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The Human Condition
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  • When a long-running band loses its original singer of 30 years, it's something big. The Human Condition is Saga's first album without Michael Sadler in the front seat, so its release was met with anticipation. Fans should fear not: new singer Rob Moratti, drafted from the Toronto group Final Frontier, does a more than competent job, although liking or disliking him will depend on your attachment to Sadler and your willingness to accept change. Does he fit Saga's sound? Definitely. Is he a good singer? No doubt. Is he Sadler? No. Moratti has a medium-high hard rock voice (where Sadler's range was medium-low), and he likes to push it. The band has reacted to this new range and youthful energy with a harder-edged sound that pushes the guitars up front, and a newfound level of complexity in the songwriting, something that archs almost back to Generation 13. Fans will detect the subtler artistic changes, while more casual listeners will simply feel that Saga is rocking out more. Otherwise, The Human Condition is a typical Saga album, with a loose and self-explanatory unifying theme (speaking of "concept album" would be pushing it), some pretty strong and uplifting tracks, a couple of dreadful ones, the rest falling in between. The opening seven-minute title track is as close to epic prog rock as Saga ever got. It has powerful riffs, a good melody, and inventive arrangements, all tied down by the square-as-ever rhythm section, the one element that keeps reminding you that Saga is an arena rock band, not a prog rock one. "A Number with a Name" and "Crown of Thorns" are other highlights, two tracks with better, sharper writing than anything found on Trust or Network. Sadly, these strong moments are counterbalanced by clunkers like "Now Is Now" and the closing "You Look Good to Me," terribly insignificant. Overall though, The Human Condition displays a band in sound shape, a band reacting healthily to what constitutes a major change. ~ Fran?ois Couture
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