South America.
In fact "Nouveaux Mondes" is a rock opera with music that in sound and expression reminds me a bit of Pendragon. Despite my first thoughts I never got tired of these very excellent musicians - maybe because of the ever changing music and solo's. I especially like the track "Les Conquerants" the male voice on this one is very passionate and the music starts up very quiet but soon it's getting dramatic - great.
It was a very pleasent companionship - and I am looking forward to get to know these guys a bit better - check their website out and get a little wiser on Cafe´ne and french progressive art rock.

ę Steen Peitersen 1999-2001