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Yes - Close to the Edge CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.67 | 4571 ratings

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Ghandi 2
2 stars A masterpiece? I think not.

Before I begin, a note to fans new to Symphonic or prog in general: DO NOT BUY THIS ALBUM! New prog fans should get DSOTM by Pink Floyd instead, (see my review for the reasons why. If it is not up at the time you are reading this, I promise to finish it soon.) and new symphonic fans should get SEBTP by Genesis instead. In fact, i would recommend Relayer over this by far; it's not very symphonic, but it's a lot better than this. If CTTE had been my first prog album, I would never have gotten into prog. Also, I would like to point out to you that several albums in the Top 10 have a higher rating than this, but this is number one simply because it has more ratings than ANY other album on this website.

I know I am sort of adding to the problem by writing this long review, especially since my 2 stars can in no way affect its position since so many people have given it 5 stars, but I feel that what I am about to say should be said. I would give it one star, but I can not in do so in good conscience; there has to be something in this album that's worth inspiring such insane adulation even if I can't find it, and I do like parts of it. And I have listened to this album at least 12 times. I just don't like it. Maybe if I listened to it more I would like it more, but the pain of listening to it five more times is not worth the possible payoff of maybe liking it in the future.

And now, a personal story. Those who do not care can skip ahead, but I offer it as an explanation to the legions of Yes fans, whose fierceness rivals perhaps only that of Dream Theater's, as to perhaps why I do not like this album, and as a warning to others. At the time which I got this album, I had never heard a symphonic album; the main thing I had heard were Pink Floyd. I had also listened to Days of Future Passed from the library. My research of prog told me that Pink Floyd were different from the other "classic" prog bands, so I assumed that most of the other people regularly used an orchestra; even Floyd used an orchestra on Atom Heart Mother. So, knowing the definition of the word "symphonic" and not being exposed to much prog, I went into this expecting something similar to The Moodies (who I don't like, BTW) crossed with Pink Floyd; at the very least, something with STRINGS. This album has no orchestra, which I think the Symphonic page really needs to make more clear with a title as misleading as "symphonic." Just a warning. And it's the slightest bit possible that my dislike of this album stems from this surprise and disappointment, although I don't think so since I actually liked it on first listen.

Before I begin (I know that you're saying Who 4 paragraphs before beginning the review? I'm sorry; this review ran away from me with its length.), first I would like to give a word about the packaging: simply put, it's horrible. The stupid green box stands out when it is placed in a row of regular CDs; the CD itself is the super-lame standard Atlantic cover, showing the laziness or apathy of Yes and/or the marketing department; the cover is not very interesting, since gradients are boring; and the liner notes are nothing short of rage-inspiring. They breathlessly praise every second of the album as absolute, incredible, unbelievable, unparalleled genius. You know, Yes, other people put CRITICISMS in their album and let the music speak for itself, instead of trying to influence the listener's opinion with high praise. Many of the reviews in the King Crimson remasters say some negative things; the closest ELP comes to praising themselves in the Brain Salad Surgery booklet is calling Toccata "ferocious"; Pink Floyd don't even have liner notes in their albums.

CTTE--Ah, the title track of prog's most famous album. People praise this as a masterpiece, innovative, ahead of its time, the best song ever; the list goes on and on. Well you know what? It's not. This song is roughly nineteen minutes long, Yes' longest song at that time and has four parts. (three of which share the exact. same. theme.) Mind you, this was released after Pink Floyd's Echoes and Atom Heart Mother, Van der Graaf Generator's A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers, Caravan's Nine Feet Underground, Soft Machine's Moon in June, and Magma's Riah Sahiltaahk, to name the ones that I can find--and all of them are longer than CTTE. Now I am not saying that by 1972 epics were passe, but from the subsequent albums' formats it almost seems like that after Fragile Yes said, "Oh crap! We don't have any epics!" And then after CTTE they said, "We need to have more epics than anyone else so we can be more prog. I know, let's have a double album of epics! Then we can have more epics on one album than anyone else has in their entire career!" [obviously some other bands at that time had more epics, like Soft Machine, but they're so weird that they don't really count. ;-) ] And then after TFTO was a failure they retreated to one epic (ironically, their best one), and then once prog became out of style they said, "Oh no, prog isn't popular anymore! No more epics! We're pop now! Really!" with 90125. Obviously I exaggerate, but that is sort of the impression I get.

