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Yes - Close To The Edge CD (album) cover

CLOSE TO THE EDGE

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

4.66 | 4329 ratings

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jamesbaldwin
Prog Reviewer
4 stars "Close To The Edge" is the number ONE in the ranking of Progarchives. Is it the best progressive rock album of all time? My personal answer is no.

The Lp includes three songs: "Close To The Edge" (side A), "And You And I", and "Siberian Khatru" (side B).

"Close To The Edge", the song: Everybody here knows this suite very well... But is it a real suite? How is his structure? After having heard this suite for many years, here's to you my evaluation.

Close To The Edge (18:42) begins with country noises and a carpet of keyboards that gradually increases the volume, then comes an instrumental intro guided by Howe's guitar, which works on two lines: one does the solo, the other an underlying phrasing at great speed, which in fact marks a faster pace than that of Bruford's drums, which he prefers, with his creative jazzy style, not to beat too much on the snare drum, but works the rhythm at the hips. Meanwhile, Squire throws slashes with his mixed bass very high. The impression is therefore of listening to a polyrhythmic piece, without true melody, very well chiselled, refined, sophisticated, produced by the virtuosity of the musicians, which lasts about two and a half minutes, when Anderson's singing arrives to signal that it is time to start with the serious part, the storytelling. It is always Howe's guitar that leads, this time painting the melody, flanked by Squire's bass. The melody continues for a minute (up to about 3:50), then the rhythm stops and, punctuated by Bruford's drums, begins the hyperspeed rhythm that characterizes the verses of this long song. This time the keyboards of Wakeman arrive to support Howe's guitar, and together with Bruford's drums they beat the rhythm, while Squire produces some turns of bass to make it more lively. Anderson's singing begins, with its glacial timbre, and the very high, contralto tone, which somehow transcends the rock music in the background, turns off the heat like covering it with a white, pure, celestial liquid, and this it is the contradiction of Yes, well-marked by the critic Scaruffi: the romantic, warm, sentimental rock base is accompanied by the vocals of Anderson, cold, celestial, like icy water that extinguishes the fire. Therefore, a discrepancy is created, a conjunction of opposites, which produces a conflicting result, because Anderson's voice would be more suitable for slower, fluid, rarefied atmospheres of air or water, such as some kraut rock music (Hosianna Mantra) or some Canterbury (Wyatt's Rock Bottom) or the more recent post-rock. Instead this voice is associated with a melodic rock music, with a good rhythm, which tends to act more on a corporal than an astral level. All this produces conflict but also fascination, leaving in the music of Yes something that clashes, conflicts, but that makes it at the same time more fascinating, more stratified, less univocal, less simple, because it moves simultaneously in two opposite directions.

It is clear that Anderson's voice really characterizes the music of Yes and not everyone likes it. The fact that it goes on another level with respect to the music, combined with its super-high tone, almost falsetto, it could irritate or tire many listeners. Personally it took me several years to get used to Anderson's vocals, since I come from the classic (heartland) rock. I know that many lovers of classic rock don't tolerate Yes more for the voice of Anderson than for their songs, convoluted and full of virtuosic instrumental pieces.

But ... Let's go back to the song! The singing arrives: verse, second verse and immediately the chorus that then fades into a short solo by Howe that connects it to the bridge, at a more relaxed pace, then again comes the refrain, which in the final salt of tone touch a solemn epic climax ("I Get Up, I Get Down").

This structure, in fact an easy-listening melodic pop (beat style) song, represents the backbone of everything in Close To The Edge.

A piece of connection follows where Squire's bass is in evidence, then the keyboards report to the main melody: verse, second verse, chorus. All played with a different rhythm by Bruford and with greater use of the bass. In the refrain, more Wakeman's keyboards begins to be heard. Then bridge (where Howe's guitar feels good and there is an intermittent super high-pitched sound, I don't know if it's still produced by Howe or by Wakeman), then new chorus, which ends when we're at 8 minutes.

