[Review] Yes: Close to the Edge (1972)

There is good music, and then there is music that has been God-kissed. This is that.

Kronomyth 5.0: As close to perfection as you’ll get.

If I were exiled to a desert island (and it’s a near certainty my family has entertained the thought at some point over the last few weeks), my happiness wouldn’t depend upon more than a handful of albums, a record player and headphones, a pair of coconuts and some copper wire to power the whole thing, and perhaps a strand of creeper for when I run out of coconuts. Close to the Edge would, of course, be one of those albums.

The Yes Album and Fragile took you places. Close to the Edge creates its own self-sustaining world. From the opening bird noises, you’re ushered into a fantastical world of sound where music is not made from mortal hands, but are colors commingling in an otherworldly paradise. The first half of Close to the Edge might just be the greatest stretch of classical music in the twentieth century. You’ll say that’s hyperbole, and I won’t deny it, but I’ll challenge you to name nine minutes of music that excite the senses more than “The Solid Time of Change” and “Total Mass Retain.” Things begin to fall apart a bit on “I Get Up I Get Down,” although it does provide a chance to catch your breath before the brilliant finale, “Seasons of Man,” in which the previous themes come together in celestial harmony. Truly, this was a heavenly alignment of talent, from Rick Wakeman’s mellotronic magic to Bill Bruford’s intoxicating assortment of percussion and irregular rhythms.

And You And I is even better in some ways, stitching together its three sections without a single seam showing. Jon Anderson’s opening song, “Cord of Life,” embarks on a journey of cosmic proportions, like Genesis’ “Supper’s Ready” (one of my other desert selections) bringing the listener from the present into the promised land. If I had ten minutes before the bombs arrived (and, admit it, we’ve all thought about it), I would queue up “And You and I” or “Supper’s Ready” for those final moments. (Okay, so I would actually pray with my family if I only had ten minutes, but I might cut my prayer short by a couple minutes so I could work in “Willow Farm.”) Siberian Khatru has always seemed a manic and unsatisfactory ending. I’ve warmed up to it over the years, but it’s the sort of fish that would have felt more at home on Tales From Topographic Oceans.

In my opinion, Yes went over the edge with the three-album Yessongs and two-album Tales. The trio of The Yes Album, Fragile and Close to the Edge, however, stands as some of the greatest music ever made. If those albums don’t forge an allegiance to the pantheon of progressive rock (or the equally regal triumvirate of Foxtrot, Selling England by the Pound and Lamb Lies Down on Broadway), then you’re doomed to a pedestrian life of pop music. I realize that I haven’t properly communicated the music of Close to the Edge, but I question whether words would do it any justice. Just listen to it. You’ll be blown away.

Original elpee version

A1. Close to the Edge (Jon Anderson/Steve Howe) (18:50)
I. The Solid Time of Change
II. Total Mass Retain
III. I Get Up I Get Down
IV. Seasons of Man
B1. And You and I (Jon Anderson, themes by Bill Bruford, Steve Howe & Chris Squire) (10:09)
I. Cord of Life
II. Eclipse (Chris Squire/Bill Bruford)
III. The Preacher and The Teacher
IV. Apocalypse
B2. Siberian Khatru (Jon Anderson) (8:57)

All arrangements by Yes.

Bonus CD tracks
4. America (single version)
5. Total Mass Retain (single version)
6. And You and I (alternate version)
7. Siberia

The Players

Jon Anderson (vocals), Bill Bruford (drums), Steve Howe (guitar, vocals), Chris Squire (bass, vocals), Rick Wakeman (keyboards). Produced by Yes & Eddie Offord; engineered by Eddie Offord; tapes by Mike Dunne; coordinated by Brian Lane.

The Pictures

Cover by Roger Dean. Photographs by Martin Adelman, Roger Dean.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track on September 13, 1972 in the UK (Atlantic, K/Y8K8 50012), the US (Atlantic, SD/TP 7244), Germany (Atlantic, ATL 50 012), Italy (Atlantic, W 50012) and the Netherlands (Atlantic, ATL 50012) with tactile gatefold cover and lyrics innersleeve. Reached #3 on the US charts (RIAA-certified gold record) and #4 on the UK charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1976 in Japan (Atlantic, P-10116A) with gatefold cover and lyrics innersleeve.
  2. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in August 1977 in the US (Atlantic, SD/CS 19133) and Canada (Atlantic, KSD 19133) with gatefold cover and lyrics innersleeve.
  3. Re-issued on elpee in 1978 in Greece (Atlantic, A 0151).
  4. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (Atlantic, P-6526A) with gatefold cover.
  5. Re-packaged with Fragile on 2-for-1 2LP in October 1982 in the UK (Atlantic, 80002).
  6. Re-released on remastered elpee in 1982 in the US (Mobile Fidelity, MFSL-1-077) with gatefold cover.
  7. Re-issued on compact disc in December 1986 in Germany (Atlantic, 250 012).
  8. Re-issued on compact disc on February 25, 1992 in Japan (Atlantic/MMG, AMCY-364).
  9. Re-released on remastered compact disc on August 16, 1994 in the US and Europe (Atlantic, 82666-2).
  10. Re-issued on remastered compact disc on March 25, 1996 in Japan (EastWest Japan, AMCY-4029).
  11. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc in 2003 in Europe (Elektra/Rhino, 73790-2) with 4 bonus tracks.
  12. Re-released on super high material compact disc on July 22, 2009 in Japan (Atlantic, WPCR-13516).
  13. Re-released on expanded, remastered 2CD on November 11, 2013 in the UK (Panegyric, GYRBD50012) with one bonus track and bonus disc.
Posted in Yes

1 thought on “[Review] Yes: Close to the Edge (1972)

  1. “ From the opening bird noises, you’re ushered into a fantastical world of sound where music is not made from mortal hands, but are colors commingling in an otherworldly paradise.“

    Beautiful paragraph. Sometimes I dream of music, often in the last couple of hours before wake up time, while in that lightish sleep state in which i know I’m dreaming. It’s always enrapturing, nothing like the waking, worldly, material music.

    I always think to myself while it’s happening that I must remember it and try to write it down. Of course, it’s gone as soon as I open my eyes. Your paragraph describes the way that music feels. It’s the movement of a happy relaxed mind at play. The music that produces in me the closest feeling to my dreamed music is Close to the Edge.

    Jon Anderson was very intelligent by the way, in choosing to prevent the lyrics from solidifying into any semblance of mundane meaning. It consistently short circuits the “left brain”. It turns the voice into another instrument while still using it to retain a very specific semantic and symbolic range, it shows a humanity without the constraints of materiality. And he walked a very fine line, in the sense that the device could’ve turned ridiculous very easily (and it does when imitators try it). But of course, I’d contend that Jon’s lyricism can be quite unremarkable when he tries to write a more down to earth song, he can fall into cliches and platitudes easily, but his genius is uncontestable.

    I don’t know if it’s been done but someone should dig deep into these five musicians personal influences, popular and classical, in book form (I’ve only heard Steve on this). Something I hadn’t noticed until recently, from hearing the first two albums, is that Chris, like many British players of the time, seems to have absorbed some of Motown’s James Jamerson’s manners.

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