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Yes - Relayer CD (album) cover

RELAYER

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

4.36 | 2111 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Review 49, Relayer, Yes, 1974 StarStarStarStar

I have spewed my thoughts on how 'over-rated' this album is all over the forum. However, I must admit, I do actually like it. It's an interesting progression in the Yes sound, with the added jazzy (rather than atmospheric) keys of Moraz. That may do it for some people, even if Wakeman was more to my taste. My 'problem' (for want of a less extreme word) with the album is The Gates Of Delirium. The other two tracks, especially Sound Chaser, are excellent, reaching the heights I'd expect of Yes. The Gates... occasionally gathers together the parts of Yes that I don't particularly like. Nonetheless, the album is overall a fairly sturdy construction, I do enjoy listening to it, even if I'm a little more partial to the second half than the first. Additionally, it's definitely progressive, rather than simply extended, and also features some dazzling playing. Very good, but not, for me, the masterpiece that it is often made out to be.

The Gates Of Delirium has a few essential problems. Jon Anderson's attempt to go for more tangible and physical lyrics doesn't really pay off, I think (lines like 'kill them/give them as they give us', for instance), and I feel he's more competent and capable with his more surreal/cerebral lyrical content. Second, it only in instants really hits the lyrical content for me. The battle section is simply unconvincing, and the build-up is broken up a little unhelpfully. Finally, though I'm perhaps being enormously hypocritical here, I feel Yes tried too hard to spell out exactly what they were doing without the spark that their previous albums had. The drums-keyboard battle is a case in point. I simply don't get much really cerebral out of it, and it doesn't convey the battle at all, just a pair of chappies on keyboard and drums.

On the plus side, the basic content is excellent. Chris Squire is the highlight player with a typically fluid and distinctive bass part. Alan White doesn't handle himself at all shabbily, either, showing his sort of synergy with Squire and a number of interesting percussion choices. Moraz' keyboards do definitely add something new, and even though I'm more of a fan of Wakeman's dense and subtle atmospherics: a jazzy tinge, especially in the central section, as well as a denser organ sound and superb use of the moog. Steve Howe displays his abilities as a killer soloist and player, though not throwing in his guitar when he doesn't really feel it's necessary. The vocals, perhaps, do not have the instant charm of previous Yes-work, but they're not bad, per sť. All in all, the various musicians merge excellently to create an interesting, superbly-played end product, even if it's a tad unconnected at times, could have been abridged without much serious harm, and has its weaknesses.

Of particular interest is the reverent and haunting section segueing to Soon, where I feel the whole atmosphere bursts in, and that entire concluding part, with its rather mixed message, crossing tragedy and loss with the need to go on, stunning vocals from Anderson and keys from Moraz, as well as a carefully ebbing bass from Squire (not too unreminiscent, oddly of a softer Floyd song). Howe, as always, is right at home on the acoustics, as well as a glowing electric. A gorgeous and emotive piece of music.

Sound Chaser is a more chaotic and overtly jazzy piece, with standout performances from all involved, especially Moraz's electric piano and organ and a jaw-dropping (slightly pseudo-Spanish on electrics) solo from Howe. The rest of the men are adapted very well to the jazz playing. Anderson's more upbeat harmonised vocals suit the fluid atmosphere, and the cross of the sheer noise of the full band pieces, the darker edges (mostly contributed by a classicalish drumming style from White) and the more careful (one could say pastoral, but in a very Iberian way) sections is handled with no slips.

Additionally, though the atmosphere is given less real obvious focus, it's very present throughout. The much maligned 'cha-cha-cha-cha' section is one of my favourite Yes moments because of the slightly rougher backing vocals and drums. The whole piece is consistently brilliant, impressive and enjoyable, and Howe's solo, especially, is not to be missed.

Finally, To Be Over rounds off the album. It, too, is a decent composition, though initially rather too hesitant for my liking, and occasionally the keyboards seem a little wallowing rather than concise. I feel that the introduction would have benefited from a touch of trimming, but the worries of the piece are lost by the vocal entrance, with another entrancing harmony, an interesting twist on the classic ballady drum-beat that we might more expect from Rush, as well as a decent solo from Howe, which turns into a slightly stronger backed solo (though I can't help but feel the backing is a little normal). The 'after all... your soul will still surrender' area shows some of the more successful efforts of this song, merging more gentle and positive sections with edgy attempts. Alas, the end is somewhat riffed ad nauseam. Not a bad effort, certainly, but it's pretty emblematic of the album's merging of positive and slightly weak ideas, and I won't get the urge for it as I might for something like Close To The Edge or South Side Of The Sky.

The bonus material has the same issue as Tales. It basically regurgitates things from the album in an unpolished format. Perhaps more of interest to those who really like this album, but there's nothing really to detain me after the obligatory To Be Over. A single version of Soon feels rather out of context to me, and I can't really enjoy it so much having heard the thing in context first. The edit of Sound Chaser similarly feels a bit like obligatory bonus rather than interesting bonus. The run-through of Gates is actually quite interesting in showing a couple of the early ideas in the piece, and the drumming is a little more vicious, I feel. Not a 'you must get the remaster for this track alone' bonus, but not too terrible if you're getting the album for the first time.

'After all, your soul will still surrender...'. Perhaps not, in my case, but I think that you can't miss this album. Some wow moments, some not so wow moments, but great playing throughout, and a solid Yes album. They clearly produced a unique album that Yes could not have really done with Wakeman, and with a real gem in the middle. Probably essential, especially if you're less whiny about lyrics than I am.

Rating: Four Stars Favourite Track: Sound Chaser

TGM: Orb | 4/5 |

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