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Yes - Relayer CD (album) cover

RELAYER

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

4.36 | 2104 ratings

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JLocke
Prog Reviewer
5 stars RELAYER is Yes' best album. A masterpiece, really. What makes it so good, you ask? Well, I will do my best to explain my feelings on the matter in the paragraphs below.

First of all, allow me to set some things straight: Firstly, Yes is not the greatest prog rock band of all time, furthermore, ''Close to the Edge'' is not the greatest prog rock album of all time, and while RELAYER isn't either, it certainly much better than any of their previous works, and is absolutely better than everything else the followed it combined. What makes it so great is the album's attention to detail, and the little intricate things that make it special are often overlooked by the more casual listener. Once you hear what makes RELAYER so special, however, it is one of the best listening experiences you will ever have.

Patrick Moraz takes the place of the highly overrated Rick Wakeman on this album, and frankly, gives the best keyboard performance ever found on a Yes album. I say this simply to let anyone out there who may be putting off Relayer because it doesn't feature the supposed 'classic' line-up know that this is the best line-up Yes ever had, and it should have stayed this way, but Jon Anderson wanted Wakeman back, and Steve Howe didn't want any jazz-rock influence in the band, so alas after only one album, Moraz was let go by the band members. But we get to hear just how wonderfull he is on this release, which is by far Yes' magnum opus.

''The Gates of Delerium'' - The opening track for this album is also the best one; completel with epic classical-style playing by the band as well as some great jazzy stuff from Moraz. It begins with a type of overture, if you will, leading into what becomes this story's sort of 'main theme', a twice-repeated four note combination that just send shivers throughout my entire body. The way the instruments are played on this track sounds as if how a classical orchestra would sound if they used electric instruments- - hardly any 'rock'-sounding melodies to be found here, which is fine by me-- it's about a 'symphonic prog' band played something that sounded symphonic. What gets me is how so many people seem to think that this album is merely aimless jamming, when it is clearly much more than that; clearly a classical music-inspired song, it features many 'movements' that are found in many orchestral arrangements. This song tells the story of an ancient kingdom and an ultimate war that outbreaks. The vocals on this track are exceptional, and the guitar playing is as always supurb, but Moraz'a keys really add an extre depth to this music.

Anyway, on we go through the epic tale, as each musician shines in each of their respective parts, causing the song to build and build as the feeling of drama and tension becomes stronger and stronger. While the melodies at the start of the song are rather placid and beautiful, the entire thing becomes much more aggressive and dramatic in presentation and structure. Soon we are sent into a section of the song in which the music becomes possibly the most aggressive that Yes has ever written (which frankly isn't saying much, folkes). Patric Moraz then breaks out an unbelievably beautiful keyboard solo that becomes a sort of 'battle march' as it were. leading the troops (All of the other instruments) into battle. We now hear the intruments literally have war with one another. This section could tend to sound random and out of place, but it is actually the most original moment on the record, and we hear Alan White's ferocious drums attack Steve Howe's powerful guitar leads, while Moraz and Squire create the backdrop for the fight. At one point (around the 12:47 mark)we hear a thundering crash, and we are now launched into another very powerfull moment led by none other than Moraz, with Howe also contributing to the franzy. The work from Moraz here is simply phenominal, and I'm very serious here when I say that this has impressed me far more than anything Wakeman has ever done on a Yes record. Okay, so after a few bars of that, Howe then takes over the responsibility playing this epic tune, and finally both Moraz and Howe traid off the duty, all while Squire kicks ass as usual on his ricken' and White proves that he can match Bill Bruford's technique any day. Soon, the excitement dies down and the seeming aftermath of the epic battle starts to show it's beauty as the smoke clears. Moraz once again plays a key role here in creating a wonderful ambience that will ultimately set the backdrop of the upcoming section of the song entitled ''Soon''.

Okay, nothing, I repeat, absolutely nothing Yes has done before or since will ever come close to the power of this section of GATES. Moraz takes care of the synth parts while Howe does some amazing side guitar and acoustic work, both of them backing Jon Anderson as he gives his all in his best vocal performance ever recorded. The lyrics are lovely, the melody is beautiful beyond compare, and the entire experience of hearing it has actually brought tears to my eyes. How anyone can listen to this song and not like it is beyond me. It just continues to build from here and become more and more perfect with every note. Absolutely nothing in this entire song is flawed, and especially the ''Soon'' section holds a form of unknown emotion and quality that Yes has never matched again. I don't suppose even they knew how they did it. The track in total comes to just four seconds shy of twenty-two minutes. Yet, much like every other truly great prog epic, it doesn't feel long enough! I myself wish it would go on forever, as it brings some of the most amazing emotions out of me. Truly great stuff.

''Sound Chaser'' - It's the jazz-rock moment on the album, and while some may think it just doesn't fit Yes, I personally love it. Like I say, this is 100% due to Moraz's inclusion in the band, and had he stayed with them, I think they could have continued to make some truly unique and wonderfull music. Instead, they got worse and worse from this point on. A sad thing, really; Moraz was Yes' saviour and they didn't even know it. Anyway, this song has some really great moments, especially from Chris Squire, who displayes his speed on the bass guitar without showing off at all. Of course Howe can keep up with him as well, and finally he, Squire and Moraz all three jam together. Then we get to hear some truly great jazz-meets-classical soloing from Howe; once again one of his best moments in Yes history. Just a little over the six minute mark, the song become much heavier and starts into a very groovy breakdown that is the closest thing to a get-up-and-dance song you're gonna get from classic-era Yes. Once again, Moraz steals the show with a very funky, fusion-esque keyboard solo wich is then interrupted by the vocal chant: ''cha cha cha, cha cha!''

''To Be Over'' - So, did you think that jazz-rock was out of place for a Yes album? How about southern rock? Does that top jazz-rock at all in terms of unlikelyhood? I think so. Don't worry, there is enough synth work here to still make it a significantly progg-y track, but it doesn't really become 'rock' in any sense until abut the 03:50 mark, and even then it's only Steve Howe speed-laying overtop of a more- or-less basic backbeat. The song then slows down once again and makes way for a great vocal harmony section. Eventually we get into a very impressive groove section once again, and quess who is the star once again? Yup, Moraz is definately quite a musician, and as far as I can tell based on his efforts on this album, the fanboys can have Wakeman for all I care. The song and album ends with the theme of this particular song (Which is absolutely beautiful, by the way) repeateing several times over as the fader goes down, closing the most epic and impressive chapter in Yes history for good . . .

Now, I personally find no flaw anywhere on this record, but many people feel like it is useless doodling with instruments and not having a real clear direction. I beg to differ, and feel like it Yes' most solid effort to date (and most likely, ever). Other complaints about the record pertain to the fact that the final track feels out of place when compared to the first two. Personally, I think that is just silly, because the greatest albums of all time are all built around constantly changing tempoes, directions and moods. To say that ''To Be Over'' is out of place on RELAYER is like saying that butter is out of place on toast; these two elements, soft and aggressive, just go together so well in progressive music, and this album is an especially good example of how a great quite track at the end of an exhausting album is the perfect way to end a masterpiece, which this is.

As far as I am concerned, it's essential. No progressive rock fan should be without this album, but many dissagree with me, so therefore it is really up to you, the individual. Give it a try and see if you can hear the same things I do in it that make it a very special record. Ten times the record that CTTE is in my book. A perfect 5 out of 5. Yes' masterpiece.

JLocke | 5/5 |

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