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RELAYER

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

4.36 | 2169 ratings

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thehallway
Prog Reviewer
5 stars I just love Relayer. The reason yes got away with making it so dangerously similar to 'Close to the Edge' in format, is because musically, it takes a different approach. This album is considerably more jazz-fusion influenced (in no small part due to new keyboard tinkler Patrick Moraz) and delivers a sound that remains symphonic, but is harder and angular; JUST what the band needed after surfacing from an all too deep ocean...

'Gates...' is in my opinion, Jon Anderson's most maturely constructed masterwork. The compositional skill here is worthy of the post-romantic Classical composers; Stravinsky, Sibelius, Debussy, I could go on. Even just within the overture-like introduction itself, we witness (well, hear) a host of themes and counter-points, with varying dynamics, timing, and timbre (again, partly down to Moraz's unique keyboard rig). The verses, choruses, bridges and various other passages and breaks of the first eight minutes, also retain this modest and mature approach. The guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards are gratifyingly mixed to near- equal levels (after all, the BATTLE hasn't started yet) and develop in a non-pretentious yet very progressive way. Jon's lyrics also show an improvement; they remain at times cryptic, but have more focus and resultant strength on this song (and the rest of the album). The battle section is by and large, one of the strongest, most effective, and most interesting passages of music EVER set to portray war. It defeats Floyd's 'Saucerful of Secrets' with it's complex maturity, yet sacrifices no power and energy whatsoever. It wipes the floor with Fripp's 'Lizard', blending themes of different moods and timbres at a constant high-speed rhythm (Alan's percussion on Relayer is easily his best). This section also probably boasts the greatest number of overdubbs on a Yes song, and boy is it busy! But the overcrowdedness works. It escalates into a mind-blowing, ear-shattering, floor-rumbling battle of sound, prefectly capturing the extremitites of combat itself. And with a diginified crash, the fight is over. 'Soon' is beautiful, wonderfully contrasting with the chaos preceeding it, and displaying an emotion that is as powerful as any operatic aftermath. It's a song on it's own, but of course works more effectively at the end of this story.

'Sound Chaser' is jazz rock fusion of the highest calibre, with cross-rhythms and syncopations that would make Bill Bruford and his Crimson line-up very jealous indeed. The last 3 minutes is groovy as fuck, and changes speed and key more frequently than 12-tone serialism. Not for the faint-hearted. 'To Be Over' is welcomingly calm and a favourite of Howe's. This steady tune brings the most mature Yes album to a fitting finish, with detailed passages of soft guitar and mellow synthesizer. There really is nothing to ask for after that.

With 'Relayer', Yes solidified their reputation again. None of my appraisal comes from the first hearing though. This one takes time. The sound is as full as ever, but facing in a slightly different direction this time. Such is what prevents 'Relayer' from ever becoming dull.

thehallway | 5/5 |

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