Following is a piece centered on low tones that introduce us to the instrumental break dominated by Wakeman. The music slows down, the rhythm section disappears, the song is deconstructed, leaving only abstract landscapes dominated by keyboards. It seems to be in a cold cave and in fact you can hear the sound of drops falling. Wakeman combines the sound of the synthesizer with that of organ and mellotron, and comes the singing of Anderson, in a doubled voice, at ease in this ethereal atmosphere. He starts again from the bridge, sung with slow rhythm, alternating with choirs of the chorus. This time Anderson's singing is intimate, confidential, and alternate to the choirs: my opinion is in this context that gives the best of himself, when his singing is confidential, and does not stand on the high notes ... or alternatively, when it grows on the high notes, if it is flanked by a melodic musical crescendo, and it's just happening now: the vocals "I Get Up, I Get Down, I Get Up" push the music to its peak, a marvelous epic, majestic, solemn climax after the long bridge / chorus; the voice rises in tone, and then the Wakeman church organ follow the vocals, and it sounds perfect for this musical juncture. We are a little longer than 12 minutes, and finally the song touches one of the highest peak of quality in the entire Yes's discography. Still Anderson, singing: "I Get Up, I Get Down", he leads the organ to lower notes, and after just over 14 minutes, the rhythm of the melody returns, with Bruford distinguishing it again from jazz preciousness.

The keyboards come back, and finally the singing starts again, on the hyperspeed rhythm with which it started the song: verse, second verse, bridge this time before the chorus, and finally again: "I Get Up, I Get Down", which closes in fading returning to the initial country noises.

Close To The Edge, in my opinion, is not a real suite. It is a song verse-chorus dilated to no end, which repeats the chorus (refrain) 6 times in total. Yes have created a new song format, they take a commercial easy-listening pop song with a verse-chorus (refrain)-bridge-chorus (refrain) structure and then they dilate it, speed it up, slow it down, accompany it with changes of rhythm and arrangement, support it with instrumental digressions and get to almost 20 minutes: and here's to you a beat song disguised as a classical suite. The (high-class) operation unites a simple substance: an easily accessible music, to a complex form: its clothing with a high quotient of virtuosity, refined arrangement, polyrhythmic instrumental pieces.

Rating high: 8,5/9. Successful song.

Now side B. Will side B be able to maintain the same level of quality?

"And You and I" (10:08) begins acoustically with a pastoral guitar phrasing, then comes the singing of Anderson, who sings two verses with a folk background, marked however by Wakeman's synths. The melody is pretty, but nothing more. Bruford's drums come together for a nice bridge "in crescendo", where Squire's bass performs numbers on the bass. The verse returns, which ends by raising the tone, and introducing a multi-level Wakeman solo, which brings the song from pastoral-folk to almost psychedelic-space rock, until the singing of Anderson returns, on the notes of the bridge, to making this orchestral crescendo celestial which, in effect, tends to rise towards the sky. In this way a nice climax is reached, which ends around 6 minutes. The music stops, the acoustic guitar phrasing returns, quite similar at the beginning, it comes to support it the rhythm section, then again a solo of keyboards / synths, this time a digression on the theme, above which the voice of Anderson returns, accompanied by the choirs, for the third bridge. The music rises for the "great finale", but again it stops, and Anderson's voice returns for the last 40 seconds. They should have avoided closing by repeating the verse, as the song has already repeated itself too much.

The song was virtually finished after 6 minutes, after reaching the climax. The remaining 4 minutes do not add much in terms of musical material, and would at least be cut by a minute. In this case, in expanding the song to get a mini suite, Yes don't get the same remarkable result achieved in Close To The Edge. As a quality, the song would have been better if it ended after 6 minutes. But even if they wanted to repeat the initial folk melody, they would have to end the song in an instrumental way without extending it so much. Rating: 8.

