Review Summary: A cornerstone of progressive rock.
Often and rightfully cited as Yes’ greatest achievement, Close to the Edge
features the seminal 70’s progressive band at the peak of their combined powers. Along with its predecessor Fragile
, it is also definite proof that the quintet of Anderson, Bruford, Howe, Squire and Wakeman remains the non-debatable classic line-up, that sadly enough could not last for more than these two albums. Though featuring only 3 epic tracks and running merely 37 minutes in length, the album carries none of the group’s former rough edges or future missteps. Close to the Edge
is blazing with masterful, ambitious musicianship, but ultimately focused and, as strange as it may sound for something a group notorious for their self-indulgence, concise.
The centrepiece here is of course the title track that originally took up the whole first side of the LP and makes, at almost 19 minutes, for almost the exact half of the running length. Messy yet captivating barrages of riffs, gorgeous melodic guitar leads, elfish vocals, a haunting two-minute organ solo (YES A RICK WAKEMAN ORGAN SOLO), and a lyrical concept that can’t be quite figured out, it’s got everything a pretentious progressive epic needs. And despite that length, it flows very well indeed.
In short, it’s pretty damn epic.
Also Close to the Edge
’s second half does all but disappoint. And You and I
is quite different and serves an excellent position as middle piece, relying less on virtuosity and more on atmosphere. Immediately notable is the beautiful acoustic work by the classically-trained Howe, on whom and Anderson the majority of the track relies. When Wakeman once again joins in, however, the magic really happens; the instrumental bridges with the organ in the mix are stunning. The conclusion is brought by Siberian Khatru
, at 8 minutes the shortest, but also by far the most upbeat track. Like Roundabout
and Heart of the Sunrise
, it is a very powerful showcase of Yes’ only constant member. Chris Squire is widely known for his fantastic skills on the bass guitar, and this may just be his best performance ever. Even though both Howe and Anderson both perform at their very finest, the whole song is built around Squire’s crunching lines, who dominates it nearly every second. The way guitar and bass are interplaying here is a pleasure to listen to every time, and the song is a fitting, energetic ending to a brilliant album.
Close to the Edge
is not only Yes hitting their peak, but one of the best examples of how awe-inspiring progressive rock can be. Like all genuine classics, it is also a record that gets a little better each time, carefully unveiling new layers upon new listens, proving how well-composed it really is. Spending enough time with Close to the Edge
will pay off considerably, making you realize that it deserves its reputation as one of the cornerstones of the movement, and why all the progressive nuts have been telling just you that all this time. Quite simply: essential.
Close to the Edge’s Yes was:
- John Roy Anderson ~ Lead Vocals
- Stephen James Howe ~ Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
- Christopher Russell Squire ~ Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
- Richard Christopher Wakeman ~ Keyboards
- William Scott Bruford ~ Drums, Percussion
TO BE CONTINUED...