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Yes - Relayer CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.37 | 3177 ratings

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5 stars Relayer is kind of an overlooked album even by Yes fans. How so, if it's got a fairly decent rating of 4.31 as I write? Simply because it's a masterpiece in its own merits. It owes nothing to Close to the Edge. In fact, if you allow me the play of words, it's got the edge over their most well-known album, almost unanimously praised as the best Yes and maybe in the whole prog scene. I might be one of the few disonant voices upon this matter.

Close to the Edge is indisputably a prog milestone. Much like Dark Side of the Moon, realeased shortly after. But Relayer is the least known masterpiece that indeed surpasses its better known counterpart. Much like Wish You Were Here, released shortly after.

My own hipothesis to why is it so: first and foremost, the groundbreaking work of a band/artist, thefore their most innovative album (to date, at least), is the one that becomes a landmark not only in the band, but also rock and roll history, and so tends to overshadow everything that comes after. In this sense, Relayer is to Close to the Edge as Wish You Were Here to Dark Side of the Moon; Who's Next (or Quadrophenia) to Tommy; Abbey Road to Sgt. Pepper's; Incantations to Tubular Bells. Second, in my personal view, there is a bit of a bias against Relayer because it is no longer performed by Yes classic formation. Patrick Moraz replaces Rick Wakeman. Alan White, Bill Bruford. They're very worthy successors, but Moraz has a very different style and, well, as good as Alan White is, Bill Bruford is still Bill Bruford (though, to me, he became THE drummer de facto and by right only after he joined King Crimson).

Having said that, let me explain why, in my very personal views, Relayer surpasses Close to the Edge as Yes's masterpiece and best album. It's a more mature album. Its sound is richer, more experimental yet cohese and melodic (and not overblown, pretentious and self indulgent as Tales from Topographic Oceans). Polished the excesses from its immediate predecessor, Relayer becomes the quintessential Yes album.

Secondly, I very much appreciate the fact that Relayer relies heavier in Steve Howe's astounding guitar, to what any praise is not enough. His solos are breathtaking. And they are more frequent and longer, probably because the newcomer Moraz had neither the prestige, nor the assurance to take the spotlight the way Wakeman did. Howe's guitar extensively uses the slide effect, that adds beauty and fluidity to the songs. Of course, the most notable example is "Soon", the closing section of their side-long epic, Gates of Delirium. Nevertheless, it is equally beautiful and impressive in To Be Over (though less prominent, the sound relying primarily in the instruments interplay). Incidentally, me beign more akin to guitar than keyboards, I personally enjoy very much the fact tha Patrick Moraz is not as protagonist as Wakeman.

Also, to my taste, Gates of Delirium sounds more well-crafted, more cohese and, considering especially its instrumental interlude, more progressive than its most famous conterpart, Close to the Edge (the song). It even emulates sounds of battle. Equally imaginative, exciting and musically pleasing. Jon Anderson never sounded better either. Soon tends to be seen as a bit lame by some. No way, I say. It's got, simply put, the best, most beautiful and pungent Howe guitar solo ever. Some tend to mistake beauty for cheesiness. Besides, to some yesfans, a ballad is almost an heresy. How little they know...

Sound Chaser is the most experimental, jazzy, distorted and disonant. Indeed a sound chase. From the chaos, emerges some exciting music. To Be Over is more of a mainstream song (if one may say so as far as a 9 minutes songs is concerned). Well, that's one of the things the yesmen are capable of when they are on their prime: being simultaneously melodic, virtuoso, delicate, moving, imaginative and even (in the good sense) pop (here defined as a music that might be appealing to anyone open to good rock and roll, prejudices put aside). That's To Be Over, with its magnificent coda that summarizes and perfectly closes this also magnificent and perfect album. A true classic.

[NOTE: Though the album itself is wonderfully produced, the sound, in the George Marino remaster, is strangelly poor in quality. Go for the Elektra 2003 remaster, not much for the bonus tracks, that are unnecessary edits or early versions, but for the notable improvement in sound quality]

bfmuller | 5/5 |


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