Yes returned with its seventh studio album December 13, 1974. Relayer was another commercial success reaching number five on The United States album charts and number four in England.
The biggest change was the departure of keyboardist Rick Wakeman. One of the finalists to replace him was Vangelis. While he would not be selected, he would form a musical relationship with Jon Anderson, which resulted in four well received duet albums. Patrick Moraz was the final choice, and while he would only record one album with the band, his contributions should not be under estimated. He was technically adept and his use of synthesizers was ground breaking. He was a good match for the sound of Yes, and I wish he could have stayed around a little longer.
Relayer continued the band’s development of long pieces. The original vinyl release only contained three tracks, but close to forty minutes of music.
The nearly 22 minute “Gates Of Delirium” took up the entire first side of the original release. It was one of their most memorable projects. It required tremendously technical playing as guitarist Steve Howe, bassist Chris Squire, and drummer Alan White all step forward to provide some of the better performances of their career. White may not have been as creative as former drummer Bill Bruford, but he was more steady, which was exactly what the band needed down through the years. Through it all Moraz’ synthesizers provide the foundation.
Jon Anderson’s vocals were excellent and his lyrics were actually understandable as the song was based upon Tolstoy’s War and Peace. It is a sophisticated piece that transitions from a prelude to a climactic battle scene to the serene prayer for peace. It ranks as a progressive rock, symphonic classic.
The nine minute “Sound Chaser” opens the second side. While it is my least favorite of the album’s three tracks, it is also the one Yes took the most chances putting together. It is basically a jazz/fusion song, which is frenetic and upbeat. Steve Howe takes a guitar solo in the middle that will bring you out of your seat.
The last track is the nine minute “To Be Over.” It ends the album on a mellow note and is a welcome relief after the approach of what has gone before. There is almost a country feel in places and there are some weird keyboard sounds for want of a better word. Still, it is a delicate piece that brings the album to a satisfying conclusion.
Relayer is demanding, intense, and has a cohesiveness to it despite the different types of music. It is rock music at the outer edge.