Reviews from September/99


Saga / Full Circles / SPV 085-21462


SAGA - Full Circle. I remember Saga's "Wildest Dreams" ('87) as a good record - their best in years. Exactly the same thing can I say about this one "Full Circle", their best in years.
I have been on and off Saga since start 80's, and they sometimes disappoint me, big time - but mostly they enjoy me, big time. After a period with solo-releases from Gilmour and Chrichton the music on this one combines the many qualities in the talents of  Michael Sadler, Jim Gilmour, Ian and Jim Crichton and finally Steve Negus. With an ear for both melody, energy, power and art they are leading us as viewers and listeners into their strange but beautiful universe.
Songs like "Remember when (chapter 9)", Uncle Albert's Eyes (chapter 13) and "Don't say Goodbye" are standing out. But all in all it's as usual very well played symphonic hard rock with epic bits and a very nice production by Jim Crichton and mastered by Brian Foraker.
One of the the better albums by this Canadian outfit - and it appeals to both older as newer fans.


Styx / Brave New World / SPV 085-21422


STYX - Brave New World. Styx are back - and what a comeback.
They have always managed to combine the symphonic sides with the melodic, simple and effective - and "Brave new World" is a masterpiece in my humble opinion. Tommy Shaw and James Young are very dynamic front twins and singing at their best - every time.
Dennis DeYoung, Chuck Panozzo and "new" drummer Todd Suchermann who started on "Return to Paradise" (1997)  are all very good at both quick, slow and pompy passages.
Because this record has it all from the opener "I will be your Witness" ( it is not gospel) over the energetic title track and my favourite the ballad "While there's Time" with  perfect sound, background vocals and hidden energy - and I have a soft spot for this. But also tracks like "Goodbye Roseland" and the doomy "Heavy Water" are outstanding. There is always a mood on this that you can relate to.
The record is produced by Shaw, DeYoung and Young and mixed by Ron Nevison and you can hear the more AOR-influenced work on this, I think - Shaw's work with Damn Yankee's had payed off. But also orchestral passages with piano, strings and horns can be heard from now and then.
For me this is almost a "perfect" record - I know it's a big word - but Styx are to me great musicianship in tight shape and with lots of energy and things on their mind, "Brave new World" is words that goes on for more or less the whole record as a commom theme. They had it then and they are at their best now.
I must recommend this one it grows for every spin in the CD-player, it is absolutely great!!


Neal Morse / St. / InsideOutMusic  085-31752


Neal Morse - st. Can you imagine a cocktail or mixture of Crowded House, The Rembrandts and Kansas? If you can then Neal Morse could be something for you!
Neal Morse and his former band Spock's Beard has never been that big to me therefore he is a new but very interesting singer and musician who has a very relaxed attitude towards genres - he is capable of playing long jazz-influenced passages and shortly afterward he experience salsa and noise ... very fresh indeed. The album is tighten together by a good production - strong enough to give it an edge but also loose that let the music breathe and grow.
The main thing you can say about his selftitled album is that he is always true to what he plays - and I as a listener will never doubt his enthusiasm and great musicianship.
So if you're to something new and fresh and will like to give the AOR-kliché a brush-up - Neal Morse is right up your alley.


Survivor / I'm always here (5 track single) / FRCD 032


Survivor - Baywatch Panorama. As an hors d'euvre for a full album called "Empires" later this year Jimi Jamison's Survivor releases the theme from "Baywatch" as an extended single - with 1 new number and 2 "classic" Survivor tracks in a live-version.
There is nothing to it really, because the "Baywatch"-theme is called "I'm always here" and could be the intro to almost any kind of soap-serie - of course Jimi Jamison sings very elegant with his powerfull hoarse voice. But I guess this track just doesn't have IT.
The next track a new one called "Have Mercy" is better - by far. Raw guitar played by Chris Adamson mixed with good vocals and a tempting beat and backing vocals by Lisa Frazier and Michael Sembello.
This little PR-thing ends with "Too hot to sleep" and "Rebel Son" - both played live. It's not breathtaking but it's rare and every fan should grap a copy! But personally I am looking forward to the full release "Empires" in October, it could be great when Jimi & co. could combine the classic sound with some new elements.