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 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 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".
Relayer has the same song format as 1972's Close to the Edge—a long epic on the first side, and two nine-minute pieces on the second—but employs a radically different musical style. "The Gates of Delirium" is a dense, 22-minute 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 a US single under the title "Soon" in early 1975. "Sound Chaser" 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" features complex, melodic arrangements of guitar and electric sitar (at one point quoting a theme from Tales from Topographic Oceans), and relatively straightforward lyrics.
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. Bill Martin (in his book The Music of Yes) recalled how, as a teenager, he saw the band performing live in Atlanta in late 1974. As they opened with "Sound Chaser", then still-unreleased and very unlike anything they had previously recorded, Martin's first thought was that the band had gone crazy.
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."
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 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 critics felt was pretentious and long-winded, was mixed. However, it was still a commercial success, with many observers later considering it vastly under-rated.
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.
01 – The gates of delirium
02 – Sound chaser
03 – To be over
Rhino 2003 reissue bonus tracks
04 – Soon (Single edit)
05 – Sound chaser (Single edit)
06 – The gates of delirium (Studio Run-Through)
Jon Anderson – lead vocals
Steve Howe – acoustic and electric guitars, vocals
Patrick Moraz – keyboards
Chris Squire – bass guitar and vocals
Alan White – drums, percussion
Eddy Offord – engineer, production
Gennaro Rippo – tapes
Roger Dean – sleeve design and illustration
Mansell Litho – plates design
Brian Lane – co-ordinator
Jean Ristori – photography