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Yes - Relayer CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.38 | 3271 ratings

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5 stars Ever since "Close to the Edge," I think Yes has faced a difficult challenge---how to continue to create in such a way that maintains the level of quality set by CTTE, but also in a way that does not merely repeat the past and that allows the band members to evolve and take chances. "Tales" was a admirable attempt to do that, and overall I think the band succeeded with it. But at the same time, it became clear that they couldn't do something like that again. A different experiment was required. What emerged was "Relayer," .and it was good.

From the moment it starts, there is a different sound quality to "Relayer," something in the production that distinguishes it from all albums that came before it and even after it. I'm not sure what it is, but the sound has a certain tone or production effect or something. And this may be in part due to the lack of Wakeman and the prevalence of Steve Howe.

It's clear after a couple of listens that this album is the result of a close collaboration between Jon Anderson and Steve Howe. It must have taken many months to compose, draft, construct, and finally memorize these pieces. Overall, it is Howe that does most of the instrumental work here on this album. He is all over the album providing rhythm guitar, soloing on top of it, wearing out his volume pedal to create ethereal synth-like sounds. Anderson provides excellent melodies and compositional ideas---the ebb and flow of "Gates of Delirium," the radical vocal ideas of "Sound Chaser," the wonderful "To Be Over."

What also becomes more apparent the more you listen to "Relayer" is that Squire is less prevalent on this album than say the first five Yes albums, and not only his bass playing is missed but also his vocals. And the album suffers somewhat from this. A dimension is missing, one that won't return until "Drama." On "Drama" we hear again the Squire of old when the music thrummed to his bass runs and his vocal is distinguishable in the mix. (Though to be fair, his work is outstanding on "Sound Chaser"). Similarly Wakeman's presence is missed, and as a result there is too much Howe instrumental work that fills in the spaces that Wakeman would have filled in with his unique sound.

It must have been quite the challenge for Patrick Moraz. He had to jump into a group situation that had evolved into a very refined state. And while there are some keyboard moments that do stand out (e.g., the openings of "Gates" and "Sound Chaser"), for the most part they are somewhat buried in the mix, as if Yes did not trust him to noticeably assert himself.

But despite these criticisms, "Relayer" succeeds, and succeeds on many levels. One reason I think fans celebrate "Relayer" as Yes's best album is because it stands for an acceptance of change, an acceptance of a band that is doing its best to move forward, and not repeat itself, to let their intuitions guide the evolution of their sound.

And after Relayer, Yes was still in the same predicament as after "Tales;" it could not give us another "Relayer;" they would have to come up with something else, something as good but different. And they succeeded it again with "Going for the One," in my opinion. And that's the true test of a great band: Can they continue to create and evolve in a way that is interesting and compels repeated listening. ELP couldn't manage it after "Brain Salad Surgery" and (god knows) Yes has fallen flat in later attempts. But "Relayer" is a landmark in Yes's-and in golden age prog's-history. Five stars.

bluetailfly | 5/5 |


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