Relayer Live in 2019? 348

My copy of Relayer
Relayer!
Relayer!

Produced by Jeffrey Crecelius, Wayne Hall, Preston Frazier and Bill Govier

With the ‘news’ that Patrick Moraz might be joining Yes live in 2019 to play the whole of Relayer, Mark and I discuss the possibilities and challenges this presents. We listen to/watch recordings from when Moraz was in the band playing the songs from Relayer and then have a chat about it all.

  • How could Moraz be integrated into the current Yes band?
  • What instrumentation is needed for Relayer?
  • Are the songs similar to other Yes music?

Listen to the episode then let us know what you think!

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Theme music

The music I use is the last movement of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. This has been used as introduction music at many Yes concerts. My theme music is not take from a live concert – I put it together from the following two creative commons sources: thanvannispen and archive.org

29 thoughts on “Relayer Live in 2019? 348”

  1. Another fantastic and thought provoking episode which is going to provoke another overlong response from yours truly.

    Relayer was the first Yes album I was able to get my hands on as it was released and QPR was my first Yes show and only my second or third gig of any kind. So both are very close to my heart.

    I love Patrick Moraz and I love his contribution to this record and to all the live shows I have heard from the 75/76 era both in terms of the presentation of the Relayer material and the Wakeman era tunes. He should be in the Hall of Fame with the others. No question about that in my mind.

    The great shame for me is not that Moraz didn’t stay on one more album but that he wasn’t on board one album *earlier*. Imagine the same sound palette and virtuosity being applied particularly to the third and fourth sides of TFTO. Also imagine how much more melodic material they may have had available with a fully engaged 5th member. A lot of the padding could have been avoided. Especially the wholesale repetition of whole chunks of material throughout the four sides without much by way of development. Also if Moraz had stayed through 77 and 78 there’s probably no Awaken (at least not as we know it) and those amazing tours from those years would have been very different indeed. Not sure I would trade Wembley 77 and GFTO for Relayer II and whatever those shows would have been like .

    I could write several chapters about how I feel about Relayer itself. First of all it isn’t really a jazz fusion record at all. It’s far too through-composed for starters and has virtually none of the improvised solo sections that I would consider important to the likes of Return to Forever and Mahavishnu Orchestra.

    What is remarkable about Relayer is how much great playing there is with barely a note of it sounding like anyone is taking an actual solo (the Moraz synth solo on Sound Chaser is the big exception and has a bit of Jan Hammer feel to it). At least not solos in the old fashioned sense of a band setting up a vamp so that some guitar hero can prattle up and down a blues scale for five minutes. A musicologist would be able to say more than I on that subject but I am not sure there is a whole lot else in Relayer beyond Alan White’s contribution that owes much to jazz of any stripe. Fusion or otherwise.

    That it has some of the dynamics and tonal colours of fusion is undeniable but I think those are more effects and arrangement choices then elements in the very core of the compositions. To my ear the fusion band that Relayer bears the closest resemblance to is Weather Report but only again because solos feel like they belong to the composition rather than individual spotlights. Quite incredible in a band full of such bad-ass, competitive, ego-maniacs. Of course on stage Weather Report in the late 70s and early 80s could be incredibly boorish but on record they were on a much shorter (no pun intended) leash.

    There ‘s maybe some Magma in Relayer too (the battle passages for sure) but that is probably coincidental rather than direct influence.

    As an album I think Relayer has far more in common with late 19th and early 20th century symphonic music though that is to do it a disservice as I am not sure anyone has made anything quite like it before or since. If we do need to find antecedents then I would say that it took all the new ideas presented in six years earlier on In The Court Of The Crimson King and made something even more astonishing out of them. Even Crimson couldn’t come close to matching it until Red and Red is a nice record but it isn’t Relayer. Just listen to the unison passages on Sound Chaser. Crimson taken to another level.

    Those two albums (ITCOTCK and Relayer) are for me the alpa and omega of first wave prog rock . There was literally nothing more to be said on the subject after that and virtually every major progressive artist moved away from longer forms and towards more song based material thereafter. The same remains largely true today though if someone does show up with 40 minutes of long form compositional creativity to match it in a rock idiom then I will be first in line to buy it.

    1. Thank you Ian. As a fan of Mahavishnu Orchestra and John McLaughlin in particular I’ve always thought that anyone calling Relayer a “jazz fusion” record had obviously not heard any!

      1. Cheers Ken.

        I think the band may have played that side of it up a bit in interviews at the time and they would have had good reason what with Fusion being considered a pretty hip development from prog in the years immediately prior to punk. Especially with TFTO having been seen as the straw that had broken the prog camel’s back. A bit of recontextualising in PR terms was probably required.

