(All Album Reviews by Boceephus)
- Tom Burke / bass, vocals
- Tim LaRoi / guitars, vocals
- John Sahagian / lead vocals, acoustic guitar, percussion
- Gregg Pannier / keyboards, vocals
- Bill Kiser / drums, percussion, vocals
Relayer indeed. An apt name for musicians who have individual sounds of their obvious mentors, Yes. There's the drummer; Bill Kiser sounds like a student of Bill Bruford's snare heavy, roll with feel approach. Bassist Tom Burke, though not a dead on Squire clone, plays the bottom like an anchor, but isn't afraid to let his bass sing. Guitarist Tim LaRoi has the Steve Howe sound and attack down pat, yet doesn't really steal his licks. Gregg Pannier has a more Tony Kaye type approach, as opposed to Wakeman, and fills out the symphonic sound. The surprise of the band is John Sahagian who sounds nothing like Jon Anderson, he sounds like Freddie Mercury without the melodrama. A boyish tenor kind of sums it up. "Pleasant." Think "You're My Best Friend." Soft, yet powerful. He's got a voice that grows on you. Each time I play this, and I play it a lot, JS's voice gets better. The album, on a whole, is one that gets better with each listen.
Now Hear This: They don't sound like YES. Given the above comparisions, you'd expect a YES cover band, they're not. While not completely original, they sound like YES pretending to be someone else. Genesis, a little ELP (very little) even a touch of Dream Theater. Maybe it the Freddie link that makes this sound fresh and full of energy. I have a hard time obeying speed laws while this plays...
Two tunes that do have direct YES comparisons; “Eleven Steps” is “5% for Nothing” meets “The Fish”, and “My Black Cat”, a solo acoustic piece, is “Masquerade” by way of “Mood for a Day”. Both songs are WAY TOO SHORT, but brilliant.
The 11 tracks vary in style, length and form, chugging rock to gentle acoustic, raging Hammond to tinkling piano. The rhythm section lays a solid playful base, tasteful and not too busy. Standouts include the hard-edged “Madness”, Genesis inflected “Cairo”, joyful Queen inspired “Everyday Disguise” and (my favorite track) “Marburg Friend”, a joyous ode to relationships that could be home on any Jon Anderson solo album. “Primitive You” is a light tune, nice acoustic guitar and piano with nearly Fleetwood Mac vibe to it. Weird, but it works. “...I Am” has a bit more power, not metal but a little heavier than most anything else on the disc.
If you like Yes, Salem Hill, Echolyn, Rush, any melodic prog, Relayer will be a satisfying experience.