Relayer – arguably the best goddamn YES Album ever made, in my expert humble opinion. Spurned by inner rank chaos and Rick Wakeman’s hasty departure following the direction that the band had undergone on Tales From Topographic Oceans, the previous double album of Eastern mystic & Hindu inspired hijinks. All the hostility between the members of the band and Rick boiled down to this: Rick was in dire need of a simple steak & mash dinner and a good german ale to wash it down while everyone else wanted to convert to vegetarianism.
So Maestro Jon had to find a new ‘key’ component to realize his dream of compacting Leo Tolstoy’s War & Peace into a twenty-minute plus piece of music called the Gates of Delirium. Jon Anderson met up with a self-taught keyboard player, Vangelis Papathanassiou while vacationing in Greece and pounded out his ideas on a piano to him, even though neither really had the technique to express their ideas but that didn’t deter Anderson from asking him if he would like to fill in Wakeman’s slot. Not comfortable with the assignment, an agreement could not be reached at that time, but later on, Jon Anderson would collaborate with him on four albums together as Jon & Vangelis while Jon took a sabbatical away from the band in the late seventies and early eighties.
So who would be able to fill in Rick’s shoes and become a keyboard rock star and a vegetarian practically overnight?
Enter the Swiss Poodle Spaceman: Patrick Moraz.
Moraz was recruited after stints showing off his jazz/rock fusion chops with the likes of Refugee and as Keith Emerson’s replacement with the Nice when Emerson went off to form Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Although not much as a soloist in his own right, the band found that he was more than capable of holding his own with his own palate of sound padding with Mellotrons and ARP synthesizers as well as demonstrating his own songwriting chops with Chick Corea/Return to Forever inspired lead lines on Sound Chaser which featured more of that perfect Steve Howe sling shot guitar sound captured in the studio by Eddie Offord.
To my observation, on the release date of December 5, 1974, this was Yes at their absolute pinnacle; from the war-torn duel between Moraz’s battling keyboards to White’s retaliating drums and percussion in the middle section of Gates of Delirium to the whimsical carnival tranquil atmosphere of the strangely poetic To Be Over, its material that’s far more reaching than any rock band has ever attempted before. And like Tales From Topographic Oceans, it’s also just as equally controversial and divided between fans and critics alike. I felt that this album by the band really clinched the deal for me in getting my creative juices flowing – releasing within me untapped potential. Each lyric line in Gates of Delirium was like a wake up call within me wanting to pursue or formulate story ideas because that’s basically what Gates of Delirium was – a dystrophin fable of debauchery with a glimmering hope of redemption that would still hold true today as a legitimate soundtrack to the Bush Administration’s Iraq debacle. I was so enamored of this album on a late summer day back in 1977 when I had checked it out of the Lake Hiawatha Public Library that it influenced me to write poetry just like the cover painting provided by Roger Dean made Maestro Jon A’s personal poetic guru, Donald Lehmkuhl write this poem for the band on the inside of the album cover:
Snakes are coiled upon the granite.
Horseman ride into the west.
Moons are rising on the planet
where the worst must suffer like the rest.
Pears are ripe and peaches falling.
Suns are setting in the east.
Woman wail, and men are calling
to the god that’s in them, and to the beast.
Love is waiting for a lover.
generations kneel for peace.
What man lose, Man will recover
polishing the brains his bones release.
Truth conceals itself in error.
History reveals its face:
days of ecstasy and terror
invent the future that invents the race.
Donald Lehmkuhl October 1974
Upon voraciously devoured repeated listens, I was motivated enough to write poetry of my own and got some of it published in a newspaper out of Nashville, TN that published nothing but poems back when I was a junior and a senior in high school. I can’t exactly what the title of that publication (without digging through boxes and boxes of shit that my mom sent from New Jersey) was but he does remember that the poems titles were “Wear Your Face” & “the Wicker Field”. I’m sure that the Office of Copyrights in Washington D.C. still has a record of them, but I have the Relayer album to thank for that swift kick in the ass for that brief brush with wanting to become a teen-age poet laureate .
WE now pause for the Wikipedia portion of our program:
Relayer is the seventh studio album from the English progressive rock band Yes, released in 1974 on Atlantic Records. It is their only studio album recorded with keyboardist Patrick Moraz; he joined in August that year after Rick Wakeman left over differences with Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973) to pursue his solo career. Formed of three tracks, Relayer saw Yes experiment with jazz fusion as highlighted in “The Gates of Delirium” and “Sound Chaser”. The album closes with “To Be Over”, a melodic composition.
