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CLOSE TO THE EDGE

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

4.65 | 3071 ratings

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The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Even Siberia gets a 3.5

Okay, just pay attention to the little epitaph up there and turn away, because I am about to insult...everyone. Oh yeah. Time to die, Close to the Fridge! DIE!!!

Argh! I'm sorry. But Close is pretty much the prog-rock equivalent of cock-rock. By which I mean, Close is part of a "mine's bigger" strategy of songwriting. See, ELP does Tarkus, Tull does Thick as a Brick, so Yes suddenly NEEDS to do the whole "lookit my epic" trick. And it leads to...mixed results.

"Close" opens with the sound of some angry birds (or something ambient like that), but quickly turns to a fairly shallow, but nonetheless impressive, jazzy funk-down. The only part that sorta irks me is when Jon Anderson breaks it up to go: "AHHHHHH! AH!" every now and again. I think it's hilariously out of place.

When the actual...you know, song starts (with a cool descending organ line), the lyrics are pure liver- witches and disgrace and all of Jonny boy's favorite themes, but the melody is a cute lil' jazz pop theme. Very soon this movement, "The Solid Change of Time" mutates into "Total Mass Retain," but you won't notice. Why? Because it's the same friggin' song. Still bouncy, still synthy, still Jon Anderson rapping.

However, the melody DOES change (eventually) into the somewhat boring "I Get Up, I Get Down," which is supposed to be an ambient ballad or something. It's pretty slow and quiet, and the closest we get to any energy is a short shouting match between Jon and Wakeman's organ near the end. Okay.

Still, the closer "Seasons of Man" is the most impressive part of the whole picture. It's got the searing technical skills of the intro, the catchiness of the middle, and the emotion of the center, all wrapped into a single, delicious ball. I mean, it's basically a re-tread of the whole thing, but it's so much more violent sounding (or, at least, as close to the violence as the Yessers could come).

Anyway, in case you weren't sick of Yes "epics," here are two more for you! Well, at least, one's a multi-part suit, and the other's just kinda long. "And You and I" is the suite, and it's pretty dull. "Cord of Life" is an amusing, totally harmless, folk rocker. "Eclipse" is a far too puffed up piece of symph rock, considering its place in the song AND melody.

"The Preacher and the Teacher" is probably the most charming place on the album; I absolutely adore that little folksy intro with the twelve-string. And fantastic lyrics about mutants (?). Then the rest of the band comes in, and the theme changes, and we're lost. Actually, we've hit the (very un-pretentiously titled) "Apocalypse," a pretty nice and quiet ending to a boring song.

The final song, "Siberian Khartru," is definitely the best. I mean, for one thing it's the shortest, and besides, it's the last. Heh. I kid. "Khatru" has a pretty mean riff, and riffage is not something I expect too much from Yes, so that's pleasant. It's also the most genuine energy and atmosphere on the album, with the band chugging along at top speed with a really groovy rocker (and more dopey lyrics). The little "solo" section in the middle of the song is real neat. Too bad it's overlong, but, what can ya do?

What really separates this from the other good epics of the day is thus: "Tarkus?" It's about a giant armadillo/man/tank. "Thick?" A poem written by an eight year old. "Close?" Well, you know. It's about...uh, SOMETHING, I don't know what, but I KNOW it's real serious.

See, if you're honestly going to try and do this whole "rock suite" thing, you have to do it with a grain of salt. No one in their right mind goes and tries to record a side-long song without at least a portion of their tongue in their cheek.

But Yes doesn't just fail for that reason; oh no, there's more. Like, for the fact that this thing is supposed to be an "epic," nothing here feels all that epic. "Close" might be twenty minutes long (or thereabouts), but it's only about three recycled themes (yeah right, what did they think? "Hey! Three different themes! Dude, we're so complex! Take THAT, Gentle Giant!" "Chris, who are you talking to?" "And who's Gentle Giant?"). Besides, the lyrics don't mean squat. So it can't take me musically on a journey, or lyrically on a journey, so where the crap am I being taken?

Oh, and, what about those themes? Do any of them sound familiar at all? Hmm. Why is it that every time I hear the main "Close" theme, I think of the intro of "Heart of the Sunrise?" Or "Khatru," how come that reminds me of the coda to "Starship Trooper?" OH! I KNOW WHY! It's because I've heard this album before. A couple times before, in fact. I wouldn't mind THAT much (since, you know, Yes isn't terribly internally diverse), but the Close material isn't exactly an improvement over anything. Unlike the aforementioned epic albums of yore, Yes feel no need to reinvent themselves for Close.

Okay, so, it's unoriginal, it's boring, and it's shallow. So why on earth do I give it so high (yes, you heard me, high) a rating? Well, because...because it's actually a fairly sturdy album. Hell, it's pretty good, in fact. I mean, Yes has never been stronger from a technical point of view, and probably never would be again (when they lose Bill, I get depressed).

Besides, some of the material does worm its way into your brain, that's a fact. Yes were probably among the best art poppers on the planet; they just had a habit of burying all these neat little tunes under miles and miles of "atmosphere" and "wolfhounds." I mean, dude! They even took an attempted hard rocker, and made it too long! Why?

Oh well. In the end, "Close" DOES have a meaning that I've discerned; it's about constipation! "I get up, I get down," "Close to the edge, down by the river." Get it? Way to take a turd, guys.

(If Close is proof that at this time Yes was one of the most talent centric bands on earth, then the Close remaster w/bonus trax is living proof that Yes was also one of the ugliest bands on earth. Seriously, there's a group photo where it's revealed that everyone in the band is a grumpy looking freak, or a total dork. Jon looks like someone I saw get beat up in high school. Hell, Bruford looks like someone that I used to beat up in high school; thank God Crimso toughened him up. Okay, seriously now, the bonuses. What can I say? The first song is a very non-ELP cover of the Simon and Garfunkel "America," which is very pleasant indeed. For the first time in my life, I can crawl right into the vocal/keyboard interplay of Yes. Barring that, however, we get re-treads! "Total Mass Retain" is a truncated, single, version of the section from "Close;" I have come to suspect that the only reason the identical sections of the song were given different names was so that the lads could produce a single. There's an alternative "And You and I," but other than the fact that it's thinner (I guess), I can't really tell the big difference between this and the album version. Nor do I have any particular desire to do so. Finally, the live studio run through of "Siberia" is very disappointing; the album version was so nicely produced that this far thinner version fails to excite me as much. This remaster is highly recommended for Close freaks who can't get enough of their Wakeman. As for me, and I know I'm in the minority, I'll stick with Simon and Garfinkle. No raise in rating.)

The Whistler | 3/5 |

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