[Review] Yes: Relayer (1974)

A refugee finds a temporary home as Yes finds the magic once again.

Kronomyth 8.0: Tales of change, yet close to the same.

Although released after Tales from Topographic Oceans, Relayer fits stylistically between that album and the earlier Close to the Edge. Despite changing keyboard players, Yes wasn’t about to change their highly successful formula. And so you get quasi-classical themes stitched into side-long suites, lyrics based on arcane tomes (this time Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace) and dazzling musical interplay across the full spectrum of light and dark. There are also new influences in the music, notably the fusion sound of Mahavishnu Orchestra, which seemed to have a particular effect on Alan White.

Like Close to the Edge before it, the album is divided into three songs, the first stretching across an entire side. Gates of Delirium begins with the sparkling sounds last heard on “Close to the Edge” before roaring into battle. Featuring some of their most turbulent music to date, including actual broken glass and metal, the song is probably as close as Yes has come to sounding like ELP, King Crimson or Van Der Graaf Generator. The battle gives way to illumination on the closing “Soon,” which in edited form served as the album’s single. You’d have to look back to the closing of “And You and I” to find a more beautiful passage of music in the Yes canon.

Side two starts off with Sound Chaser, the album’s “Siberian Khatru” if you will. It’s here that the new group flexes their fusion muscle. Chris Squire and Alan White have rarely sounded so good together. The energy of “Sound Chaser” yields to the dreamlike To Be Over, just a notch below “Soon” in its transportative abilities. The keyboard solo at the end had me thinking of Gentle Giant, one of the few bands that could mesh so intricately. At the same time, side two points forward to the music of Going for the One, notably “Parallels” and “Awaken.”

If I don’t listen to Relayer as often as The Yes Album or Fragile, it’s my loss. It certainly stands as one of their greatest achievements, even if you can find many of those same achievements on the two albums that came before it. Some listeners have even ranked Relayer as their favorite Yes album. For me, my favorite Yes album is whatever album I’m listening to at the time, provided it came after Time and a Word and before Tormato.

Original elpee version

A1. The Gates of Delirium (21:55)
B1. Sound Chaser (9:25)
B2. To Be Over (9:08)

All the music was written and arranged by Yes.

CD reissue bonus tracks
4. Soon (single edit)
5. Sound Chaser (single edit)
6. The Gates of Delirium (studio run-through)

The Players

Jon Anderson (vocals), Steve Howe (guitars & vocals), Patrick Moraz (keyboards), Chris Squire (bass & vocals), Alan White (drums) with Genaro Rippo (tapes). Produced by Yes and Eddie Offord.

The Pictures

Cover design and drawing by Roger Dean. Original group photograph by Jean Ristori. Plates by Mansell Litho. Paste up by Mike Allison.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track on December 5, 1974 in the UK and France (Atlantic, K50096), the US, Australia and Canada (Atlantic, SD/AC/TP 18122), Germany and the Netherlands (Atlantic, ATL 50096), Japan (Atlantic, P-8530A), Venezuela (Atlantic, GM2002311) and in 1975 in Brazil (Atlantic, 20043) and Mexico (Atlantic, GX01-747) with gatefold cover and lyrics innersleeve. Reached #4 on the UK charts and #5 on the US charts (RIAA-certified gold record).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in Mexico (Atlantic, GWEA5131).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in Portugal (Atlantic, LP-S-39-7) with gatefold cover.
  3. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in July 1988 in the US (Atlantic, SD/CS 19135).
  4. Re-released on remastered compact disc on August 16, 1994 in the US (Atlantic, 82664).
  5. Re-issued on compact disc in 1996 in Japan (Atlantic, AMCY-4034).
  6. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in 2001 in Japan (Atlantic, AMCY-6298).
  7. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc on August 26, 2003 in the US (Elektra, 73792) with 3 bonus tracks.
  8. Re-packaged with Tormato on 2-for-1 compact disc in Russia (CD Maximum, CDM100577).
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