Upon its release Relayer continued the band’s commercial success. The album peaked at number 4 in the UK and number 5 on the US Billboard Top LPs chart. The closing section of “The Gates of Delirium”, titled “Soon”, was released as a single in January 1975. The album is certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.
Following the release of Yes’s ambitious double album Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973), keyboardist Rick Wakeman decided to leave the band during their 1973–74 tour of Europe and North America. Following his departure in May 1974 Yes auditioned several replacements, the closest being Greek musician Vangelis Papathanassiou. At the suggestion of music journalist Chris Welch the band settled for Swiss-born Patrick Moraz, previously of Refugee and Mainhorse who joined in August 1974 while their new album entered production.
Relayer has the same song format as 1972’s Close to the Edge (a long epic on one side, and two relatively short pieces on the other), but a radically different musical style. “The Gates of Delirium” is a dense, 20-minute piece that was inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. It features lengthy improvisations by each member of the band, sometimes clashing intentionally with one another. Featuring lyrics about the futility of war, it remains one of the most musically aggressive songs ever produced by the band. The final section, in which the aggression of the previous 15 minutes is suddenly replaced by a gentle melody and a lyrical prayer for peace, was released as a US single under the title “Soon” in early 1975. “Sound Chaser” is a jazzy, mostly instrumental piece that echoes King Crimson. “To Be Over” is the gentlest piece on the album, and features complex, melodic arrangements of guitar and sitar.
Relayer was recorded at Squire’s home in Virginia Water, Surrey between August and October 1974. It was then mixed at Advision Studios. Engineer Eddy Offord assumed his role who shared production duties with the band.
The recording made use of synthesizers and percussive sounds not found on any other Yes album. Patrick Moraz used equipment which was still in prototype stage (for example, a Vako Orchestron, used for the string sounds throughout the album) to colour the sound effects on the instrumental/collage section of “The Gates of Delirium”. For example, the whooping and wheezing sounds (“electric slinky”) about midway through the track were created by one such synthesizer. Jon Anderson recalled (in the 2003 CD booklet) that he and Alan White would stop by a breaker’s yard on the way to Squire’s house and buy discarded metal parts (brakes, clutches etc.) which were to be used as percussion. This contributes to the dense, concrete music-like sound of “Gates of Delirium”.
THE SONGS / TRACKLISTING
“The Gates of Delirium” (Anderson/Howe/Moraz/Squire/Howe) Total time: 22:56 is a dense piece that was inspired by Leo Tolstoy‘s War and Peace. It features lyrics about the futility of war and a lengthy instrumental middle section portraying ‘battle’ with galloping rhythms, martial melodies, dissonant harmonies, and clashing sound effects. The final section, in which the drive of the previous sixteen minutes is replaced by a gentle melody and a lyrical prayer for peace, was released as an US single under the title “Soon” in early 1975.
“Sound Chaser” (Anderson/Howe/Moraz/Squire/White) Total time: 9:27 is a mostly instrumental piece that echoes the then-popular jazz fusion of Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return To Forever with experimental and for some moments even funk and disco shades and influences.
“To Be Over” (Anderson/Howe/Moraz/Squire/White) Total time: 9:19 features complex, melodic arrangements of guitar and electric sitar (at one point quoting a theme from Tales from Topographic Oceans (?) – of what, I don’t know), and relatively straightforward lyrics.
Bonus Tracks on the 2003 Re-mastered edition:
Soon (Anderson/Howe/Moraz/Squire/White) Total time: 4:18
Sound Chaser single (Anderson/Howe/Moraz/Squire/White) Total time: 3:14
The Gates of Delirium Studio Run Through (Anderson/Howe/Squire/White) Total time: 21:17
All the guitars used on “The Gates of Delirium” are Telecasters, according to Howe; prior to this recording he had generally used a Gibson. On “To Be Over” and the last parts of “The Gates of Delirium”, a pedal steel guitar is used. Squire uses a Fender bass on “To Be Over” rather than his usual Rickenbacker.
As with most of Yes’ previous albums, Relayer features artwork by Roger Dean. The CD release features two additional paintings by Dean. Speaking about the cover, Dean said: “I was playing with the ideas of the ultimate castle, the ultimate wall of a fortified city. That was more of a fantastical idea. I was looking for the kinds of things like the Knights Templar would have made or what you’d see in the current movie Lord of the Rings. The curving, swirling cantilevers right into space.”
It’s album cover layout is similar to Fragile with two additional paintings and a photograph of the band inside the fold-out sleeve. The cover was later used in a Pepsi-Cola ad, as the T-shirt worn by Shakira.
