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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yes were never better!, 8 Aug. 2008
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This review is from: Relayer (Audio CD)
The best Yes album.

Part of the appeal of Yes was that they had "taken some getting into"; this had certainly been the case with Close to the Edge - which became truly sublime after about four listenings. Once its greatness was established, I recall the eager anticipation that went round the Sixth Form (that dates me) when it was reported that they were going to follow up with something called "Tales from the Topographic Ocean" - sounded challenging, bold, an extension of the Close to the Edge aesthetic into mythopoeic territory, etc..

Then the title was officially announced as "Tales from Topographic Oceans"; and, with that wishy-washy plural, everything seemed to go kind of vague. As for the album itself: well, true, there were some decently avant garde moments and a couple of baroque synth solos from Wakeman - but, in all honestly, things were beginning to sound just a wee bit "country" for my liking. Roger Dean's artwork had lost its, well, Edge. Plus, we heard, in due course, that Wakeman was leaving. Yes seemed on the verge of losing musicality to pomp (ironic, given Wakeman's later destinations at the Centre of the Earth and Camelot (on ice)).

Meanwhile, my own longing for keyboard wizardry of a more eloquent, jazz-oriented style was being well-satisfied by Jan Hammer, with and without added Mahavishnu. Indeed, he out-played everyone else, not just with fantastic solo improvisation but also in beautiful compositions and arrangements. (I heartily recommend "The First Seven Days" to anyone into the tastefully awesome and the true sound of What Vangelis and Wakeman Would Actually Have Sounded Like with Focus; also, the album Hammer released with violin (and guitar) virtuoso Jerry Goodman, "Like Children", has a truly original, harsh, even austere, eastern-jazz-funk-rock flavour that I highly commend - both are available now.)

Wakeman left Yes. A new album was announced: Relayer - sounding troublingly like a development of a refrain from "High the Memory" on Tales. Meanwhile, I caught a Birmingham gig by a band called Refugee, which was basically The Nice revisited: and was utterly blown away by their keyboards man, this euro-rocky looking chap called Patrick Moraz, who could bend pitch and Jazz It like Jan in a manner I thought, in the daze of the live set, too good to be true. Then I heard that Moraz was joining Yes...

So: this was set to be my near-dream Yes line-up; on the downside, what if Moraz got absorbed into the wetness of those Oceans? Remember what I said about the need to "get into" Yes? Well, Relayer was obtained hot from the pressing; I took it home and, as was my habit, put on Side Two first. This made Sound Chaser - gad! - the first new Yes track I'd heard since Tales, Wakeman's exit, Moraz with Refugee live... I can still remember the hairs going up on my arms as Sound Chaser kicked in; love at first hearing: the "fusion" worked. And, as Jon's cha-cha-chaas yielded to the final, blistering synth solo - Moraz's swooping shrieks over the stupendous Chris Squire's thudding, articulate counterpoint - I knew that, not only were Yes back; but they were back in the best mode I'd ever heard them.

As other reviewers have pointed out, even the greyer artwork chimed in with Relayer's rawer, less sentimental working out of the promise of Close to the Edge; not just in Sound Chaser but, of course, in the belligerently lyrical, violently celestial masterpiece that is The Gates of Delirium.

It didn't last. The anti-prog vandals, along with the fall-out from Tales, had already put paid to the genre. And there was a real sense that even Yes couldn't replicate the divine "one-off" that is Relayer. For anyone who wants to know where Yes could have gone with their musicianship, creativity and tight dynamic: actually, this is it, they got there - Relayer.
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