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Yes - Relayer CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.37 | 3011 ratings

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RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars Is it really productive to add another voice to the 100-plus reviews of this album, which many seem to consider one of Yes's finest moments? Why not, after all? As a longtime fan of the band, I feel the need to have my say on this somewhat idiosyncratic episode of Yes's almost 40-year-long, variegated career. My opinion may diverge from that of the majority, though, in that I don't consider "Relayer" to be a classic in the same way as the marvellous triple-whammy of "The Yes Album", "Fragile" and "Close to the Edge" are.

As a matter of fact, my first introduction to this record (way back in time, probably some 25 years ago) was not exactly positive - as impressed and intrigued as I was by Roger Dean's spectacular cover artwork, possibly one of the best album sleeves ever. In comparison with the aforementioned trio of albums, and even with its follow-up "Going for the One", I found "Relayer" positively boring - in some ways, even more so than the notorious TfTO. Obviously, my judgment had nothing to do with the overall musical level of this offering, extremely high as usual - it was rather that I had issues with the songwriting, which in this case I found lacking the memorable quality of tracks like "Yours Is No Disgrace", "Roundabout" or even the monumental CttE suite. It took me years to decide to give "Relayer" another chance and listen to it with more mature, experienced ears - and the experience was definitely much more rewarding.

In true golden-era Yes style, "Relayer" only features three tracks, one of which is unquestioningly one of prog's defining moments. Making the most of Patrick Moraz's jazzier, spikier, more aggressive keyboard style, "The Gates of Delirium" (loosely based on Lev Tolstoy's "War and Peace") runs the whole gamut of moods and sonic textures in order to describe the novel's subject matter. Chris Squire's bass sounds heavier and more upfront than ever, and Howe's guitars seem to scream and slash the air. The song's middle section sees a particularly intense, chaotic moment in which Alan White bashes the hell out of his drum kit, as well as out of other assorted pieces of metal; while Moraz's synths swirl around wildly in an almost graphic rendition of a battle. This is possibly the closest Yes got to creating their own version of heavy metal. The beautiful, lyrical "Soon" depicts a vision of the empty, corpse-strewn battlefield, with an absolutely heart-rending vocal performance by Jon Anderson delivering words of healing and peace. A true epic masterpiece, no doubt about that.

Of the remaining two tracks, "Sound Chaser" is Yes's own take on jazz-rock, with the rythm section of Squire and White switching into overdrive and Howe launching in one of the most celebrated solos of his career. Definitely not easy listening, though certainly a brave move on the part of the band. However, album closer "To Be Over" is, frankly speaking, a bit of a letdown after the brilliance of the two preceeding songs - much mellower, more melodic and easy on the ear, but in a way much less distinctive too, and certainly not on a par with such classics of the same kind as "And You And I".

As everybody knows, Moraz did not last long with Yes, which is in some ways a pity, as the development of the band with a keyboard player so different in style from Wakeman's romantic grandiosity would have been no less than interesting. Follow-up "Going for the One" was a return to more typical soundscapes for the band, as well as being a definitely more accessible effort. As to my rating, I think "Relayer" deserves no less than four solid stars, and it is highly recommended to every self-respecting prog fan - though I would hesitate to call it a masterpiece.

Raff | 4/5 |


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