Some years ago I was reading one of the few books about the history of progressive rock, and then I realized that this curious genre is hardly defined and many times it slips away from our hands. We’re sometimes not capable to relate or to include a band inside of it, it’s so complicated that we create one single little genre inside each of us with our own bands and opinions. Well, on that book written by a popular expert author I read that the Gentle Giant were not a prog-rock band, they were just a good rock band. At that moment I was thinking about throwing the writing away but in fact we all are affected by it, that kind of mental disorder caused by the length of the style and its so undefined shape that make us hesitate endlessly. All this I account for is due to my problem of understandingSaga, an admirable band with a vast career and which it seems to be considered as a progressive band, but for me it has always been a good american AOR band from the seventies.
Anyway, don’t pay me much attention. One always can talk about anything from outside and not giving a personal opinion that could distort the reality.
“Marathon” is a mature, strong and well driven record. A record full of power and well constructed, reviewing the ideas from the past with a nice urban touch. The front cover defines it all for me, that kind of humanoid half insect half human describing the musical structure of the band that flies back to his roots and the back cover framing a big city, the civilization, the modern society and its simple vision of the past, and the connection within the two images. A circle that seems to be close that goes from the sheer isolation of the creature (“Full Circle”), the encounter with a week civilization (“House of Cards”), and the full connection with that society (“Marathon”).
The members seems to feel comfortable lately; Michael Sadler (lead voice), Jim Crichton (bass, keys), Ian Crichton (guitar), Jim Gilmour (keys, vocals) &Steve Negus (drums). The record looks at its past, mainly to the period of late seventies and early eighties, and it also makes a short summary of its work from late eighties onwards. The keys fade a little bit and the guitars come to the front bravely. “Marathon” is a dynamic song, with a powerful guitar riff. It’s a strong first approach although a bit simple. “How are you?” keeps on with the that first rhythm introducing little changes that make it more varied. “Breathing Lesson” is a nice piece with a pleasant melody, worth to be a hit single. “Hands up” is a good reminder of the work of the band from eighties and nineties, with strong and heavy guitars. “Streets of Gold (Chapter 14)” is, of course, a new part of this endless history. A song that reviews the old movements of the band. “Blind Side of the Heart” very similar to “Breathing Lessons” a perfect ballad. “Return to Forever” and “Too deep” are a good bridge to “You know I know (Chapter 12)” the band takes again with great skill the sound from the past with an excellent vocal harmonies and interesting keys work, one of the best songs on the record. “Rise and Shine” is a new charming and simple piece towards “Worlds Apart (Chapter 16)” the last song of the CD using again their first writings refurnishing them one more time. These three pieces are maybe the most remarkable ones, the difference is big between these and the rest which shows a bit more pop-rock style.
It’s difficult, i guess that fans from the progressive sound of Saga will enjoy a lot with that revisited songs and new chapters of old histories, for the ones who don’t like progressive music and are fans of the band this record is great.