        I like a bit of Mahavshnu too (though Shakti are more my cuppa) and I own a lot of both JM and JLP’s solo records but they didn’t write the kind of traditional melodies that Yes rely on. Mahavishnu to my ear threw pop harmony out of the window and put a rock structure around New Thing jazz combining freedom and the overwhelming power of amplification with modal world music influences. I suspect Hendrix was heading the same direction. There’s never ever any danger of the wheels coming off the Yes tonality wagon and heading out for Ornette territory. Even when playing outside the lines Steve Howe is never really breaking any taboos with his playing that hadn’t already been torn apart by bebop .

      2. Hey Ken,

        Thanks for commenting. I do own quite a few Mahavishnu Orchestra albums …so I’m familiar with the genre. ..and while you may not agree with my assessment. ..Steve Howe has said that Patrick brought a “Jazz/Fusion” element to the group at that time…which they had to keep under control.
        Again thank you for your support and comments..this isn’t meant as a jab or anything …just wanted to clarify my knowledge of the genre and one of my sources.

        1. You’re not wrong Marl. I have seen those quotes too and I think it is very safe to say that Moraz brought that element with him when he joined. The band also collectively make some very fusion-y noises and undoubtedly play with those kinds of dynamics. So there is an argument that these are semantic differences.

          The problem for me when considering it in the context of fusion (and perhaps the reason Moraz had to go) is that I think Anderson’s writing is quite resistant to that kind of thing. The album sounds like the songs are shaking the fusion-y bits off rather than it being truly symbiotic. It maybe that Jon was thinking those dynamics would be more out of Rite of Spring and ended up getting Wings of Karma instead. So there is conflict in the music-making as well as the music being about conflict. Which I think is part of its greatness.

          As for the others Chris Squire’s note choices are, to my ear at least, not from out of any kind of jazz playbook. He can certainly lead a band from the front like Jaco but I don’t hear the playing someone who has sat down and learned to play Charlie Parker solos on the bass or would suggest running down Naima in the rehearsal room. As for as I can hear there’s no jazz in what he does on that record . More Bach via Hindemith than Mingus.

          Steve Howe could be said to be channelling John McLaughlin a fair bit in terms of his sound and his attack but again what he plays (rather than how he plays it) seems to be perfectly in keeping with what you hear on Yessongs and sides 3 & 4 of TFTO.

          Alan White is the person who really grasps the jazz rock nettle (as he does in sections of TFTO) and, along with a Jamie Muir approach to playing percussion instument beyond the kit, he also brings some of the John Stevens thing that was considered very cool and forward-thinking around that time.

          All that said there is probably a very subtle difference here between a band mainly comprised of jazz musicians playing fusion with a rock influence and a band largely made up of rock musicians playing jazz rock. Ken and I may be thinking more about the former than the likes of Soft Machine, Collosseum, Magma and the Ian Gillain Band which are more rock bands with some jazz colours and dynamics. Which is where I would place Relayer in the Venn diagram of jazz.

          1. Two more eloquent and thoughtful posts Ian which rightfully put my rather hasty post in its proper place.

          2. Great points in your contributions, Ian! It has really made me think about the decision to return to Rick Wakeman. While most fans (me included) would have loved another Moraz album, it’s entirely possible that Anderson and the others felt that his style didn’t fit where they really wanted the band to be going. I read that Squire (I think?) said it was down to him not fitting in because his continental sensibilities weren’t compatible but maybe it was much more about his musical approach?

  2. Well I must say to pull this off after so many years would be in of it self incredible to say the least.
    Sound Chaser I believe will be done a bit slower I don’t think Mr. Howe could pull this off however having seen this show in 1976 at Cobo Hall which was breath taking to say the least I remember it like it was yesterday,because its something you never forget. If they do this album I would hope that it is recorded in high quality form such as blu-ray. When they played Gates I to this day have never seen so much or so many instruments being played by five men was truly amazing and I guess that’s what’s stuck in my head and Sound Chaser of course then to see them play Tales what can I say it really set the bar very high for me as someone who loves progressive music this was the tops hand down!

    Thank you both for revisiting this great album just a flood of emotion for me.

