Review Summary: Yes's 1974 effort brings new life to the band with a very jazzy feel, unlike anything that the "big four" of progressive rock had seen yet.
In 1973 Yes released their most pompous, overblown, and over-the-top effort ever, Tales From Topographic Oceans
. Although fans were now somewhat used to longer songs by Yes, four 20 minute songs was not what they had in mind. After the commercial disappointment and mixed reactions from fans, Rick Wakeman decided to leave the band in order to pursue his solo career. This left a large void in Yes, as Wakeman's lead keyboard work was a huge part of the band as we had been shown in such masterpieces like Close to the Edge
and Siberian Khatru
. The man to replace him was an entirely different type of player, one that would take Yes's sound to a new level that they had not seen before. Coming from a jazz background, Patrick Moraz was not as much of a lead player as Wakeman was, but he was perfect at completing everything that was going on.
By the time Moraz had joined the band, most of the material for the album had been written, so much of his influence is not shown with the exception of the frantic jazz-fusion bazed Sound Chaser
. One huge characteristic of this album is that the guitar takes a very leading role along with the drumming, making Relayer
the "Steve Howe/Alan White" show. Many of the sounds on Relayer
are far more aggressive than previous albums with the guitar at center stage, which is by no means a bad thing. From the get go with The Gates of Delirium
, Steve Howe shows us that his leadership can produce great tracks and a great Yes album in general.
This opening track is based off of War And Peace
, and is divided into three (or four if you'd like) large sections. Kicking things off we instantly notice a more raw sound to this cd, with Steve Howe's guitar dibbling over a small Patrick Moraz background does a great job of emulating a buildup of some sort. Jon Anderson kicks in with his classic vocals, this time dealing directly with the topics war. Throughout this whole song, there is always a lot going on. Even at slower points, Steve Howe's guitar can run at a frantic pace, and Alan White's drumming is always at a top notch level. Moraz throws in his lead keyboard lines from time to time to continue driving the song forward. Then at 4:30 we see a repeat of keyboard line, but Moraz's genuious shines and we see an awesome intro to this line. After one more round of classic Jon Anderson, we begin to enter into the "battle" section. Starting with a guitar line that we have heard already, it becomes perfect when Moraz repeats the D minor chord from the behind and Steve Howe adds just a little bit more to put it over the top. The battle section is an intense fury of music, Chris Squire finally shines in this part putting in his best bass work, and Alan White comes in full force with perfect drumming alongside some quick Patrick Moraz keyboard work. Throughout this part quick changes come along as Steve Howe will go off on the guitar with a fantastic flurry of notes that is quickly succeeded by Moraz with more lines of keyboard goodness. Eventually this all explodes into one final burst that brings up an ascending keyboard line that just keeps climbing higher and higher until it finally shifts to Steve Howe, who puts it over the edge and sends into the section named "Soon". This section is a large departure from the earlier parts of the song in that it is entire soft, but it is also entirely beautiful. Jon Anderson's vocals shine here and round off this song, making The Gates of Delirium
one of the greatest progressive rock tracks ever written.
It is incredibly hard to follow up a song like that, and the only track that could possibly follow it up is Sound Chaser
. This extremely jazzy piece contains most of Moraz's influence on the album, and it obviously shows. We see some small improvising at the beginning before Steve Howe kicks in with a speedy guitar line, which then goes into the most frantic part of a song that I have ever heard. Between Jon Anderson's vocals, Steve's guitar, Alan White's drumming, Squire's bass and Moraz's keys, I cannot understand what the hell is going on in the verse, but I definitely love and think that it is amazing. Howe once again shows us his guitar flair with a solid solo in the middle, and the whole band shows their technical prowess in this track. Sure, the "cha cha cha's" are somewhat annoying, but it is still a great song.
To Be Over
is a much softer track with a lovely intro and some great pedal steel guitar all the way through. Not one member of the band really shines here until the Steve Howe show comes to town, although the vocal melodies really put a nice calm touch on the song, settling down the choatic mood that was summoned from the previous two tracks. Steve Howe comes in with another guitar solo over top of a very atmospheric backing and keeps the guitar going until some more beautiful Jon Anderson melodies come back set up some Patrick Moraz noodling, and then the song finally ends on some light lead guitar work with some almost Christmas-like vocals coming about to bring a very wintry feel to the end of a classic album.
Any fan of progressive rock should pick this album up, as it is one of the two strongest Yes albums along with 1972's Close To The Edge
, and is also one of the best progressive rock albums. The jazzy feel makes it unlike any other prog album and puts it above more generic sounding bands and works by Yes. Unfortuantely, this lineup would only last for this one album, as Rick Wakeman soon rejoined the band, and they began an effort to phase Patrick Moraz out of the band. On 1977's Going For The One
, all that Patrick Moraz saw for his work with the band was being at the top of the "thank's to..." list. But many prog and Yes fans will never forget his great contribution to a great band.
Yes - Relayer