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Yes - Relayer CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.37 | 3002 ratings

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5 stars A BRILLIANT fusion of rock, jazz and symphonic.....a MASTERPIECE of the highest order...........FAR, FAR ahead of its time.

I bought the LP(yes, the vinyl record) back in 1976, when I was in HS. I hadn't digested all of Close to the Edge and Tales and was arriving two years late to the Relayer world. I can recall my initial listen with much detail: I thought Relayer was ugly, abrasive and just horrible. I may have listened to it twice and put it away for several years. Over the next two decades I dabbled heavily in jazz-fusion, classical and experimental music of all sorts. I came back to Relayer about ten years ago, in CD form, and whala! It all makes sense to me now. Thirty plus years later!

Relayer is the closest Yes ever got to jazz-fusion. But it's not warm, fuzzy, jazz. It's hard-edged, piercing, whaling and at times squawking. Some of Howe's ES175 tones are downright DIRTY! Steve's solo on Sound Chaser is an electric spanish guitar piece that would make Andres Segovia roll over in his grave. BRILLIANT!!!

This is a DEEP, DEEP album that requires infinite listening sessions to digest. After 30+ years I'm still learning about it and from it. It's mind-blowing ear candy. I can only be grateful for music like this; that can be enjoyed for an entire lifetime. I'll be listening to this one when I'm 80 years old. Having seen Yes perform this entire album in concert is yet another highlight of my music listening life.

For my critical listening I use high end headphones connected directly to a CD player. I enjoy the production and mixing of the CDs much better this way. After carefully, and patiently, listening to Relayer I refute what some have said about the album's poor production. In fact, the production is some of Yes' best. Take some time and listen carefully to the drumming and see how each individual piece of the kit is easily distinguishable in the stereo spectrum. Some of White's rolls are so beautifully crafted and captured by the recording process. At times it sounds like multiple drummers are playing.

The drumming and percussion is some of Alan White's best ever and highlights his masterful cymbal skills(which can be heard right from the first few seconds of Gates and persistent throughout the record). This cymbal work is completely absent on most everything else White did with Yes. Perhaps that's what turns some off from this record; it doesn't rock with thumping snares and kicks.

Chris Squire is in fine form on this album playing the entire neck of his Rick like on no other Yes record. You will hear him constantly counterpointing and answering most everything that's going on around him; but quickly coming back to anchor the groove. Squire puts down a virtuoso performance on Relayer and quite possibly this may be Chris' best work of his entire career(that's saying a lot!). Listen to his shredding on the battle section of Gates and throughout Sound Chaser. I urge you to listen to the CD(not the mp3s) and if possible via tight headphones that have no leakage and retain proper bass response. You will be blown away by what Squire is doing.

Perhaps the most angular elements on this record are the guitars and synthesizers. Steve Howe and Patrick Moraz chose harder tones than on any previous Yes release. With the exception of the beginning of Gates(where Moraz adds some low end synth lines, from what sounds like a Minimoog), the rest of the synth are played in the top registers with piercing, glassy tones that shift the overall mood of the album to help create a cold, hard atmosphere which is seemingly what this concept album was trying to achieve(the stark, cold, gray cover art is perfectly suited for this music).

Jon Anderson is less prominent on this record than the previous one(that was meant to get some laughs!). He must have felt somewhat embarrassed by the hideous reviews that Tales received and decided to tone it down a bit on Relayer. The results are perfect. On Gates he said what he had to say and got the point across in less words than ever before. He also got his opportunity to do his space ballad toward the end of Gates. So, he got his two cents in but allowed the band to play! Thank you, Jon!

1. Gates Of Delirium (22:55): A classic progger that begs for headphones and deep concentration. An absolute masterpiece of progressive music. Impossible to fully appreciate after a few listening sessions. A symphony of chaos and jazz-rock. This is what The Mars Volta and King Crimson tries/d to pull off, but Yes did it MUCH MORE elegantly, without having to resort to screaming or excessive atonality. In fact, Gates Of Delirium may very well be the epitome of symphonic, hard, chaotic jazz-rock wrapped in a tuxedo.

2. Sound Chaser (9:25): A more accessible piece, but just as complex as the opener. Howe's guitar work on this one is nothing short of COSMIC. Nothing he's ever done has come close to touching what he pulled of on Sound Chaser. Listen to it and concentrate on what he's doing in the BACKGROUND. Amazing!

3. To Be Over (9:08): A friendlier song than the previous two, having some parts which are easier to tap your foot to. BUT, don't let the smooth opening bars fool you. This one is a progressive composition, but mellower and more restrained allowing the listener to wind down and catch a breath or two before the album ends. A perfect song to end this classic album.

I put Relayer on the same level as Close To The Edge. It's not better, or worse, but different. Relayer is the evil twin brother of Close To The Edge. It gives us a duplicate of the three song format, with the songs clocking in at almost identical lengths. But, the similarities end with that. The differences are more poignant: a new drummer added a completely new dimension and Moraz's edgy synth work gave the music a colder ambience than what Wakeman provided on CTTE(with his fat Moog lines and Pipe Organ grandiosity).

Relayer is BRILLIANT on so many levels that a decent review would have to be several chapters long. TEN STARS....ooooops.....not allowed on PA.......OK, FIVE STARS.

wbiphoto | 5/5 |


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