  3. This show prompted me to share my experience of a Yes concert I attended on June 22, 1975 in Tempe, Arizona.
    At the time I had been listening to the music of Relayer for several months and I could scarcely believe that Yes were actually coming to my town to play this music live.
    The venue was a baseball stadium, open air with festival seating. The band Spirit opened.
    Yes first blew our heads off with Sound Chaser which was played with precision and POWER. Then a powerful and moving Close to the Edge. When “To Be Over” started, I walked up right in front of the stage. The sound was excellent there as I could no longer hear the huge PA speakers that were stage side, but only the stage monitors and amps. I could also get a better view of the band and the cool Roger Dean stage designs!
    As you can imagine, The Gates of Delerium was awesome with Moraz going crazy and with all of the crashing sound effects, etc.
    Howe’s, Squire’s and Moraz’ playing on all of those Relayer songs could only be described as incendiary and the band as a cohesive whole was STUNNING.
    The mix of dimming sunlight and soft stage lights, the music and the dry desert breeze created a surrealistic experience that was stratospheric, unworldly. Wow!
    Another stand out song was Ritual which included a mind blowing Alan White drum solo with Jon and Chris pounding out primitive sounding rhythms on those huge metal triangles!
    An experience I will never forget.
    Hopefully we can look forward to Yes performing this music again live sometime next year . . . with Moraz it would be fantastic.

    Yes Forever

    Scott Smith
    Phoenix

    1. Thanks Scott – if only I was old enough to have been at those concerts! It sounds wonderful. #MORAZ19 – let’s hope!

  4. What I’ve been told is that if everything falls into place Patrick will join Yes for all of ‘Relayer’ next year, with Pat & Geoff sharing keys to cover all the parts, and the same with Alan & Jay on drums & percussion. The parts will all be discussed then worked out in rehearsals. But as with all things, we will have to wait & see if It Will Happen, whether on the cruise in Feb., where I’ll be of course, or next summer. On another point, I have not been told or heard anything about doing ‘Tormato.’ But if they have a new album out I would expect we will see a few songs from the album performed, obviously.

    1. I would love to hear them do Relayer do next year What I would really like is to hear the three drummer version of Crimson play it with Steve Howe and Patrick Moraz but that’s fanciful.

      Back in the land of the living, and assuming no new album for a while yet, a Relayer / Yesterdays tour would be the grandest of things in terms of my bucket list.

      A Relayer / Yesterdays / Fish Out Of Water tour even more so. That combination would actually have quite a lot of Yes timeline credibility given that they all came out in the Moraz membership window. What finer tribute to Chris Squire than to play his masterpiece in its entirety?

  5. Re someone replacing Steve in the future, Johnny Bruhns is the perfect choice. He’s played with Yes members in Circa: and Yoso, in the cover band Roundabout, is friends with Billy, Alan and Tony, and played guitar on the ‘Union’ album, playing so much like Steve that for years folks didn’t know it was him and not Steve on most of the songs! So him joining would be keeping it in the Yes family, just as when Billy and Jay joined.

    1. It’s all fantasy island stuff but I can only come up with the name of one British guitar player who might still be in the game and be up to the task. He has got to be in his late 60s by now but Gary Green once of Gentle Giant could certainly handle the music. Might help that he has worked with Billy Sherwood and was born in North London too which I think is important in terms of the band’s DNA. I really do think that for as long as possible you have to have at least one person in the band who has their roots in the UK scene of the 60s and 70s.

      I love the idea of young musicians taking the band into the future past the retirement of the original members but you also need to have a balance between British and American players otherwise it could all get a bit Berklee. Yes members have to be able to play to an incredible standard (obviously) but they also need to be rock and rollers at heart. If it is going to happen down the road we don’t want the guts ripped out of the music and end up with a historically correct but kind of bloodless by-the-book conservatoire version of the band.

      I don’t know Johnny Bruhns. What should I listen to?

      1. Unfortunately, Gary Green has major health issues and hasn’t performed in the last few years. But he was carrying the Gentle Giant flag with his wonderful Three Friends band, which I saw 3 times, until his health crisis. That returns us to Johnny Bruhns, again the obvious option. Most Yes fans know him. He’s friends with Billy, Tony & Alan. Check him out in Circa; Yoso; on the Yes ‘Union’ album; with the Yes tribute band Roundabout; and with Ronnie Ciago, one of Pat Moraz’s friends. He is a master guitarist, and also plays bass and keyboards. He knows the music and is a big Yes fan.

        1. Sad to hear that Gary Green is ailing. One of those largely unsung musicians the scene produced. Ollie Halsall being another stand out example when it comes to guitar players. Allan Holdsworth is Hendrix by comparison in terms of name recognition.

          Anyway … thanks for the Johnny Bruhns info. This Yes fan has never heard of him. I haven’t listened to Union again since the week I bought it and don’t really make an effort to follow the American end of the myriad of Yes off-shoot projects so useful to know his background.

          I would like to think there are some musicians from this part of the world who might put themselves in the frame if and when the time comes. Got to try and keep the percentage of North Londoners in the band up to at least that magic 40% mark 🙂

  6. The only thing we’d like to hear as much as a Relayer Album Series concert in 2019 is an Album Series show featuring a NEW album that is as adventurous, as dangerous, and is as energetic and brilliant as Relayer.

