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Yes - Relayer CD (album) cover

RELAYER

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

4.37 | 3002 ratings

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Rob The Good
5 stars My first Yes review, so I thought I'd begin with my favourite album of theirs. Recorded in 1974 with Patrick Moraz on keyboards (we all know that by now), "Relayer" is really something else. So unique, and yet so quintessentially Yes. The album, in contrast to the preceding TFTTO, has an extremely sharp edge, with the band making forays into Jazz fusion - an experiment which I believe works very well, but its unconventional nature probably make it a difficult listen and it is thus overshadowed by "Fragile", CTTE or even TFTTO.

Every band member is in top form on this album - Jon Anderson sings like he always has and his lyrics make far more sense than usual (which I will expand on later). Steve Howe has a sharp and almost snarling guitar, which is complimented by an equally energized bass from Chris Squire. Alan White's amazing drumming skills are on display, and in my opinion, "Relayer" is his best performance. In fact, especially in 'Gates of Delirium', the rhythm section are the core of the performance. If anyone needs an example of how powerful Yes' rhythm section could be they need look no further than this album. Patrick Moraz, on his only album with Yes, contributes some exquisite keyboard parts - it is worth noting that when he joined the band the album was already being written (the other band members intruded on what would normally be keyboard territory to help compose it), and therefore he does not dominate. However, his playing is excellent and compliments the rest of the band admirably.

In keeping with most Yes albums, the production is excellent. Not too annoying in places, and without an excessively overproduced sound.

'Gates of Delirium', based on War & Peace (apparently, but I see few parallels to be honest, but that's beside the point) is the album's centerpoint: Yes' longest epic I believe, clocking in at just under 22 minutes, it is quintessential Yes. Jon Anderson's lyrics, as I said before, seem to make more sense here - it is no secret that he was fond of word-painting, but with Delirium, since he had a clear lyrical goal in mind he managed to write lyrics which have a beginning, a middle and an end. Lyrically, it feels much more complete than other epics, but that is merely my opinion. The band's playing is just incredible. The piece goes through several different moods: first fairly slow and happy with some tinkly keyboards (the only way to describe them!), then intense and fast with some frantic guitar and drums, and then the piece ends with one of Jon's most beautiful ballads. The band's playing helps to bring the very essence out. In actual fact, I remember hearing someone say that TFTTO suffers from a lack of energy which they released when they recorded "Relayer" and I can certainly see where they're coming from. It is in this piece that I believe the rhythm section earns particular kudos: Squire and White really manage to propel the 'War' section of the piece along in a manner which really conjures up images of confusion and destruction - listen, and you will understand. Steve Howe & guitar rip their way through the confusion, and he plays with such intensity that I previously did not know was recordable! The war is brought to a conclusion by Alan White, who gives us an intense (!) drum solo - only so that Jon Anderson can fill the void with his beautiful "Soon" piece. Truly, this is one of Yes' most beautiful moments on record. Sensitive and profound, and yet with some serious energy behind it, I never tire of it.

"Sound Chaser" continues with the intensity displayed in Delirium. Certainly one of Yes' jazzier moments, Patrick Moraz's interest in Jazz fusion has obviously had quite an influence on the piece. Along with Moraz, Squire and Howe steal the show: their guitar playing is exemplary and quite frankly, insane. If one needs an example, about 3 minutes into the piece, Howe lets lose and plays his guitar all over the place like some sort of demon. What makes it ever the more impressive is the fact that each note, each chord, was planned. The piece is frantic - in just under 10 minutes, the band goes from medium tempo, to fast, to slow, back to fast. It really is an engaging listen, and it never bores or loses my attention. The ONLY thing which lets this piece down is the cheesy "Cha cha cha" vocals, which are quite bizarre to be honest and in a way they break up the piece's flow but oh well!

Last on the album, is "To Be Over" which is a nice gorgeous 'floaty' ballad, which lasts a good 9:19 minutes. Featuring some more tinkly keyboards, subdued guitar, and interestingly enough, some sitar! Whilst most of the piece is quite peaceful, it still has in some parts fairly aggressive overtones that harken back to the rest of the album. The playing is, quite expectedly, tight and accomplished. Alan White seems more restrained, as is Chris Squire's bass. Like I said before, Steve Howe's guitar playing is much more subdued, but it still maintains a strong presence. Jon Anderson's singing is brilliant, but what makes the song really worthwhile for me is Patrick Moraz's keyboards - so 'at peace', but still strong enough to carry a melody, it sometimes makes me wish this lineup recorded another album - but then again, they may have recording something absolutely atrocious, which would, no doubt, lower my opinion of "Relayer" somewhat!

To conclude, "Relayer" is a classic in every possible way. I don't want to gush TOO much, but I really must urge Yes fans who have not done so to give it a listen and form their own opinion. I hope they find it as rewarding a listen as I!

Rob The Good | 5/5 |

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