Saturday, 27 June 2015

"Relayer: Definitive Edition CD+DVD-A" by YES (2014 Panegyric CD/DVD-A Reissue - Steven Wilson Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...One To Seek And See In Every Light..."

After the incredible tape transfer and audio restoration work STEVE WILSON of PORCUPINE TREE did on the early catalogue remasters of KING CRIMSON and JETHRO TULL – the other big Proggy Monster was always going to be YES. I've heaped praise on Wilson's fabulous work on their 3rd breakthrough album from 1971 "The Yes Album" – but for many the beast was always going to be the dense and problematic "Relayer" from 1974 (for many their last truly great record). And as I deliriously stated before - man has our Stevie stepped up to the Topographic plate. 

This November 2014 CD and DVD-A Reissue (there’s also a CD and BLU RAY variant on Panegyric GYRBD50096 – Barcode 633367900623) is awesome stuff and worthy of the praise so far heaped on it. No harm then in a little more – because this is one Sound Chaser you need in your Gates Of Delirium

UK released November 2014 – "Relayer: Definitive Edition CD + DVD-A" on Panegyric GYRSP50096 (Barcode 633367900524) breaks down as follows:

Disc 1, Definitive Edition CD, 2014 Stereo Mixes, 48:13 minutes:
1. The Gates Of Delirium
2. Sound Chaser [Side 2]
3. To Be Over
Tracks 1 to 3 are the vinyl LP "Relayer" – released December 1974 in the UK on Atlantic K 50096 and Atlantic SD 18122 in the USA

4. Soon (Single Edit) – issued as the A-side of a 7" single in the USA on Atlantic 45-3242 in January 1975. It runs to 4:14 minutes and is an excerpt of a slow passage towards the end of "The Gates Of Delirium" on Side 1. The edited "Sound Chaser" was its B-side.
5. Sound Chaser (Single Edit)
Note: Booklet mistakenly credits these as Tracks 7 and 8 when they’re 4 and 5. The two single edits appear to be the 2002 Rhino remasters (unaltered).

Disc 2 is the Definitive Edition DVD-A. It’s a NTSC Region 0 Hybrid DVD-A compatible with all DVD Players and DVD-ROM Drives. From the visual/audio menu on your television or computer - it allows you to choose from 4 menus:
1. 2014 STEREO MIX:
96 kHz Sample Rate/24 Bit Depth - MLP Lossless 2.0 Stereo Mix of the album

48 and 96 kHz Sample Rates/24 Bit Depth – LPCM 2.0 Original Stereo Mix (Flat Transfer of the album)

3. 96 kHz Sample Rate/24 Bit Depth - DTS 5.1 Digital Surround Mix of the album

1. The Gates Of Delirium (Studio Run-Through)
2. Sound Chaser (Studio Run-Through)
3. To Be Over (Studio Run-Through)

A gatefold digipak with two see-through trays is housed within an outer card wrap/slipcase giving the reissue the same 'boxed' look as the two other Reissues in this Steve Wilson Remaster Series - "The Yes Album" and "Close To The Edge". It looks and feels classy - although I’d say that the spine on future issues should state more clearly which 'Definitive Edition' it is – CD and DVD or CD and BLU RAY?

