Michael Sadler: Clear
ProgRock Records has pulled a major score here by gaining distribution rights for the new solo album from Saga frontman Michael Sadler. Clear is an enjoyable collection of 12 songs that mix pop, hard rock, and prog into a sound that is fresh and modern, not unlike the music of Saga, but much more accessible and commercial. Taking a look at the photos of Sadler on the CD and you can't help but notice how much older he looks these days (well, the shaved head and the chin scrubble doesn't help), but the singer sounds more at ease with his voice than he has in years. Many of the songs on Clear have melodies that will haunt you and stay with you for hours, maybe days, if you let them. Add in some rock solid music accompanyment, and you have a very strong solo album from a vastly underrated vocalist.

"Who's Sorry Now" is a bubbly and quirky rocker, very much in the Saga style, that kicks off the album in grand fashion, complete with futuristic synths and power chords, while "Who's Foolin' Who" is a catchy yet emotional tune of a relationship gone bad, highlighted by strong vocals from Sadler, as well as some effective female backing vocals. The same female vocals soar on the pop/R&B song "Too Much Time on My Hands", a real departure for Sadler, yet it works due to the great melody and chorus. For all you male prog fans who have significant others who detest the genre, play them this song and see then tapping their feet and singing along after a few minutes! "I'm Not the Enemy" is a churning rocker with a great hook, crunchy guitar work, and bubbling synths, following the classic Saga formula, while "Can't Let Go" is a tender ballad that sees Sadler passionately singing about that tortures of dealing with an impending end to a relationship, supported elegantly by some gorgeous acoustic guitar from a fellow named Lino. Futuristic pop and hard rock collide on the intriguing "Lonely", while Sadler gets playful on the crunchy yet classy pop of"One Minute", a song that has early 80's written all over it.

If Clear suffers from anything at all, perhaps having a few too many songs might be something to point to. As strong as the first half of the CD is, the latter half tends to lag slightly. "In the Name of Love" and "Why We Lie" are nice enough pop ballads, but both meander a bit into FM adult-contemporary territory. The same can be said for "Surrender Your Heart" and the title track, although that song, as well as "One Heart" at least have some World influences going on that that give them a little Peter Gabriel slant to them. These last few songs kind of act as a water hose to the fiery and shimmering tracks that begin the CD, but in their own right these songs are catchy pop ballads that obviously would be best aimed at Top 40 or Adult Contemporary formats.

Saga fans should easily enjoy Clear, as Michael Sadler proves to be in fine form in this more relaxed atmosphere, singing songs that perhaps don't necessarily fit into the Saga canon, but sound just fine here.

Track List
1) Who's Sorry Now
2) Who's Foolin' Who
3) Too Much Time on My Hands
4) I'm Not the Enemy
5) Can't Let Go
6) Lonely
7) One Minute
8) In the Name of Love
9) Why We Lie
10) One Heart
11) Surrender Your Heart
12) Clear

September 30th 2004
Reviewer: Pete Pardo


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