Yes, “The Gates of Delirium” from Relayer (1974): YESterdays

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Though commercially successful, 1973’s Tales From Topographic Oceans met with mixed reviews by critics and even one of the members of Yes. Rick Wakeman did not appreciate the concept of Tales and enjoyed the performance of the album live even less. When Wakeman was invited to rehearsals for the follow up, 1974’s Relayer, he declined and left the world’s greatest progressive rock band to pursue a very successful solo career.

After a few false starts, keyboardist Patrick Moraz entered as the third Yes keyboardist in seven initial studio projects. Relayer was again recorded by Eddie Offord at Chris Squire’s Surrey England home. Yes also returned to a recording format similar to Close to the Edge. The result was a group that sounded looser and more passionate than ever.

“The Gates of Delirium,” the opening track, is a perfect example of the creative spark Yes possessed. A 22-minute song, it takes up all of side one, incorporating elements of jazz fusion mixed with progressive rock touches. Guitarist Steve Howe’s jazz chops are impressive, as he welds his Fender Telecaster with great impact and passion.

The song, a dark requiem on war and loss, moves from battle to loss to redemption effortlessly. Alan White again proves his meddle as a versatile drummer shifting from rock to jazz fusion and back effortlessly. His percussion contributions are prominently displayed too.

Touches of Hammond Organ, Arp synthesizer join the mix, all in support of Anderson’s haunting lyrics. Musically more direct that the tracks from Tales From Topographic Ocean, “The Gates of Delirium” still has a musical urgency and a directness which are vital parts of classic Yes songs.

The battle segment of the song pulses ahead, buoyed by Alan White’s pulsation rhythms and the end section, called “Soon,” brings forth the desire redemption while offering a radio friendly Yes single of album-rock stations. “The Gates of Delirium” could have easily been three separate songs, but together it is surely more than the sum of its parts.

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