Thursday, February 20, 2014

Significant Albums: Yes - Relayer (1974)

File:Relayer front cover.jpg

This is my favorite Yes record. Patrick Moraz is a very big reason for that. The wall of sound he created on this was really, like no other I've ever heard. I wonder how many synth/keyboard tracks were used on "The Gates of Delirium?" Maybe dozens.

I guess I'm not going to try and give my entire history with the band Yes with this, but I can say, originally I never got totally into Yes. I liked Roundabout and a few of their other tracks, and then I checked out Tales from Topographic Oceans and was more or less turned off.

Maybe a year or two later, I ended up picking up Close to the Edge, Fragile and this album, and had all of them inside the Jukebox cd player I got from Best Buy. And I often would fall asleep listening to music at random on that thing. I had a dream or two where some of their music seemed to be in, in the background, etc. Close to the Edge I recall specifically. But I think it was at that point, I was convinced to invest the time into their music more so.

That was probably around 1999 or 2000. And then I met some friends, 1 specifically, from being on KFAI, named Creighton. Creighton and I attended Nearfest together along with some other friends named Tim and Gino. And of course we'd listen to music during the non-concert time periods, and I specifically remember Tim playing Relayer, and "The Gates of Delirium" specifically, a handful of times on those trips. I think it may have partially had to do with the fact Yes were on the "Masterworks" tour in 2000 and played TGoD, and then I think the next year they played it as well (with an Orchestra/String section?). And I remember the show in Chicago was free and we went on KFAI just after Nearfest and Tim mentioned that show.

Sadly, I did not end up seeing shows on either of those tours. It was a budget thing, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit to regretting it.

So, I just ended up listening to this record a lot in that time period. I listened to a lot more Yes in the early 2000's than any other time. But this album I just seemed to go back to the most. I kind of see it as Yes at their most virtuosic, at least "The Gates of Delirium" was. And it was their most experimental while still not losing focus for the song/part/melody etc.

TGOD is just a trip. It features quite complex/multiple-tracks of guitars and keyboard textures that at times almost sound like guitars. It's a roller coaster really. And at times a battle of sound and echo or call-and-response between Howe, Moraz and even Squire at times.

Lyrically, I know it's some-of, if not the darkest stuff Jon Anderson has ever written. My Yes-savant friend John mentioned when we played it on KFAI, how the Vietnam war likely served much inspiration/influence for the lyrics.

"Listen, should we fight forever...
Kill them, give them as they give us..
The fist will run, grasp metal to gun"

The whole battle section is intense and heavy. I think the way it is so heavy, made me grasp onto it like I would progressive metal. Even though John would call it more in the Jazz-Rock vein. I just always hear the different sections getting more intense and layered so-to-speak, which makes it come across louder and thus, heavier to me.

And of course it all closes with the gorgeous ballad section of "Soon," which is just so fitting. It may be my favorite Yes ballad of sorts anyway.

But, so I was at that point, being floored by TGoD and then got to taking in both "Sound Chaser" and "To Be Over," which were both quite different tunes from TGoD, but they seemed to work really well on this record.

Moraz also was featured largely on "Sound Chaser", and it admittedly, has some of the oddest use of minor keys, at least within the composition of a Rock song. The whole "cha cha cha, cha cha" at 1st I thought was cheesy, but then started to enjoy more and more. And like on Gates, it seemed Steve Howe uses refrains and echoes to the songs advantage. It almost sounds like a Jimmy Page approach. I guess I'm a sucker for a guitar texture, when it sounds cool, used to its fullest.

And the rhythms are almost dance-able in a way.Squire and White I think get overlooked on this album.

"To Be Over" is very unlike the other two pieces on here, but works really well as the last act of this record. It's a gorgeous piece that I never find drags or overstays its welcome. The pacing and tone is perfect. The pedal-steel guitar is anthemic I kind of see it as the happy closing chapter to this journey. The way To Be Over introduces the uplifting moods, it's almost spiritual. Yes often can get deep, almost too deep for me like on a track like "Awaken." But on "To Be Over" the balance of enlightening instrumental tones and how the vocals are used, never gets too deep for me. The vocals are kind of less is more in that sense, especially the way the keys and guitars make more or less every second of this song. The ending even with the background chants with the pedal-steel is as enjoyable a part of the whole record.

I probably will also think of Hawaii and in 2003, Yes played it there, (with a string section?), and I wanted to go, but also wanted to go to New York City to see Mike Portnoy play Led Zeppelin tunes. And it was in September I think, and going to Hawaii when it's warm in Minnesota seemed slightly less beneficial, than in say in January?. So, I went to see Hammer of the Gods in NYC instead, but damn, seeing Yes play "To Be Over" in Hawaii I'm sure would have been a memory I'd never forget.

Relayer, it just seemed/still seems to be the right length, approach to songs, textures, studio production. Despite Moraz replacing Wakeman and it only being the 2nd record with Alan White. I have always felt it just all came together, kind of when Yes was in transition, on the heals of the much polarized Tales. I also love the Drama record, so maybe for me, I find my favorite Yes, is the Yes when they aren't exactly like the Yes many people know and enjoy them for? lol

Maybe this album and that idea has something to do with a response to adversity? Or maybe it was having Patrick Moraz bring some new ideas to the band at that time?

Yes included 4 tracks of 20 minutes a piece on Tales, but this album only had 1 song over 20 minutes. In a way, it's sort of improving on the idea of Tales in some ways, in, instead of including 4 side-long pieces, just get all the best ideas into 1 side long piece? and then the other 2 pieces work as slightly shorter, but complement the 1 extensive piece? At least just from a comparison and reflection to their last record.

I also think it was kind of a studio experiment that worked extremely well, but when done live, maybe not so much. Gates is on Yesshows, and I have never found it to be as engaging as the studio track. Which ironically, most of the stuff on Yessongs, I like more in some ways. But, Bruford vs White, Wakeman vs Moraz live, etc. maybe had something to do with that.