CD to the left tray, DVD-A to the right and the 20-page booklet loose between them – each disc pictures the albums original ROGER DEAN label artwork - while the album’s inner gatefold is beneath the see-through tray for the CD with the Donald Lehmkuhl poem under the DVD-A tray to the left. The well-stocked 20-page booklet offers photos of rare 7” picture sleeves from France, Spain and US promo labels dotted through the text - as well as a lot of colour photos from the 1976 American "Relayer" Tour with the Crab Nebula set design by Martyn Dean. There are clusters of concert tickets, local posters for gigs (with Gryphon as the support act) and a Village Voice trade advert thanking Madison Square Gardens for a successful show. Lyrics are reproduced and there are detailed paragraphs on the 'audio sources' that explain how the new 2014 Stereo Mixes were made (some of the Battle sound effects in "The Gates Of Delirium" are missing from the master tapes) and the 5.1 Surround Mixes. As with "The Yes Album" and "Close To The Edge" – noted Prog Music lover and Writer SID SMITH gives us superb liner notes on the creation of the album. The artwork for the original vinyl album alone was a thing of beauty (gatefold sleeve and inner) - and cleverly both the booklet and the onscreen display for the DVD-A use a Roger Dean painting that wasn’t used on the original inner gatefold – a sort of squatting Relayer 'Fly' that bears a passing resemblance to the Fly creature that used to adorn the Motown Chartbuster LP covers of the early Seventies. Apart from that sloppy typo-error in the booklet re the track numbers on the CD - it’s all exemplary stuff…

Because of its density (particularly the near 20-minute opus "The Gates Of Delirium" on Side 1) – Yes's 8th studio album "Relayer" has always had a so-so reputation on original 1974 vinyl copies. The Rhino CD remaster of 2002 had a fair stab at it – but again many felt that it was still muddied in places. Wilson has no doubt been aware of these 40-year complaints and his 2014 Remix/Remaster can only be described as an awakening (if I might get so profound on a Tuesday) – a de-cluttering that will thrill fans of this brilliant Progressive Rock LP to the very core. I’m amazed at the clarity on offer here –in fact some portions of "Sound Chaser" and "To Be Over" are so clean that it’s almost disconcerting - not supressed nor trebled for effect – just treated with care and attention to transfer detail.

With the Jon Anderson (Vocals), Steve Howe (Guitars), Patrick Moraz (Keyboards), Chris Squire (Bass) and Alan White (Drums) line-up at the helm – there was a concerted effort by YES to get back to the glory of "Close To The Edge" after the slightly indulgent four long sides of 1973's "Tales From Topographic Oceans". Relistening to "The Gates Of Delirium" now (minus its Battle Sequence bits from some studio effects library LP) is a blast (can't say I missed the bits). If I was to identify one aspect that hammers home how good the 2014 version is – once again it’s the rhythm section of Squire and White. The drumming that rattles from speaker to speaker is amazingly clear - as are the perfectly playing bass parts – and this is even in the wild centre-passages where Howe and Moraz are letting rip on the Guitars and Keyboards. When that huge drum/keyboards break occurs at 12:53 – ushering in the musical repeat that finishes off the piece (just before the soothing "Soon" passage) – it’s power is utterly amazing (not to mention the playing).

The glory continues on Side 2. When Jon Anderson’s vocals first come in on the surprisingly lovely "To Be Over" – the wallop of them comes as something of a shock. And again you notice the clarity of the rhythm section – Chris Squire’s Bass and Alan White’s Drumming. Then there’s Howe’s wonderful Pedal Steel followed by Rock bursts on his axe that he never lets get out of control (this is Yes at their mad Proggy best). The big synth and moog tones flesh out the centre-passage as all the voices chant "...child like..." – Moraz getting his moment towards the end (clarity is amazing). And as all those guitars and synths erupt in that fabulous melodic last passage (joined slowly by complimentary voices) – I’m blubbing freshly-minted Proggy tears - newly moved.

I nipped round to my mate's house for a 5.1 Surround moment and 'Mother of God' was heard to be uttered on quite a few occasions – the dreamy soundscape that precedes "Soon" is gorgeous and full of space. The drumming that precedes the Guitar Break on “Sound Chaser” where Howe gets funky is whacking the speakers like it wants to start a fight. But I must admit I found the Flat Transfer just that – flat.

So there you have it – a genuine triumph. I can imagine that nowadays there’s probably a queue of Prog band’s sat outside Steve Wilson’s front porch clutching bags of master tapes – hoping to catch his eye as he exits for a latte and a croissant. And on the strength of this strangely groovy reissue – I can totally understand why…

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