First things first: Face á Face isn’t a new offering from eighties rock band Saga. If you’re a fan of that Saga and you buy this album, you’re probably going to be pretty unhappy.
No, this Saga is a Frenchman, and apparently a dead ringer for the late Steve McQueen, which must help him with the ladies. Saga doesn’t play an instrument; he’s here to sing—and, methinks, to do the Charismatic Frontman thing. It should work well; Saga’s gritty, accented growl is appealing, blending elements of Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen and Barry Adamson.
The trouble here is the music, a bland blur of blues-tinged adult contemporary album rock. It seems like Saga can’t quite decide whether he wants to be a Claptonesque bluesman or a Gainsbourg-esque balladeer, and on too many songs he tries to be both. A volatile element in this mix is guitarist Georges Bodossian, whose noodling-intensive style seems intended for an entirely different album than the rest of Face á Face‘s music. As the album’s recording engineer, Bodossian was free to wank away on his guitar as a way of balancing out the naff keyboard melodies and ill-considered rhythms of tunes like “C’etait pour te dire”. Someone should have stopped him. There are stronger points—orchestral moments like “Dans tes yeux” (“In Your Eyes”), which work well when understated—but for God’s sake, don’t read the overwrought lyrics.
Ladies beware: Face á Face has “Yuppie Seduction Album” written all over it. If your blind date owns this disc and isn’t a music reviewer, leg it—and pronto.
Though Saga’s vocals hold some charm, I think his best bet is to start taking some guitar or piano lessons. Playing solo in some smoky bar, he’ll be better able to work his raconteur angle; on Face á Face, he comes off like a French Don Henley. I honestly don’t believe anyone wants a French Don Henley.
// Notes from the Road
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