(All Album Reviews by I.M. Weasel)
Relayer, Yes' seventh studio album, was released in late 1974 amid controversy. Rick Wakeman had just quit the band following their landmark epic Tales from Topopgraphic Oceans and they were scrambling for a replacement. They settled on a Swiss keyboard player named Patrick Moraz and soon recorded a brand new album.
Relayer seems at times to be almost the polar opposite of the previous Tales. Relayer is firey and chaotic, yet soothing and calm. Relayer seems almost like a "Lost" Yes album, mainly because it follows such Prog-Rock classics as Close to the Edge, Fragile and Tales from Topographic Oceans, and it seems to get lost in the shuffle. Another reason is that the band so rarely plays material from this album live in concert. Except for short excerpts from "The Gates of Delirium" (Soon) and "Soundchaser" (usually in Squire's live solo "Whitefish"), no song from this album was played between 1976 and the 2000 Masterworks Tour. However, it remains a favorite amoung die hard Yes fans, as evidenced by "The Gates of Delirium" winning the Masterworks Tour Poll.
Relayer starts off with the incredible epic "The Gates of Delirium". This song is a real powerhouse. This song is supposedly based on the epic "War and Peace" and that is clearly evidenced by the tone of the song. It starts off with a set up of the situation and a building up to something.
Then comes the incredible "battle" section that demands to be played as loud as possible on any stereo. Finally, the last part of the song, called "Soon" (which was edited and released as single) features some great steel work by Howe and awesome vocals by Anderson, perhaps his best. In fact the entire song is a tour-de-force for all the musicians, not just for the songs intensity, but for its complexity.
One thing I've noticed about "Gates" nearly every time I listen to it, I hear something new. Moraz is also great on this song, providing lots of great keyboard sounds and battle noises. One thing I like about Moraz is that his sounds are always very exaggerated, and I've felt a lot of the time the more exaggerated and unique you can get a keyboard to sound, the better. In some aspects he's even better than Rick Wakeman, but Moraz is at least equal with him.
Next is the hyperspeed bass driven rocker "Sound Chaser". This song blew me away when I first heard it, I couldn't believe how fast they were playing, especially at the end. I thought they played the tape on fast forward, but upon hearing a live version of this song, I knew they were geniunly that good! And the way the band changes the speed of the song almost at will shows how cohiesive and talented this band is.
Last is "To Be Over" which is dominated mainly by Howe's great steel guitar work. It's more or less the calm after the storm. This song is said to be Steve Howe's favorite. All in All, Relayer is an incredible album. The only complaint I have against it being the sound quality at times is not great, even with the remaster.
There seems to be a lot of tape hiss especially in "Gates". This is supposedly because it was recorded on mobile equipment at Chris Squire's house. However, the strength of the compositions and musicianship is so good I can overlook that problem.
Relayer is also my favorite Yes album, and although nothing is perfect and therefore I can't give it a 10, it gets the highest score possible, a 9.99999.-Weasel
(All Album Reviews by Sean)
Just a few words about the new Rhino remaster of Relayer and the bonus tracks included-
The folks at Rhino have shown over the years a great attention to detail when it comes to remastering and rereleasing classic albums by such known artists as Frank Zappa and Chicago, to name just a few. They continue this quest for detail here with the newly acquired Yes catalog.
Much like the remastered Close To The Edge, Relayer comes up a bit short in the bonus tracks department (compared to the Tales From Topographic Oceans and Going For The One remasters) but what it does offer is quite revealing. I can live without the pointless 'single' edits of "Soon" and "Sound Chaser", but this version of "Gates of Delirium" is very interesting in an early sort of way. Casual fans probably would find this a bit rough around the edges, but it offers a great look inside the Yes creative process.
Jon Anderson's lyrics are in an embryonic state. The melodies are mostly there, but the words are often different than the final version. The way the band end this bonus "Gates" run through is wacky, instead of that somber cycle of chords after the "Soon" part, the herky-jerky off kilter riff from the middle comes creeping back up in the mix. A very unexpected reprise! It ends with a bang instead of the mellow fade we all know so well. Also you hear Howe play the whole tune chordally, even the battle. It was all there before Moraz came into the fold it seems. Very cool alternate version, one that made this remaster worth getting.
The packaging is quite nice here, another 'digi-pak' type case with all original cover art and innards of the original album. Plus a great booklet is included that covers what the band was up to at the time of recording, it has a lot of rare photos as well. This is more for die hard Yes fans than the casual. The bonus cut of "Gates" and the packaging are the draw here. The sound is not that much better than the previous remaster- not enough to replace for that reason alone.