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Yes - Relayer CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.37 | 3021 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
5 stars Hot on the heels of their "Tales From Topographic Oceans" tour Rick Wakeman decided to jump ship from the mighty YES due to creative differences with "Tales From Topographic Oceans," the whopping double album that dipped too much into the ethereal imagination of vocalist Jon Anderson. In order to find the proper replacement to fill Wakeman's hard-to-fill shoes, the band searched high and low and even auditioned Vangelis who didn't quite fit in with this crowd. After the dust settled they settled for the Swiss keyboardist Patrick Moraz whose only real band experience was with the progressive rock band Refugee. The band sallied forth without Wakeman and without him conjured up one of their most complex and challenging albums of their career with RELAYER. This album is really perfect in every way. It takes all the complexities and diverse elements found on pretty much all of their previous works and stitch them together in creative new ways while still adding a lot of experimentation to the mix. This is probably one of the most complex albums that took me the longest to appreciate. The music is so jittery and bombastic that i didn't know what hit me the first time i heard this. I couldn't understand why anyone would like this. Granted it was one of the first progressive rock albums i got into along with other YES albums, but happily after a gazillion and one listens to this i can honestly say not only has it aged well, but it has gotten better after each subsequent listen and continues to do so to this very day.

There are many similarities with previous albums although there are many more differences. The album attempts to take the variety of diverse complexities from "Tales?" and condenses them into a single three track album which in that regard is similar to "Close To The Edge" where the first track "The Gates Of Delirium" takes up a whole side on the original LP and side two consists of two tracks. There is less time for spaced out wandering and more focus on extremely tight band interactions that spiral out a healthy amount of variations on different complex melodies. After the mixed reviews of "Tales?" the band returned to the top of the charts with RELAYER as it was a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic. This is probably one of the most complex albums i can think of to actually hit the top 5 on the Billboard album charts and be certified gold soon after its release. Obviously YES had no problem carrying on without Wakeman and i believe that without him is the reason they could experiment even more leaving behind the classical keyboard approach and taking on harder sounds where the keyboards were more designed to be a surreal fugue behind the guitar and bass.

The album begins with the monstrous behemoth "The Gates Of Delirium" which at 21:50 remained their lengthiest single track for much of their career. The track is based on Leo Tolstoy's "War And Peace" and has different sections that run the gamut of symphonic progressive rock, hard rock, experimentalism and even some musique concrète. The very last section called "Soon" was actually released as a single. This song was designed to convey the feel of a battle scene where each section segues into the next ranging from the chaotic to the melodic as heard in the "Soon" section which concludes the horrific battle with a melodic prayer offering hope for the future. The battle scene is notorious for the crashing of car parts that Alan White and Jon Anderson would collect and hang up to randomly bang upon. There is one chaotic part where Alan White pushes the whole collection over creating a massive cacophony.

The second track "Soundchaser" is easily one of my all-time favorite pieces of musical magic. This track embodies virtually every possible trait of progressive rock that i could imagine. It shows deep emotional connection, outstandingly technical prowess, consonance, dissonance, fantastic structure, OMG soloing, perfectly balanced dynamics between the bombastic and subtle and an excellent adaption of adding funk and jazz-fusion to the YES sound. It is just perfectly paced with Steve Howe's guitar solos being amongst the strongest highlights of an impressive-in-every-way track. The slide guitar adds a slippery slide feel with proggy time sigs to die for with punctuated vocal interruptions a la Jon Anderson's "cha-cha-cha's" . I really want this to be a twenty minute track as well as its mere 9:31 isn't quite enough musical bliss for me!

The last track "To Be Over" is the most accessible track on the album that creates a complex melodic arrangement of the guitar and electric sitar. It starts out as a lovely ballad with dreamy vocals accompanied by slide guitar and a nice mellow break after the frenetic outbursts of "Soundchaser." The counterpoint soloing keyboards are heaven on Earth. This song builds in tempo and breaks into a more hard rocking sound while retaining the overall mellow feel of the introductory melody only with more energetic guitar, bass and drum action. A great way to wind down one of the most bombastic symphonic progressive rock albums in all of history.

And if all the music wasn't enough. RELAYER has one of my favorite album covers of all time by Roger Dean. The silver and grey wrap around ice cavern scene offers up a dreamy fantastical Tolkien type landscape that complements every aspect of the music. It offers the placid otherworldliness with the contrasting hues of grey with the dangers that lurk ahead as witnessed by the serpent that stands in the way of the path to the magical kingdom. I really don't have desert isle lists and the like because my musical tastes are as fickle as a breeze changing at the drop of a hat. I find most music can be satisfying at some particular moment and then not so at others but RELAYER is an album that satisfies anytime, anywhere and as frequently as i want. I still have a hard time retaining these melodies in my head yet they are as pleasant to hear every single time, therefore RELAYER is without doubt my current all-time favorite YES album and a mandatory desert-isle pick for its ability to be the musical gift that never stops giving me what i want out of it. 5 stars to the 5th power and beyond. It doesn't get much better than this.

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |


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