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Yes - Close To The Edge CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.66 | 4329 ratings

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5 stars Much has been said about Close to the Edge. It has been flitting between the #1 and #2 album spots on PA since I got here. It has, as of this writing, been rated almost 1000 times.

For me, Yes has a deeply personal meaning, and I'd be inclined to give everything they did between The Yes Album and Going For The One five stars just based on how much I love each and every one of those albums. The only problem with that is that, is what's better than five stars? For that reason, I've been trying to sprinkle some four stars in as I go through Yes' classic years. Yet some of the albums that have/will get 4 stars would get 5 stars by another band. Fragile would be a masterpiece, if Yes hadn't come out with this next and proved that they could do better.

Yes is the band that got me into progressive rock. They were the first band I listened to that I thought of first and foremost as progressive; sure, I had been listening to Pink Floyd, Rush, Supertramp, etc. for years, but I thought of them as classic rock. Yes were always something different. For years, I listened to them, and although I never 'grasped' what they were about in this time, I knew they were about -something-. Something tantalizingly near to coming clear to me, yet never revealing itself.

I owned Close to the Edge, Tales from Topographic Oceans, and Relayer for years, and listened to each occasionally, trying to find out what that something was. It wasn't until the smaller, bite sized chunk of 'it' that I got during the Yes Album and Fragile,which I didn't purchase for a few years, that it suddenly become clear. And suddenly, these three albums took on all new meaning to me. I listened closer. I heard more.

Yet I would still be at a loss as to what it is that makes Yes so special. There are many symphonic prog bands out there, and yet, of all that I've heard, none quite capture Yes' magic, or sound quite like them (unless they are trying to be Yes mock 2). Whenever I return to yes after listening to other prog, I remember why it is that I got into prog in the first place. And really, I've yet to find the next 'Yes', the next band with as deeply personal a meaning.

Ultimately, Yes is the sound of Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe, a drummer (they were strong with Alan White and Bill Bruford, so neither is preferred), and a keyboardist (they've been strong with many of these too). If those three members are in the group, it's almost guaranteed that something stunning will happen.

Close to the Edge is the ultimate Yes album. The chemistry between the musicians is crystal clear here. This may not be their most experimental, or even their best album, but it is their penultimate album. No other album better defines what made Yes so successful in the '70s, or so enduring to the modern day.

The fact that this album contains one of Prog Rock's best known epics, Close to the Edge, is no hindrance to the album. There are only a few epics that you can list that come close to this iconic. Close to the Edge, Supper's Ready, Echoes, Thick as a Brick; it's hard to know what to list after that.

And Close to the Edge is deserving of its status. It starts of excellent, with nature sfx, then strangely hypnotic guitars. It leads into Jon Andersons lyrics, the likes of which could probably only ever be created by the man himself. From the first two lines:

"A seasoned witch could call you from the depths of your disgrace, And rearrange your liver to the solid mental grace,"

You know you are in for a ride. Somehow, the lyrics give the feeling that if you really listen and really pay attention, you will learn something, some hidden truth. It's like playing records backwards to find hidden messages, only this time, it's deciphering the codes laid out by Jon Anderson. (I've actually seen studies of the lyrics where people try to find meaning, and there have been some pretty solid guesses as to what the heck Jon Anderson was trying to say). At the same time, even though their meaning may be just out of grasp, the lyrics make perfect sense. I've also heard that Jon Anderson picks words based on how they sound together, not their meaning, and if that is true, he has succeeded here, for the words match the music perfectly.

After rocking, and twisting the music into shapes and words you had never imagined, the song enters the third movement, "I Get Up/I Get Down". This may be one of the most heart wrenching passages that Yes would write (definitely the most heart wrenching until Going For The One came out). Jon Anderson knows how to sing delicately, and displays just how much emotion his unique voice can convey in this part. Steve Howe and Chris Squire are the perfect backing vocalists to add just that extra punch of sorrow. But the crowning moment is when Jon begins singing "I Get Up, I Get Down", accompanied by Wakeman on an organ. It gives me shivers every time, and I've heard this song many times by now. It lasts the perfect length of time, before returning to the more eclectic sound with "Seasons of Man", the last movement.

A track as strong as Close to the Edge will leave you breathless, and Yes was careful enough to give you a rest with "And You And I" afterwards, an excellent, softer piece. Perhaps less can be said about this track, and I find it to be the weakest track on the album, but trust me when I say, you say a LOT by calling this the weakest track. Jon Anderson's vocals are once again in top form. Steve Howe plays multiple guitars to great effect. Rick Wakeman's keys back the song perfectly and create great environment. The whole band is on top form as they roll through this emotional piece.

The album finishes with Siberian Khatru. Nobody knows what a Khatru is but Jon Anderson, but after over 30 years, we've come to accept that it doesn't matter when the music is this good. From the first guitar lick, you know you're in for a treat, and Yes do not disappoint. Catchy guitars, roving keyboards, and haunting vocals (the "dah dah dah" section near the end is surprisingly effective) on top of more of Jon Anderson's ethereal lyrics and vocals create what may be one of Yes' most rocking pieces.

And in this way, Yes has given the world a perfect view of everything that they do well, from the experimental, to the tender and heart wrenching, to outright rocking, to taking you to another world with ethereal lyrics. A masterpiece, and even more, a classic, without any doubt. Would that all music were this good.

TheGazzardian | 5/5 |


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