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Yes - Close To The Edge CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.66 | 4326 ratings

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5 stars There’s no question Close to the Edge is an essential album for any progressive music fan, and probably any fan of modern music to own. Not only does the album help to explain how the band progressed from something as innocuous as “The Clap” to as daunting and inaccessible a work as “Gates of Delirium”, but probably helped to stoke the fires of creative thought for a generation or more of musical students, avant-garde artists, and even progressive fusion musicians that would later bring us even more eclectic sounds. Not to mention pretty much every pothead in the 70s had all manner of deep inspiration while contemplating this music.

But that said, I think sometimes the reputation of the album itself sometimes overshadows the music on it. While the title track is one of the earliest and most imposing progressive epics, it isn’t particularly accessible, and as such isn’t the kind of music most average listeners are going to keep in heavy rotation on their iPod or CD player. Aside from the rather banal opening and the sometimes unfocused second movement, the music is quite engaging. The interminable opening may be artistically clever in setting up the musical progressions of the song, but frankly it gets a bit boring after all these years of hearing it. On the positive side Anderson’s vocals border on auditory bating at times, and every time I hear this song I find myself waiting impatiently for those few incredible high notes (“I get uuuuuuup!”) in willing anticipation. And Wakeman’s keyboard work almost defies laws of physics in its speed and range, especially in the final movement before it descends back to the bird chirping and rather anticlimactic close. The organ notes are especially engaging and frame the real grandeur of the final climax, which cleverly comes before the end of the song. An awesome piece of music, if you have the time and the inclination to give it the attention it requires to fully appreciate it, but for me at least this is for neither casual nor frequent listening.

“And You and I” on the other hand requires much less of the listener as it casually builds from Howe’s acoustic fingering into a surprisingly melodic tune that is much close to the sound of the band’s second album. Even though this was nowhere near the hit in the States that it was in Britain back then, I think most moderately serious American music fans will recognize this song on the first opening notes. There was a shorter radio version that played back in the mid 70s that out two roughly three minute sections around the end of the first movement and the beginning of the third as I recall, leaving mostly Howe’s acoustic passages and Anderson’s vocals. This was a pretty bastardized version of the original, but at least it had its intended effect of introducing many AOR fans to the music of Yes, so it was not all bad I suppose.

“Siberian Khatru” is a much heavier, almost funky tune that I didn’t even realize was Yes until years after the album released (I didn’t own it back then, not picking it up until college in the 80s). Anderson’s vocals here almost approach normal hearing range for the most part, and I actually think his voice here sounds more like some of his later work in the 80s, both with Yes and solo. This would not have sounded out-of-place on the Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe album, I think.

I’ve been playing this album for weeks now trying to think what I wanted to say about it. There’s not much point in trying to lay out any kind of detailed analysis since there are so many more component reviews already archived for posterity. But I’m working my way through the Yes catalog these days, and it was time to pause and reflect on this one.

Like I said at the beginning, this is without a doubt an essential piece of progressive music, although it is without a doubt unlike anything else I have previously rated among my favorite albums. I think that’s because Yes in general, and Close to the Edge in particular, demand a great deal of participation on the part of the listener in order to get the most out of the music. On those rare occasions when I have the time and energy to devote to this album, I definitely get out of it as much as I am willing to put into it. You really can’t ask more than that. Five stars.


ClemofNazareth | 5/5 |


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