Relay Of Keyboardman (Tarantura TCDY-10-1, 2)
Dunkirk Hall, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA – December 1, 1974
Disc 1: Firebird Suite, Sound Chaser, Close To The Edge, To Be Over, Gates Of Delirium, And You And I
Disc 2: Ritual, Roundabout
Relay Of Keyboardman is the debut of a brand new tape source of a show that has never circulated before. Yes’ late 1974 tour of the US is their first of several in support of Relayer. The sound quality of the tape is clear, powerful, detailed, and the best audience recording from this short tour. Tarantura increased the volume slightly which brings up attendant hiss, and there is some crunchiness surrounding the audience noise that isn’t on the master tape, but that is only noticeable in the quiet parts between songs and is not a factor during the music. Tarantura usually boost the upper frequencies too high but on this release it isn’t too unbearable. The timbre of the stereo recording is unique in capturing a three dimensional aural dynamics and is very welcome since this is Yes, even thirty years on, at their most adventurous and aggressive. On this tour the set list is short despite the presence of three twenty-minute epics.
The goal of these shows was to bring the new keyboardist, Patrick Moraz, and their daring music from the new album onto the road with little in the way of extended solos and improvisational elaboration. Pieces that would find their way to the stage the following year such as “Clap” and “Dance Of Ranyart/Olias (To Build The Moorglade)” are omitted in favor of straight renditions of studio material (with one important exception). Yes play the new album, two thirds of Close To The Edge, one fourth of Tales From Topographic Oceans, and “Roundabout” from Fragile as an encore. The tape begins with the “Firebird Suite” introduction played over the venue’s PA system and muffled conversation by the taper. Moraz’s keyboard intro to “Sound Chaser” is not audible, which is common for many of these tapes and the music picks up with Alan White’s drums. Anderson’s flute is very loud at the beginning before the band launch into the verses. Steve Howe’s guitar solo in the middle is particularly hostile in this recording.
After Anderson’s humble greeting and a request by someone close to the taper for “Roundabout,” the band play “Close To The Edge.” The opening section “Solid Time Of Change” seems to blow the audience back a few rows and Moraz plays the first sections very conservatively. He adds his flavor at the end of “I Get Up I Get Down” and the first part of “Seasons Of Man.” There seems to be a bug in the PA as the band reiterates the opening keyboard part before they can finish the piece. There is a small cut in the tape afterwards, cutting part of Anderson’s next introduction where he says, “…in time for Christmas. The first song we played to you is called ‘Sound Chaser’ and that’s on the album. And this song we’ll do now is called ‘To Be Over’.” This is one of Yes’ most exalted compositions and they deliver a beautiful version.
Afterwards Anderson says, “The album’s titlted Relayer. And the first side of the album is titled ‘The Gates Of Delirium.'” Since the album wouldn’t be available for another two weeks, the audience’s reaction to the piece is mutued and Yes deliver a very space rendition. The first disc ends with “And You And I,” the one song from Close To The Edge that has the longest stay in Yes’ set list over the years. It is on this tour when the harmonica melody was introduced during “The Preacher The Teacher” played by Chris Squire. The final song of the set is a twenty-five minute version of side four of Topographic Oceans “Ritual.”
Before the first verse lines from “The Remembering” (“out in the city running free”) and “The Revealing Science Of God” (“what happened to this song / we once knew so well”) make an appearance. It is an interesting effect, recalling the important highlights of earlier songs in the piece. The band always intended for Topographic Oceans to be played as one, four-part piece and although each of the four songs stands on its own, hearing them out of context diminishes their meaning. Moraz plays around with some conservative sounding organ sounds during the second verse before switching to mellotron. Squire plays a lyric bass solo before the band gathers for the lengthy, drum dominated ritual of life section. Alan White’s drum solo is supplemented by electronic birdcalls and other dark jungle sounds from the keyboards which build into a Ligeti inspired climax.
The final “Nous Sommes Du Soliel” is a gorgeous coda to the piece and for the concert itself. And eight minute raucous version of “Roundabout” is the only encore played at this show. Yes sometimes played “Siberian Khatru” as an encore and once played “South Side Of The Sky” four days after Baton Rouge. Relay Of Keyboardman is packaged in a cardboard gatefold sleeve with a cartoon on the front cover. It shows the Relayer line up in a space ship with Rick Wakeman in another spaceship passing them by with an annoyed look on his face. Knowledgeable Yes fans will catch the reference. It is limited to one hundred numbered copies and given the rarity of the tape, the excellent sound quality, and the fact that is has never before circulated make this release worth having.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)