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Yes - Close To The Edge CD (album) cover

CLOSE TO THE EDGE

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

4.66 | 4222 ratings

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Frankingsteins
4 stars Seen by many as the definitive progressive rock album, 'Close to the Edge' continues where Yes left off with 'Fragile.' The classical, symphonic influence is still very prominent, but mostly restrained to Rick Wakeman's legendary keyboard solos in the centre of songs.

The timeless popularity of this album, first released in 1972 and re-issued several times on CD, likely stems from its excellent and arguably perfect structure: the title song, lasting for an entire 20-minute side of the original LP, emphasises epic, bold progression, while the less intensive second half is balanced with the blissfully melodic 'And You And I' and the catchy rocker 'Siberian Khatru.'

Yes were at the peak of their creativity and career with 'Close to the Edge,' finding the middle ground between the band's desire to be proggily experimental and the record buyer's desire to hear some nice, ultra-modern music. 'Close to the Edge' is historically noteworthy for pushing forward the use of synthesisers and sound effects in popular music.

As usual, Jon Anderson's lyrics mean nothing whatsoever, but are infectiously pleasant in that androgynous seventies way. It's the sound of the words that matters, and the way they skilfully blend with the backing instruments in every instance. The line-up of Anderson, guitarist Steve Howe, bassist Chris Squire, drummer Bill Bruford and keyboard virtuoso Rick Wakeman works brilliantly in crafting the three long songs on this album. Each instrument is integral to the songs at many points and all of them create perfect harmony, even when that harmony involves going completely against rational song structure.

1. Close to the Edge .a) Solid Time of Change .b) Total Mass Retain .c) I Get Up I Get Down .d) Seasons of Man 2. And You And I .a) Cord of Life .b) Eclipse .c) The Preacher, The Teacher .d) Apocalypse 3. Siberian Khatru

Sampled sounds of nature open 'Close to the Edge.' It's a bit of a clichéd 'dawn chorus' type introduction, but this is Yes after all. An oppressive bubble of indistinct noise slowly expands to drown out the chirruping, before bursting into the sound of Yes playing around on instruments and veering all over the place for two minutes of lovely zaniness. This section is interrupted several times by 'ahhhs' and 'bap-baps' from Anderson, until his heavenly voice provides the other musicians with divine insight and the song's leading, classic riff suddenly finds itself. Or something like that anyway.

This song is divided into four sections, each sounding very distinct, but the bridges between sections not always being quite so clear. The song begins a more familiar rhythm 4 minutes in, although Anderson's vocals refuse to be pinned down to a beat anywhere but the chorus. This section is very upbeat and enjoyable, even if the high voice of the chorus becomes a little irritating towards the end.

The third section is Wakeman's time to shine, his soft, ethereal keyboards gradually rising to an overpowering church organ display interspersed with more spacey vocals from Squire and Anderson. This is the part of the song that the drug fans enjoy. After a few minutes of this, the song becomes suddenly unsure of itself and the discordant return of the repressed riff leads us back into familiar ground to round the song off nicely. It's not perfect, but it's coherent and strong throughout, without once becoming dull or seeming overlong.

'And You And I' wisely refrains from trying to outdo the previous song, taking a relaxed acoustic attitude. Anderson's vocals are at their best in this easy-listening song, released (in an edited form) as a single, and despite becoming more complex as it goes along, it thankfully isn't particularly noticeable. A smooth, popular song in which even Wakeman holds back from his bombastic baroque, giving us a pleasant and much lighter solo instead.

The album rounds off in fun style with the excellent 'Siberian Khatru,' a live favourite that seems deceptively simple with its more straightforward (yet still incomprehensible) title and opening riff, but that soon becomes just as intensive and complicated as the previous songs. It does drag on towards the end, and while the verse sections are fantastic, the slower in-between parts are a little unnecessary. Howe's guitars are at their peak here, and remain very memorable.

Casual listeners may find Close to the Edge a little pompous and extravagant for their tastes, but for prog rock fans it's an essential album for just those reasons. The song balance is excellent, but I do find the album hindered by some unnecessarily off-putting touches (such as the pointless division of 'And You And I' into four fairly indistinct sections) and what always seems like a very short running time. The primary delight in this album is that it strives for excellence and really achieves that. The songs have dated somewhat, especially in their reliance on prog rock tropes, but this stands up far better than the band's other early releases.

Anderson's pleasant voice may be enough to attract wary newcomers, but every musician really pulls his weight on all of the songs here, creating a real depth and intricacy that's rarely heard. The oddly iconic album cover, a minimalistic background of green fading to black with hippy bubble writing title, allows each listener to make up their own mind on what the songs are actually about. Or to simply give up and enjoy the happy guitar parts. They're good.

For a more classically-tainted album, 'Fragile' is the other common favourite. But those put off by the song divisions and lengthy keyboard experiments should avoid the ego- overload 'Tales from Topographic Oceans' like the plague. Yes.

Frankingsteins | 4/5 |

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