"Siberian Khatru" (9:00) brings the atmosphere back to the initial guitar rock, with more emphasis on keyboards. From the beginning the song appears quite repetitive and less inspired than Close To The Edge. Also in this case, the melody is pretty but not excellent. Anderson prefers to be accompanied by choirs, but it is above all the instrumental work that is more repetitive and less inspired than the first two pieces. After two verse-chorus pieces, the instrumental solo arrives, left first at Wakeman's celesta and then at Howe's guitar. The piece, however, does not sound with the same conviction as the other two. After 4 and a half minutes, Anderson's crystalline voice comes as fresh air to invigorate the piece, then starts the refrain, with Bruford beating drums and cymbals like a madman and Squire making the numbers. Again a slowdown, the singing of choirs, Bruford to make the numbers, and finally an instrumental queue that is too long, two and a half minutes, since it doesn't add anything particularly new compared to the repeated rhythm as a possessed from beginning to end. The Yes add a syncopated piece of percussion and vocals to break the rhythm. But on the whole, like "And You And I", the musical material is too little to justify the 9 minutes of the song, and Yes can't always do miracles, as in "Close To The Edge", to make original simple music that could be compressed in three minutes. Here, in fact, they try, and they are to praise, not to make the song dull, between percussion and the slashes of bass by Squire, which characterizes the ending of the piece, but overall the result is not compelling, and in short the song seems in effect, compared to the other two, a filler pulled too long. Rating: 7,5.

Side A: Rating 8,5/9. Side B: Rating 8. Rating album: 8,5 for the quality, 8,5/9 for his unity and coherence. Four and a half Stars.

Is "Close To The Edge" the masterpiece of progressive rock? Not in my opinion. It is an almost masterpiece, in terms of quality. The first part is a masterpiece, the second is not. In my personal ranking the rating is 8.5 / 9 that is four and a half stars. Even if it were 5-star, it would be a small masterpiece, which remains a bit far from the peaks of King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator. Close To The Edge has the characteristic of being the emblem of the canons of progressive rock that in 1972 had its greatest flowering. It has one side filled with just one suite, and the other with two mini-suites or long songs: the maximum (for prog) would be one suite per side, as Yes will do in the next, double album "Tales From Topographic Oceans". Here the songs are not real suites, but very dilated melodic pop-rock songs (while on Tales and Relayer Yes will compose real suites). Then Yes provide a great rate of virtuosity, rhythm changes (or polyrhythmic rhythms), instrumental variations on the main melodic theme; they add baroque arrangements (the church organ and the celesta played by Wakeman) to the songs that have a simple rock or folk structure; in short: in this album Yes exemplify with the maximum coherence the canons, the schemes, the patterns of progressive rock. And they put, in the first side, and partly in And You And I, excellent sound content, musical progressions coupled with singing that reach climax, a high rate of pathos.

But all this is affected by the excessive expansion of duration of the songs, especially in the second side. As often happens, the main representatives of an artistic movement, those who shape the patterns, have more historical importance than a universal recognition for the quality of their works. That is, it is often those who are inside an artistic movement without respecting all the canons to be those who, subjected to the scrutiny of the historical judgment, come out better. Yes are the quintessence of the progressive rock of the golden age. Certainly they weren't just gifted musicians, they created an imaginary, they have always been visionaries, both musically and narratively. However, the quality peaks achieved in their albums, in my opinion, are not the highest achieved within the progressive rock movement. This Lp got high, but not very high quality, in my opinion. This record, in fact, represents the artistic peak of Yes discography ("Fragile" and certain parts of "Tales" are close to its) and, as my critical judgment, while praising the first side, which gives me great pleasure in listening, the pleasure ends up arriving at sixth minute of And You and I. The rest is not ugly, on the contrary, it is of good level, but not of great level. And this justifies my rating of four and a half stars. If "Heart of the Sunrise" had been here instead of Siberian Khatru, "Close To The Edge" would have been a real masterpiece that could be close to the top results of Van Der Graaf Generator and King Crimson.

jamesbaldwin | 4/5 |

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