Classically trained and already a composer of film music, Patrick Moraz took over The Nice’s keyboard seat vacated by Keith Emerson who realised that LP sounded better with an E in front and formed ELP. Renamed Refugee, and one album in, he then said yes to Yes and was part of the acclaimed Relayer album. Coincidentally, this was the year that members of said band all decided to make their own records and as Patrick was now in the band, he could too. Besides being a side man on both Chris Squire’s and Steve Howe’s recordings, his own solo was probably one of the most ambitious of the five besides (probably) Jon Anderson’s.
This was (cough..) 43 years ago -what?- and this quite stunning debut has been almost lost in the jungle that the concept is set until yet again Esoteric Recordings have located the master tapes, cleaned off the undergrowth, and presented THE STORY OF I to the lucky survivors of the Tower. The building in question is part of the tale of humans lured inside it to live out their wildest dreams and fantasies until they die. They are not, however, allowed to fall in love but two people do and this is their tale where they too survive the ordeal and fly into the skies at the end, depicted by the lovely and dreamy Symphony In The Space.
The jungle side of the location is gilded by the inclusion of Brazilian percussion, Moraz had already been the musical director with a touring Brazilian Ballet troupe and one suspects these exciting noises would have been part of his score. These traditional bangy things work surprisingly well with the vast array of synthesisers and keyboard sounds that still sound futuristic.
Ex Weather Report drummer Alphonse Mouzon plays on what was side 1 of the original record and Andy Newmark (David Gilmour’s tubs man of choice) on side 2 and the playing is upbeatly funky from both. Now add the unknown (then) Jeff Berlin on bass and we’re looking at a very tasty combo. The remastering, though, has not polished the drums as they were probably already squished onto two tracks to make way for the zillion other instruments but the percussion is loud and cuts through the speakers and your ear drums, but that is the mix and this remastered edition simply emphasises that approach. As a remaster, it IS definitely worth a punt even if you already own it on CD or vinyl.
It is quite possible that this music will be a new experience so some so a brief description will ensue. Impact crashes out of the speakers as every synth gets to have a play, the percussion is there from the off, the bass guitar is jazzed in with a “hi there” and this builds and builds until after 18 seconds into Warmer Hands a genuine punch the air resolution occurs with massive drums, vocal chanting into an Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In like vibe from the musical Hair. Slidey keyboard soloing is now added before another segue scares the life out of you with The Storm. A terrific start which has lost none of it’s appeal since it first attempted to damage parent’s hi fi (and brick work) all those years ago.
Track 4, Cachaça contains the theme that is subtly returned to every now and again and nerds of a certain vintage might recognise this being part of a news broadcast in Douglas Adam’s original radio series of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to The Galaxy (when Beeblebrox had stolen the Heart of Gold?) …Anyway with Intermezzo the late Vivienne McAuliffe sings some narrative before a very Wakeman piano part is washed aside by a finger clicking Spanish section and then a top prog workout takes us Indoors for a jazz rock fest where the protagonists find their new surroundings. Another tasteful segue into Best Years Of Our Lives where John McBurnie soulfully expresses the moment that love is in the air despite it being denounced in this utopian setting.
The track ends with a cue to turn the record over, but you don’t have to on a CD so the screech of Decent could make you spill your glass of wine, but all is forgiven as the cortège of Incantation smiles into Dancing Now. There’s more of the story of the Story Of I in the second half but still plenty of great musicianship and variation to keep the listener transfixed. Impressions (The Dream) is simply a beautiful piano piece with cavernous low level wave noises in the background, a respite from all the vices in the tower and is what music sounds like as you relax on the shoreline that continues with Like A Child In Disguise.
Before they fly off into space, Rise And Fall is the last foray on your senses and the most proggy track here, belying the fact that this was written over forty years ago. The huge Oberhiem chords cutting over the Brazilian transients of the rhythm into the aforementioned ending that has shades of Tomita’s soundtrack to the Cosmos. This Symphony In The Space would make a tearful but optimistic theme for your favourite uncle’s coffin being slowly rollered into the furnace. Honestly!
Serenity is briefly lost, unless you can press stop in time, as the two bonus tracks whack out. Cachaça Variations is great though. The percussions and one of the drummers jam it out with a jazz styled piano playing purely for the fun of it. Cachaça’s Children’s Voices is is of little interest unless you were one of the parents, or maybe the children themselves because they’d be over 50 now!
In 1976, the music paper Melody Maker published a review that concluded that The Story Of I “Makes Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps look like a Sunday afternoon excursion to Brighton”. Sunday excursions to Brighton are a bloody nightmare nowadays, so it still rings true but with equal billing as defying snow and sleet to march your Carthaginian army into the Roman Republic is just as epic as attempting to park anywhere near the pebbled beach of the South Down’s premier sea side city and getting no change out of a twenty pound note for three ice creams…
Patrick Moraz seemed to be very proud of his tenure with Yes, as the inner sleeve photo of him chatting with Bob Moog whilst he carries an early Polymoog shows him in his Yes Tee shirt and with other stills of him in front of the 135,000 crowd at the JFK stadium in 1975. He must have been gutted, therefore, to be replaced by the returning Rick Wakeman. His ten year part in The Moody Blues all went horribly wrong at the end as well, so it is very fitting that this album is resurrected for a brand new buying public to realise how much talent this man had / has to create such an enjoyable historical document made at the peak of his prowess. The Story Of I sounds as innovative and new as it did when it first delighted the discerning listener in the halcyon era of timeless music, as proved by how well this remaster works.
01. Impact (3:31)
02. Warmer Hands (3:31)
03. The Storm (0:52)
04. Cachaça (4:07)
05. Intermezzo (2:49)
06. Indoors (3:44)
07. Best Years Of Our Lives (3:59)
08. Descent (1:43)
09. Incantation (Procession) (1:51)
10. Dancing Now (4:38)
11. Impressions (The Dream) (2:49)
12. Like A Child Is Disguise (4:05)
13. Rise and Fall (5:34)
14. Symphony In The Space (2:56)
~ Bonus tracks
15. Cachaça Variations (6:14)
16. Cachaça’s Children’s Voices (4:28)
Total Time: 56:51
Patrick Moraz – Vocals, Piano, Hammond C3, Synths, Mellotrons, Fender Rhodes, Clavinet, Harpsichord, Marimbaphone, Taurus Bass Pedals, Sequencers & Assorted Keyboard Instruments, Gong, Cymbal, Alpine Horn & Additional Percussion
John McBurnie – Lead Vocals
Vivienne McAuliffe – Lead Vocals
Veronique Mueller – French Vocals
Children of Morat (Switzerland) – Chorus Vocals
Ray Gomez – Lead & Rhythm Guitars
Auguste de Anthony – Acoustic & Electric Guitars
Jean Ristori – Cello, Double Bass
Jeff Berlin – Electric Bass
Alphonse Mouzon – Drums (1-7)
Andy Newmark – Drums (8-14)
Jean-Luc Bourgeois – Gong, Tom-Tom
Phillippe Staehli – Timpani, Percussion
Rene Moraz – Tap Dance, Castagnets
~ Percussionists of Rio De Janeiro:
Paulinho Braga, Hermes, Chico Batera, Gordinho, Claudio, Bezerra, Doutor, Nenem, Jorginho, Wilson, Geraldo Sabino, Risadinha, Jorge Garcia, Marçal, Luna, Elizeu Félix – Brazilian Percussion
Gilson de Freitas – Percussionists’ Leader