Remember 1972? Yeah, you probably don't. But if you did, you would remember an album of epic proportions, with a mystical atmosphere and majestic instrumentation. That album is Close to the Edge
. Yes were the band leading the Prog movement in the early Seventies, more complex than Pink Floyd
, more confident and pretentious than Genesis
and Jethro Tull
to venture beyond the boundaries of then modern music. They debuted in 1969 with their self-titled album, a bluesy proto-prog
album, but by Fragile
(also from 1972) Yes had proven their ability to handle progressive music. Close to the Edge
took what Fragile was further, breaking songs down into sections and creating epics that would've made a regular rock band urinate themselves. But in 1974, they attempted to take it even further, and made Tales of Topographic Oceans
, an album so pretentious to the point that it's irritating. It was the album that was seen by many, that separated the old fans from the newer ones. With its monstrously stretched out songs and strange lyrics provided by singer Jon Anderson, keyboardist Rick Wakeman (plays on this album) left because of the band's direction. Before the madness that was Tales of Topographic Oceans, Yes reached their pinnacle in creating larger-than-life classic progressive rock with Close to the Edge
Yes are known for their virtuoso musicians, and here is no exception. The two most celebrated are most probably guitarist Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman. From the intro to the title track Close to the Edge
, to the main riff of Siberian Khatru
, Steve Howe flaunts his excellent guitar skills. After the title track's rather upbeat intro the song flows into a calmer environment, mainly because of Wakeman's organ. That of course signals where Jon Anderson begins to sing about a load of numinous crap, but still flows with a funky undercurrent thanks to bassist Chris Squire's crunchy bass. Anderson's lyrics are the main weakness in Yes, they sound like Anderson threw a bunch of sentences together all joining up to make a nonsensical, doped up story. But any Yes fan will tell you, that it's all about the music when it comes to Yes. There's no doubt about that.
The song Close to the Edge is probably one of the best examples of a progressive rock song. Moving through four sections in a bit under 19 minutes, this is probably where all five members are showcased the best as a whole. The first two sections sound generally the same, featuring the catchy chorus "Close to the edge, down by a river" (with slight changes throughout) before going into the third section I Get Up I Get Down
. The generally happy mood takes a dive into a gloomier feel as the third section drags down the song with Wakeman's keyboards. The third section serves as an ambient interlude as the song ends with Seasons of Man
, a clashing finish that combines the previous sections. Close to the Edge
then takes a more natural feel, the second track And You and I
lessens the pomp and grandness of it's predecessor. It overall has an acoustic theme going on, noticed at once, the track begins with Howe tuning his 12 string. Though it has four sections, And You and I flows rather as one song, switching between Howe's guitar and Wakeman's keyboard (excellent keyboard solo in this song, accompanied by Bill Bruford fantastic drumming).
Siberian Khatru is generally seen as the weak track on Close to the Edge
, but I for one thinks it's underrated. It's probably viewed as the frailer track because it's the most straightforward, and is the most guitar driven. I'll for one say it's undeniably catchy, not the song in general but Howe's bluesy guitar, backed by Squire's bass, which sounds the crunchiest and loudest on this track. The riffs and guitar parts are probably the most unique on the album, the synths do not disappoint either, taking over near the end of the song keeping the rocking feeling of Khatru. While I'm generally a bit annoyed when Anderson's voice gets overdubbed, it sounds like a little choir of elves (which seems fitting for Anderson's subject matter), in Siberian Khatru it sounds and plays along very well in the song. There's no filler in this album or pointless, bloated instrumentation. While being very epic, it stays grounded as a great prog rock album.
So as we can see, the original album totally owns. The stuff added on was at the least, unnecessary. America
is the only genuinely new song you're getting, and is pretty good, the same rocking style as Siberian Khatru and features an awesome Steve Howe solo. Then we have the single version of Total Mass Retain
, which all know is the second section of Close to the Edge. IT sounds quite awkward and out of place without being in the suite. Siberia
(a studio run through of Siberian Khatru) sounds pretty much the same as Khatru, but not as polished and is more instrumental. The alternate version of And You and I is pretty pointless, it will take you about five listens to see the difference between it and the original. Really these alternate versions of the classic songs will only appeal to the Yes freaks that would make love to Jon Anderson on sight. Still, they're worth a listen, just don't expect anything that new or interesting. The good news is that the bonus tracks don't bonus the price of the CD. It proves its worth just by re-mastering these three classic tracks. Plus you probably won't find the CD new anywhere without the bonus tracks. So if you're a fan of progressive rock music and you don't own this album, you may want to reconsider how much you heart prog. This is a DEFINITE essential!
Original Album-------------> 5 stars
Bonus Tracks----------------> 2 stars
(but still buy it!)