Atlantic Records, 1974
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/09/1998
In the aftermath of my original review of Todd Rundgren's Utopia a few months ago and the polite outcry that lef me to re-review the album, one correspondent in the alt.music.todd-rundgren newsgroup, Loznik, challenged me to give Yes's 1974 release Relayer another listen, especially after I had admitted it had been some time since I had listened to the album.
Now, some of the more hardcore progressive rock zealots (yeah, you know who you are) are saying, "Oh, God, he's gonna rip Yes again." No, not completely. While there were portions of Relayer I didn't like, the album, for the most part, is quite listenable.
No matter what side of the fence you sit on, the one fact that is indisputable is that Yes was going through a transition period, especially after the bloated monstrosity that was Tales From Topographic Oceans. Gone was keyboardist Rick Wakeman, who apparently had enough and scooted out the door. (He would return in 1977 for two albums before departing again.) In was Patrick Moraz, who seemed to be trying to figure out how to make the keyboard sound his own on Relayer. Let's face it, he had pretty big shoes to fill -- the fact he lasted all of one album isn't a declaration against the job he did on this one, however.
Gone also -- well, sort of -- were the side-long cosmic jerk-offs that made Tales From Topographic Oceans so unbearable (at least to this critic). Granted, "The Gates Of Delirium" takes up the whole first side of Relayer; fact is, this is a much more listenable piece -- especially because Yes decided to finally challenge the listener with touches of jazz thrown in the mix. Oh, sure, I could have argued for lopping off two minutes or so of the instrumental work, but even with it on this cut, it still is a decent effort. Especially deserving of praise is guitarist Steve Howe's work, which is the most jazzy and fluid I think I've ever heard him play.
Also worth noting on "The Gates Of Delirium" is the premiere of Jon Anderson's vocal lines at the end -- the lines that would become "Soon" later in Yes's career. (An example of "Soon" can be found on 9012Live - The Solos.)
This, however, doesn't excuse the sonic noise that Howe twists out of his guitar during "Sound Chaser." The bulk of this track sounds like it was a lot of improvisational work -- and for a long time, I found myself asking, "Where the hell is this track going?" "Sound Chaser" eventually does find its niche -- I think you can hear the beginnings of the track "Going For The One" in Howe's slide work -- but it takes far too long to become a track with some meat behind it.
This brings us to the third and final track on Relayer -- "To Be Over," a song that brought this version of Yes together the best. Moraz's keyboard work shines the brightest on this song, while the whole band seems to be firing on all cylinders, making this track seem far shorter than nine minutes. This is truly progressive rock without overkill -- a solid, beautiful number.
So why isn't Relayer better known? Good question -- maybe Loznik can answer it if he's reading and wishes to enlighten me. Admittedly, this album came out in the shadows of Tales From Topographic Oceans, and had I been actively buying records in the fall of 1974 (I was three years old, for Crissakes, gimme a break), I might have been a little gun-shy about trying the disc out. Also, with Wakeman gone, some might have questioned how good of a replacement Moraz would be -- never mind the fact that Wakeman wasn't the original keyboardist for Yes.
Excuses aside, Relayer has enough material to challenge, delight, and even frustrate today's progressive rock fan, and it is a far better album than history has made it out to be.
|yea! this album TOTALLY is as good as fragile!|
|and i know its typical to rip on a keyboardist that was trying to fill wakemens shoes but your comment that moraz was trying to make the keyboard sound like his own... was absolutely moronic since its not like yes just picked this guy off the street. moraz is a jazz keyboardist and wakemen is a classical keyboardist... obviously the sound is going to be drastically different|
|Why do I even bother with you, when you obviously didn't read the goddamn review?|
First off, I don't listen to an album and say, "Yeah, that's equal to how I felt when I listened to [insert album name here]". I try to take each one on its own merit. The fact that "Relayer" and "Fragile" got the same rating is opinion - nothing more, nothing less.
And show me where I ripped Moraz as a keyboardist. Christ, they could have had Herbie Hancock come in for this album, and he would still have needed a "fleshing out" period. That's not a knock against Hancock, Moraz or Wakeman - the fact is, Moraz was coming in after three albums featuring Wakeman's signature sound. He certainly wasn't going to want to mimic it, but he was going to need some time to develop his own signature on the music. I think he did an admirable job on this disc, and with no disrespect against Wakeman, wish Moraz would have lasted more than one disc just to see where he would have taken the Yes keyboard sound.