Relayer was released in the UK on 28 November 1974 during their 1974–75 tour of North America and the UK. Its US release followed on 5 December 1974. The album continued the band’s commercial success; it peaked at number 4 in the UK and number 5 on the US Billboard Top LPs chart. The closing section of “The Gates of Delirium”, titled “Soon”, was released as a single in January 1975. The album is certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.
A special promotional only, white label, “banded for airplay” version of the LP was available to US radio stations in 1974. It has the track “The Gates of Delirium” broken into three segments: the opening vocal section, the instrumental “battle” middle section, and the “Soon” final section, with slight fades between each to aid with on-air segues. This was done to try to increase Relayer’s radio exposure, as most radio stations would provide only limited, if any, air time to a 22-minute song.
The critical reaction to Relayer, coming after a predecessor that many felt went over the breaking point, was lukewarm. However, it was still a commercial success.
Relayer was remastered and reissued on Rhino Records in 2003 with three bonus tracks, including a complete studio run-through of Gates of Delirium with partly different or improvised lyrics. While most of the keyboards are not yet present, and some of the structure of the song is different, the complex rhythm track for the “battle” section has the same layout as in the finished version. This was released again 10 years later (on 2 December internationally and 24 December in the US) as part of the box set The Studio Albums 1969-1987.
In November 2014, Relayer will be reissued as CD/DVD-Audio and CD/Blu-ray Disc packs on the Panegyric label, featuring a new stereo mix and 5.1 surround sound mix by Steven Wilson as well as bonus tracks and special features. This will be the third Panegyric Yes album reissue after Close to the Edge and The Yes Album.
The Relayer CD/DVD-A and Blu Ray editions will feature studio run throughs of all three tracks, singles, alternative album mixes, whilst the Blu-Ray edition will also feature additional instrumental versions and needle drop mixes. It is slated for release on November 4th to commemorate the 40th anniversary release of its’ original release date.
Relayer, upon first listening cemented my loyalty to the band. Funny, when I originally checked the album out of the library, I mistakenly thought it was a radio show drama or a science fiction dramatization. I used to check out a lot of radio shows back in my central junior high school days to listen on my half-sister’s phonograph player.
1974: When this album was originally released I could still remember long lines at the gas pumps just to get gas and you could get it on even and odd days depending on what number your license plate number ended on..
Bye-bye Tricky Dick, don’t let those helicopter blades cut you in the ass on the way out when you officially resigned to public embarrassment of lying after you got pinched and impeached real good. And a generation of cutthroats were not far behind you. Look at laughing boy Karl Rove today.
I was in fifth grade class. My first and only male teacher in elementary school was named Mr. Curnow.
My favorite television shows back in the day were Kolchak: The Night Stalker (remade as The Nightstalker for ABC in 2005) and Planet of the Apes (already remade, fucked up, and put out to pasture by Tim Burton), a show that I had to battle for viewing supremacy to watch because my half-sister insisted on always watching Little House on the Prairie until my mom had to intervene and decreed that we had to take turns alternating on Friday nights. The Brady Bunch and the Partridge Family didn’t help matters either, but that was ok – they were both cancelled eventually.
Marvel Comics jacked up a nickel to twenty five cents.
One major fickle about this nickel hike was that all the stories decreased in page count from twenty-pages to a lousy seventeen pages to make room for more ads (we also supposedly had a paper shortage back then also which was proven to be nothing more than Republican Jedi Mind tricks) – but Marvel somehow made up for it when they started to release Giant size quarterly titles featuring the Avengers, Fantastic Four, Amazing Spider-Man (actually it was nothing more than a larger version of Marvel Team-up), Defenders, Master of Kung-Fu, Conan the Barbarian, and The Man-Thing at 50 cents for double the pages – which featured a main story that ran thirty-fives pages in length plus reprints and inventory stories. They made my fragmented family’s frequent car trips up to Rhode Island or Boston bearable when my stepfather would take him to visit his equally demented family (more on this tomorrow recounting the time when my step-cousin stayed with him during the time when Yes’s next album, Going for The One was released).
Line up: Jon Anderson- vocals, Steve Howe- guitars and backing vocals, Chris Squire- bass & vocals, Alan White- drums and percussion, Patrick Moraz- keyboards.
I would wind up seeing the incredible sobbing (I’ll explain later in a blog centered around 1994’s Talk album) keyboardist extraordinaire Patrick Moraz on tour with the Moody Blues for the Long Distance Voyager album with my high school childlike soul dreamer gal pal Linda Freeman (now Yarosh) in the summer of 1981.
Favorite all time line (Jeez, and they are so many of them too): The pen won’t stay the demon’s wings, the hour approaches pounding out the Devil Sermon. – Gates of Delirium (words and music written by Yes)