Posts Tagged beauty

Album Appreciation: Relayer by Yes

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Progressive rockers Yes’ 1974 release Relayer was one of the first albums that opened my ears to what was possible in music. Pretty difficult to overstate the importance of that – especially to an impressionable teenager.

This was in the mid-70s. I didn’t know anything about Yes and hadn’t heard a single note. I was fascinated by Roger Dean’s amazing cover and bought Relayer partly for that, and partly out of curiosity to learn what these guys were about. Of course, seeing only three song titles on the back cover really piqued my curiosity.

I was blown away at once, listened to Relayer many, many times, and naturally dove into the rest of the classic Yes catalog. On my commute this morning, I heard Relayer for the first time in at least 25 years, and was almost in tears of joy. I had never forgotten it; it was just one of those things that drift out of your life somehow…

Some of those things we come back to, and find that their attraction has been lost. Relayer has lost nothing for me over time; it’s still incredible.

Gates of Delirium is one of the handful of absolute Yes masterpieces. Epic in scope, prodigious in moods, brilliantly executed, with passages of intense power and sublime beauty. It has always blown me away. This is what music is supposed to do. I began to know it then, and that conviction has only grown over the years.

Sound Chaser has the strongest fusion elements and bears the largest stamp of Patrick Moraz’ input – though the band was already well down the fusion path, as composition and arrangement for Relayer was well underway before he came on board. The three-way interplay (not to say flat-out battle) between Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Moraz just explodes all through this track, and Howe’s solo section is a gem.

To Be Over closes on a more mellow note, slowing to a pastoral and dreamy – but somehow still well-grounded – vibe. It fully embodies the opening line “We go sailing down the calming stream.” Beautifully done.

This was Patrick Moraz’ only album with Yes. Rick Wakeman is surely Yes’ Keyboardist of Destiny, but it’s tantalizing to try to imagine where Yes would have gone if they’d stuck with Moraz for a few more albums. The possibilities were surely unlimited. The next album with Wakeman, 1977’s Going for the One, was definitely another masterpiece, but Moraz’ departure closed off a path of exciting possibilities.

Yes’ best work remains a huge influence on what I do, and I expect that to be heard in my work going forward. Thanks, guys!

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Intrinsic Beauty #1 – Credo

I’ve started this blog for the purpose of sharing my reviews of great music, which is fair enough – but let’s expand our focus. There’s so much more worth celebrating: creative artists of all kinds (many of them relatively unknown); natural phenomena such as fractals and the golden ratio, etc.; other blogs on worthwhile subjects – of which I will be sharing one each week.

Let’s celebrate Intrinsic Beauty in nature and culture. Or, as my wife more drily puts it, Stuff That’s Nice.

Cranberry Lake, New York

This blog has no other agenda. It is not a worldview, political, corporate or any other kind of tool. Here is my “credo” for this series:

“Intrinsic” is defined as “belonging to an entity by its nature”.

We have a deep hunger – an existential need – for beauty, in the world, and in our daily lives. That is intrinsic to human nature. That’s what attracts us to a nice sunset, to fine music or artwork. That’s what draws us out into nature. The quest for beauty is part of our quest for meaning, without which life is pointless.

Today’s culture has very little to do with beauty. Mainstream, commercial culture has nothing to do with it. We are continually bombarded, swamped, by meaningless, exploitive, degrading ugliness. If you need convincing, a random check of YouTube, any news media, or just about any television channel or movie theater should be proof enough. What passes for culture today is superficial, without substance, without depth.

Online, we can easily find video, photos, and endless, vicious commentary on such sensual delicacies as fistfights, falls resulting in injury (who enjoys watching that?), real-life couples bickering, ritual humiliation of wannabe performers, etc. We can savor a miasma of systematic, dehumanizing degradation. We can relish stupid pet tricks with other humans as the pets, performing for our twisted amusement.

In a word, that’s all poison. There’s no real enjoyment in any of that, because there’s nothing beautiful in it. Cheap laughs (at the expense of others) don’t cut it. They may give us a fleeting, sickening feeling of superiority, but that’s empty.

Flower at Stratford Festival Theatre, OntarioBeauty, on the other hand, nourishes us. Forms of harmony, order, structure, design, patterns – we don’t want to get too technical about it. We know beauty when we see it. But we’re seeing so little of it nowadays that it’s too easy to give up and lapse into cynicism. “Yeah, yeah, whatever – what’s on TV tonight?”

However, it’s not all bad out there. For every 10,000 garbage samples on YouTube there’s something wonderful on Vimeo. There are amazing photos and finely-crafted video clips of natural sights, patterns and phenomena. There’s unbelievably good music, and works in all the other arts, being made by virtual unknowns. Isn’t all that more worth sharing than another thousand painful failures?

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