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Saga Vocalist Michael Sadler Thinks Rock Radio Sucks Today (He’s Right)

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Lovers of prog-rock, and elegant hard rock in general, undoubtedly know the name Saga. Along with Rush and Triumph, the Canadian became one of their country’s most beloved rock exports during the ’80s. Infectious singles like “On the Loose” and “The Flyer” hooked in a wide audience and the band’s marriage of elegant melodies and intricate arrangements refreshingly got playlisted on AOR, and even some pop, radio formats. This week, Saga returned to U.S. record stores with their 20th album, the excellent 20/20.

It’s a huge feat for any artist to get that deep into their discography, but it’s especially impressive considering what singer Michael Sadler tells Noisecreep about Saga’s early days: “It’s a strange thing, but I remember shortly after our first album came out [1978's Saga], we found out that we were selling a substantial amount of records in Germany, of all places. We didn’t even have a deal there yet. Around that time, we also started getting a ton of airplay in Puerto Rico. We were shocked! This all happened before anyone in Canada really knew who we were. The funny thing was people in our own country started thinking we were a German band because we were touring over there so much. It was a strange time,” remembers the singer.

Watch Saga’s ‘The Flyer’ Video

Saga hit their peak, commercially speaking, with the albums Worlds Apart (1981) and Head or Tales (1983), putting the group in the same elite class as other progressive-minded artists such as Genesis and Yes. Sadler is at peace with the prog-rock tag Saga has been branded with, but he doesn’t necessarily agree with it: “We’ve always shied away from the ethereal side of prog. Our music is approachable. I guess I wouldn’t even put Saga in the prog-rock category – at least in the traditional sense of the term. In fact, I think a lot of the prog-rock online forums, they don’t even talk about Saga because they think we’re too “rocky” or something. I think our music is catchy yet still interesting, but it’s not too cerebral to turn most people off.”

Since the ’80s, Saga has kept touring the globe and expanding on their already diverse sonic makeup. After a few years away from the band, Sadler rejoined Saga just in time for the 20/20 sessions. “I’ve actually been living in Los Angeles for the last decade or so, but the rest of the band is still based in Canada. I wasn’t actually a member of the band when they started writing the material for the album. Rob Moratti [Sadler's replacement] had some scratch vocal ideas already down, but he was barely into the record yet. I was handed 20/20 pretty much already finished, which was very different for me. In the past, I had always been so hands on in the writing process. But as a vocalist, I had a great time and love how everything came out. The guys didn’t even hear a note of my singing until I had finished everything. That’s trust!”

Watch 20/20 Album Documentary

With 20/20 in stores now, Saga will be promoting the album out on tour, but Sadler isn’t expecting the kinds of record sales the band used to enjoy decades earlier. It’s just not that kind of commercial climate anymore, at least for bands of Saga’s style: “I was actually talking about this with several people recently. If the radio landscape today was like it was during the time when program directors had more freedom, there are several songs on this new album that would have easily made it on there.

“Unfortunately, there isn’t a platform for bands like Saga anymore. Maybe the Classic Rock stations, but they won’t play anything new from bands like us. We’re going to be going out on tour in the States and I know many people will react with, “I didn’t even know Saga was still around!” But that’s just because there isn’t a commercial outlet for music like this. We’ve had a lot of fun playing some of these prog festivals in Europe, so hopefully we’ll get to do some more of those soon.”

Saga’s 20/20 is available now via Eagle Rock Entertainment/earMusic. Pick up a copy on iTunes or Amazon today!

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