    This lineup is fully capable of delivering the next great Yes album. Unveiling it alongside Relayer would be a great way to kickoff the next stage of Yes.

    From there, we’d love to see a new studio release each year for the next 3 – 5 years, and a Yessongs 2 triple album/concert film in 3D VR drawing exclusively from these years shows.

  7. Why do you say they are not performing the “cha-cha-cha cha-cha” segment? You can clearly see them doing it in the video. I was in the front row when I saw them do it in 1975.

    1. Hi Nick,
      Oh I believe they are singing…but they are clearly singing with pre recorded audio that is being played with them…you can hear it clear as day on the QPR video. Lots of bands do that to make parts sound bigger live….plus if you think about…on stage there are only 3 singers…that sounds like more then 3 voices.

      1. Yes they were singing but they were also using backing tapes which they also did on Leave It on the 90125 tour and on some Talk songs back in the 1990s. I have no problem with it, they were just trying to reproduce the vocals in a live setting.

  8. Just chiming in to agree with both Dougs. The percussion is so massive on Gates and so intricate throughout, that it makes sense for Alan and Jay to share it (and for Jon to bang around on anything else that needs hitting). Same for keyboards. Let Patrick take the lead, but there would still be plenty for Geoff to do. Relayer from a 7 piece band is just fine with me!

    Along with everyone else (I think), the idea of seeing Relayer live is incredibly exciting. When I purchased Yessongs as a high school sophomore sometime in 1979-80, Moraz was already gone (although I saw him with the Moody Blues soon after). By the time Yes came back to Ohio, it was the Drama tour …. So, yes, let’s hope it happens. Long forgotten yesterdays indeed.

    But … I do worry that the time necessary to get Relayer ready for live performance will take time away from a new album. After Heaven and Earth, they need to take the time to get it right. (And I write this as someone who does not put H&E alone at the very bottom of my Yes list.)

    I guess they just need to get to work. I completely agree with Doug Gottlieb that the best 2019 tour is Relayer plus songs from the new album, plus anything else that they want to play from any era of the band.

    1. Thanks John. I share your worry. I wonder, if we did a poll of all Yes fans, what would we most like to see – a great Relayer live tour or a great new album?

  9. Very enjoyable episode chaps. It took me back to 1975 when I saw Yes on two consecutive nights at Newcastle City Hall. I’ve another memory of those concerts too; I popped into the City Hall on the afternoon of the gig and I could hear Yes doing a sound check. The auditorium doors were locked but I looked through the gap between the doors and watched Chris. After a few moments he spoke into the mic and said, “Can I have a bit more bass Eddie?” I think it was for the on stage monitors.
    I very much enjoyed reading Ian’s comments above. I agree with him on the Jazz thing. I don’t hear it in Relayer. I did have the good fortune in seeing Weather Report in their pomp a couple of years after the Relayer tour. Pastorius was a force of nature. I have only one LP of Paul Hindemith, I’ll have to dig it out for a listen with fresh ears.
    Given that Relayer was their last truly great album, I think I’d have loved another Moraz Yes album. I’m sure Awaken would still have come later anyway.

  10. Thank you for yet again an excellent episode,I think your analysis of Relayer live was very thoughtful and I discovered aspects of the instrumentation that I was unaware of….you two certainly know your music. Hopefully Relayer live with Patrick will happen next year and of course it will be another draw for middle aged Yes fans like us!! I was intrigued by your comments regarding a future replacement for Steve if he should retire…I think that he is pretty much irreplaceable and I cannot imagine a proper Yes without him. Well it is all fun….what a strange and wonderful band Yes are.

  11. Further thoughts from your broadcast,Yes certainly has a revolving door of personnel, ; singers JA, JD, BD, TH, drummers AW, BB, DH, JS, guitarists PB,SH,TR, bassists CS, BS ,TH?, keyboardist TK,RW,PM,GD, IK, OW, AW for one song,at a gig in Manchester, TB..and TR..have I missed anyone out? And of course half of LA played on Union. Plus of course two orchestras and additional percussionists and a recorder player and the sitar player on 90125….amazing!!

    1. I have actually seen 3 Wakemans play keyboards in YES, Rick, Oliver andAdam for that one song back in 1998 I think he played Starship Trooper, there was a problem with Igor’s visa and they asked Rick to step in, but he recommended Adam, they rehearsed with Adam,but Igor was able to get into the U.K. I remember Chris giving Adam a big hug at the show which was very much Chris….a lovely man.

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