Now for the analysis of the actual song: the opening and closing 4 minutes are by far the best parts of the song. In fact, it kind of feels like a lot of the rest of the song (especially part 3) is there simply to extend the length of the song--so Yes can have an epic. The lyrics for this song, as with the whole album, absolutely infuriate me if I pay attention to them. However, I understand that Jon was stringing together sounds; but what I don't understand is why he has an ENTIRE SECTION (part 3) carried ENTIRELY by his voice and the lyrics. At least I can ignore the lyrics more or less for the rest of the album, but on part 3, almost everything drops out except for Jon singing the inane lyrics so seriously and Wakeman playing thirds on his keyboard. I'm not sure why, since other bands' nonsense lyrics don't bother me too much, but "I get up. I get down." on part 3 makes me want to smash and crush something. Maybe it's the voice. The lyrics, along with the packaging, are one some of the things that bring the score down to two stars.

By the way, the lyrics for this song are loosely based on Siddartha by Herman Hesse, but don't think the lyrics will make much more sense if you read the book; I did, and a few lines make a bit of sense; but the rest of it is still gibberish. You should still read Siddhartha because it is a good book. Moving on, like the rest of album, Wakeman's solos sound like he's fighting the rest of the band for dominance; as soon as everyone else relaxes for a minute, he's there with his solo, but then they have rested enough, it's over; and they push him back into the background. This is especially true on Siberian Khatru, where Howe actually cuts Wakeman off in what sounds like the middle of his harpsicord solo. Bruford's drumming is good, and it's unique that he hits the bass drum when Squire plays his slow bass notes, but I don't see why he's a legend; I've heard that his drumming with King Crimson is better, which may be it. I'm not saying he's a bad drummer, but don't expect any earth-shattering drumming on this album.

And You And I--My favorite song on the album. It features some nice guitar from Howe, and it's this song, along with the good parts of CTTE and Siberian Khatru that save this from a one star. The lyrics are slightly better on this one--at least I can tell that it's a love song--which is one of the reasons that I like this song more. And, more importantly, I think the music is much better than CTTE's.

Siberian Khatru--And then it goes downhill again. The intro to this song is good, but again Jon returns to the rage inspiring lyrics with the chorus, and again the music returns to the laziness of the title track. I counted; Wakeman plays that accursed keyboard riff over TWENTY TIMES! In a 9 minute song! It's not like it's that hard to play; if somebody showed me it, I could play it, and I've only played piano for less than a year. Now it would take a lot more practice for me to play it than for Wakeman, and I could never write it, but my point is that there's no reason for him to be repeating it that much, since it's not earth-shatteringly good and it's not nearly impossible to play, which would show off Wakeman's technical abilities. (I hate it when prog does things to show off, but that is for another time.) People say the end solo is great, but I think it is way too long and meanding, and seems to only be there to add length to an album which is already rather short. But maybe I only think that because I can't appreciate Howe's guitar properly because I am too busy internally screaming at Wakeman for playing that infernal riff AGAIN.

While on the subject of Wakeman, I would like to give my thoughts: he's really not that good, and I'm not sure why he's so famous. His damn cape is one of the reasons prog is ridiculed, and his compositions lack depth, even though he is technically quite good and he has a formidible working knowledge of synthesizers. I think many concert pianists (and perhaps even famous Jazz pianists) could outplay him, but Wakeman gets points for playing something he wrote, unlike the concert pianists. I think that the Google video which comes up when you search for Rick Wakeman (which I cannot link to here because the script does not like the link) explains what I dislike about Wakeman. On first listen, that solo is quite impressive, and he deserves credit for being able to play that fast. However, if you listen again, you'll notice that for a good portion of it that he is essentially playing the same thing over and over again. And then, instead of developing the calliope lead and piano ideas, he ends his solo with a completely out of place honky-tonk piano number. What!? Just a minute ago you were playing that flute thing, which has nothing at all to do with honky-tonk piano.

This concludes my review, which is, as far as I know, the only articulate negative review of this album on PA; but I'm not glancing through all of these reviews to make sure.

Now don't let my lone voice in the wilderness dissuade you from getting this, although I don't think there's anything I could say that would change someone's mind about buying this since it is so highly rated; almost everyone else seems to simply adore it, and you might too. But please, if you don't like it, don't let it scare you away from prog or the symphonic sub-genre.

Ghandi 2 | 2/5 |


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