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Yes - Close To The Edge CD (album) cover

CLOSE TO THE EDGE

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

4.65 | 3186 ratings

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baz91
Prog Reviewer
5 stars No progressive rock collection is complete without Yes's 'Close to the Edge'.

You've probably heard albums that have one track that towers above the rest in terms of how brilliant it is. These tracks, like Octavarium from 'Octavarium' and The Musical Box from 'Nursery Cryme', make buying the album worth it just by themselves. If you've ever wondered what an entire album of these sort of tracks would be like, 'Close to the Edge' by Yes will answer your question.

This album shows Yes putting all their eggs in one basket, with the consequence being that this is perhaps the finest progressive rock album ever made. The recipe is simple: there are just three tracks, all of them masterpieces. In my opinion, fewer songs per record is preferable because a) the songs will be longer, b) the artist will usually have spent more time perfecting each track, and c) if one record has three songs, and we compare it to another record that has maybe eight songs, it's more likely that the first record will have no duff tracks, but unlikely that this will be true for the second. On 'Close to the Edge', b) is certainly true, as it appears that Yes spent an astonishing three months writing this album. They were looking to write magnum opus, and they definitely achieved this goal.

The line-up on this album is Anderson / Bruford / Howe / Squire / Wakeman, the same line-up as 'Fragile', and undoubtedly my favourite Yes line-up. In my opinion, Bill Bruford was a better drummer than Alan White for a couple of reasons, the main reason being the way he recorded his drums. By placing microphones around each part of the drum, we get to hear some of the crispest sounding drums in prog history. Also, I've always preferred Bruford's technique, as his drumming always sounds precise and carefully thought-out.

It's hard not to be gushing about the title track, Close to the Edge, as it is one of the best epic songs of all time. I could spend pages writing the words 'amazing', 'beautiful' and 'wonderful' over and over about this song, so I'll try and keep it brief. Probably the coolest thing about this track is that it doesn't sound like pieces of different songs put together, and also doesn't rely on lengthy jams. Instead, the verses you hear in the song sound very similar to each other, whilst at the same time being quite different. Compare this to Supper's Ready, which has several very different sections that appear unrelated to each other.

At the same time, the music is astonishingly complex and intricate. The chaotic instrumental at the beginning immediately grabs you, and the odd rhythms in the verses really push the progressive-ness of this masterpiece. The music throughout is full of depth and it's extremely possible to hear new things with each listen. Anderson himself even plays a part here, as his lyrics are extremely complex and difficult to memorise. Rather than using the lyrics for meaning, he creates a dense pattern of words that are engaging and beautiful. Amongst the complexity also comes simplicity. Half-way through we reach a quieter ambient section, which contrasts to the volume and the bombastic nature of the rest of the track.

Probably my favourite thing about this song though, is that they end it properly. The ending to a song is extremely important, and Yes do a superb job of rounding everything up at the end. The truly symphonic outro here gives the song real direction, and reaching the end of this song feels like a wonderful achievement.

And You And I is quite a peculiar track, but beautiful nonetheless. In fact, I'll even go as far as saying this is Yes's most beautiful track. With no less than four parts, this song is far from being simple, but it is definitely a more relaxed song after the entirely energetic title track. Acoustic guitars account for a significant proportion of this song, but the rest of the band help create a richer sound. The lyrics are absolutely divine. There is a gorgeous mellotron solo full of stadium filling chords that will get the audience swaying. Interesting fact: the writer of TV series 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer', Joss Whedon, used a lyric from this song to create the title of his production company 'Mutant Enemy Productions'.

Siberian Khatru is a return to a more straightforward rock sound, although at nine minutes, this song is far from being straightforward. This verses of this anthemic song have a lighthearted feel, whereas the tone is more serious in other parts, including the outro. The highlight for me is the complex instrumental that begins around the three minute mark, although another cool feature is the series of rhythmic blasts between 7:00 and 7:32. Squire's bass gives this song real depth, and Bruford's drums give it a clarity that White would never be able to match.

Perhaps my only criticism of this album is that after listening to it many many times, the novelty wears off, and I tend not to listen to it as much as I used to. However, if it wasn't as good as it is, then I wouldn't have listened to it so many times in the first place! Strangely enough, this was my first Yes album, and in my opinion, my first proper venture into 70s prog rock. Before this, I'd listened to a few prog albums from this era, but 'Close to the Edge' encouraged me to listen to more music from this era, and the rest is history. One has to marvel at the breathtaking Roger Dean vista on the inside of the gatefold. Somehow, the simple green artwork with the bold title seems paradoxically appropriate for the complex and intricate music within. In my opinion, this iconic album is second to none.

baz91 | 5/5 |

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