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Moraz brings pazzazz to Yes' dynamic 1974 fusion classic
on 16 March 2013
`Relayer' released in November 1974 has been called (though not all fans agree) "Yes' last great album". It's certainly a corker, though probably not the best starting point if you're just beginning the journey of discovery into the Yes musical legacy.
Following the departure of Rick Wakeman at the end of the `Topographic Oceans' tour the band spent more than six months auditioning for a replacement keyboard player, all the time working on Jon Anderson's arrangements for the music to be released on `Relayer.' The final choice was Patrick Moraz, a Swiss-born professional musician steeped in the jazz-rock fusion style characterized by Miles Davis' `Bitches Brew' and the then-contemporary Mahavishnu Orchestra. Though `Relayer' was the only album release with this Yes line-up (Wakeman returned to the band late in 1976) Moraz brings a lot to the party and his faster, more aggressive jazz-funk style drives the music along with a special energy and gives it a harder edge.
The album follows the same structure as `Close to the Edge' in that it has a 20-minute opening number 'The Gates of Delirium' containing several movements with varying tempos, then two further numbers each of around 10 minutes: the frenetic `Sound Chaser' and a more relaxing classic Yes number `To be Over' which in mood would have fit right in with the CttE album. The musical ideas were (as usual) conceived by Jon Anderson's rare genius for innovative arrangements, then worked on by the rest of the band in the studio.
The music here is different to that of the band's previous work; it's denser, more multiply layered, darker and in places more aggressive - the only exception being perhaps `To be Over' and the final movement of TGoD `Soon' a slow melodic vocal-led track dominated by Anderson's soaring falsetto and reminiscent in style to `And You and I'. Steve Howe really lets rip with some awesome guitar passages and Chris Squire, as ever, continues to ignore the rule-book and deploy the bass as a lead instrument by playing complex counter-melodies in the treble register (eat your heart out, Jaco Pastorius). Alan White holds the whole thing together through split-second time-signature changes effortlessly executed, proving himself an equal partner in this extraordinary band of musicians.
Like the epic `Tales', you might need to listen to `Relayer' a few times before you start to genuinely enjoy it. Truth be told, no-one is making music like this in the 21st century. Today's musical landscape is in tune with current cultural values: predominantly aimed at instant gratification like fast food, it's in comparison just plain dumbed-down.
This 2003 Rhino mix is the third and best CD release of `Relayer'. The annoying hiss on previous mixes (especially annoying on `Soon') has finally been eradicated, leaving a soundscape clean and beautiful. As a bonus you get an alternate recording of `Soon' (a `single edit') every bit as good as the original, but different; a shortened single-version of `Sound Chaser' and an entire studio run-through of the whole of `Gates' - unpolished, but interesting nonetheless. The 12-page booklet insert has a fine essay on the album by Doug & Glenn Gottlieb, and Roger Dean's distinctive artwork from the original 12-inch vinyl record is reproduced in full.