The epic album battle – Close To The Edge vs. Relayer – Part 1 – 560

Produced by Ken Fuller, Wayne Hall and Jeffrey Crecelius

This week Mark and I embark upon another inevitably unjustifiable escapade – the rating of two classic Yes albums against each other. If it wasn’t fun we wouldn’t do it but it keeps us off the streets at least. This time we have decided to pit Close To The Edge against Relayer and you can play along as well. In part 1 we bang on about the similarities and differences between the records and then next week we will report back on our findings after listening carefully to the albums. Please do add your own thoughts to the show notes for both weeks’ episodes.

  • Which album is ‘better’?
  • What are the main differences and similarities?
  • Why would you want to do this?

Take a listen to the episode and then let us know what you think below!

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Not final artwork or title – just me messing about with one of Jeremy North’s photos

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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:

7 replies on “The epic album battle – Close To The Edge vs. Relayer – Part 1 – 560”

A difficult choice indeed! Relayer was the first Yes album I ‘discovered’ on my own as a teenager (although I was aware of their previous work), and I remember listening to it over and over again on my Toshiba cassette player, lol. But personally I’d have to go with CTTE, a seminal work in the genre and probably the greatest prog rock album of all time.

I have been on the record so many times advocating for Relayer as the best Yes album of all time… So, I’ll wait till next week to do it again… but in the meantime, Mark made a comment about Relayer having a less interesting cover since it is less colorful… I’ll just remind you that CTTE doesn’t have ANY image on the cover… It apparently didn’t hurt sales…

CTTE is the best Yes studio album in my opinion and my favorite. A perfect package of music and art. It’s widely considered the best Yes album, and was chosen as the best prog album of all time by a Prog magazine poll, and by other polls or lists. I agree, to me it’s the top of the heap, if you have to choose one, the best of many excellent albums, including masterpieces by King Crimson, Genesis, ELP, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Moody Blues, and others.

CttE and Relayer toggle for top spot for me – the first an immediate, comfortable, and enduring classic, the other a complex challenge to grasp but then a deeply enriching reward – so what fun that the YMP revisits them together in this episode.

Experiencing both CttE and Relayer “live” (LONG ago!), however, my reactions were quite different. As a young girl and classical piano student smitten with Yes music, knowing every note of every album, I leapt at the exciting opportunity to attend the CttE tour concert in Durham, North Carolina, USA in 1972. My friends and I were ecstatic and amazed at Yes’ skill and great energy onstage, all five of them, and the performances were marvelous. Two years later (parents driving us to these concerts, of course!), Yes returned for the Relayer tour in Greensboro, NC. None of us had heard Relayer since the album had not even been released yet. (That would only happen about a week later, I think.) WHOA- what complete bombardment when Sound Chaser exploded forth from Firebird at a blistering tempo, and SO loud! It was a lot to process, and most of it went right over my head. Same with Gates, which seemed like incoherent noise. I remember leaving this concert with numb ears, being very quiet (shell-shocked?), and a bit confused about the new works we had just heard. (It hadn’t helped, as concert reviewers complained and questioned afterwards, that the volume was turned up MUCH too high to the point of distortion, seeming twice as loud as the earlier CttE concert. The word “deafening” was used by these otherwise very positive, Yes-loving critics.) Yet despite the difficult introduction to this new music, Relayer went on to become a great personal favorite, Sound Chaser in particular. I find Relayer an amazing tour de force of which I never tire. Once I “got it,” what I wouldn’t give to hear it in concert again! So, all these years later, we are hoping Yes will include US dates in its 2023 tour. Won’t it be interesting to hear how the new lineup handles Relayer in all respects!
(Set list from that concert of 11/24/74, courtesy of internet sites: Firebird; Sound Chaser; Close to the Edge; To Be Over; The Gates of Delirium; And You and I; Ritual; encore- Roundabout.)

Kudos to the Yes Music Podcast, and thanks for all the information shared by people who know far more than I do. Appreciation also for the site’s excellent search mechanism (especially helpful for a relative newcomer like me). Love it that both Kevin and Mark Anthony K are Relayer enthusiasts. Keep up the great work!

Since it was released, every single Yes lineup has performed selections from “Close To The Edge”. It’s sometimes hard to disentangle the recorded music from the way that it’s made audiences feel over that half century – the rush of the band taking the stage with “Siberian Khatru”, the emotional swoops and soars of “And You And I”, and the less-frequently experienced heft of “Close To The Edge”.
By contrast, “Relayer”, came and suddenly went from the repertoire, with “Soon” being the only consistent acknowledgement of the album. I’ve seen Yes perform “The Gates of Delirium” just once, and never any of the rest of “Relayer”.
That gives the later album an intrigue and a freshness that tips me into thinking that if, God forbid, I should ever have to decide that I could only ever listen to one of them for the rest of time, I would choose it.
Thankfully, I don’t have to make that decision. I’m reminded of the day I arrived in halls of residence at the start my first year as a student and needed to fill my room with some sounds that would make it my own. I turned to a C90 which had “Close to the Edge” on one side and “Relayer” on the other.
I can still savour those 80 minutes 38 years later. Next year, on tour, when Steve Howe plays the final phrase of “To Be Over”, I will be out of my seat applauding. How wonderful that after all this time he leads a version of Yes that still has old treasures to unwrap and share.

A choice we thankfully do not have to make. Both albums, along with ‘Tales’, are Yes at their genuinely progressive height. ‘Relayer’ pushes far further in the direction that I would want, and I was disappointed when Moraz left (or was asked to leave). Really looking forward to June next year in the UK…

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