Yes - Close To The Edge - Classic Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Yes - Close To The Edge

by Florian Meissner Rating:10 Release Date:1972-09-13
Yes - Close To The Edge
Yes - Close To The Edge
In 1972, it looked like Yes had finally found a steady line up. They had just played a tour through the UK and North America and were ready to record some new songs for what would become one of the most influential Progressive Rock albums of all times. However, the way it came to be took a toll on everyone involved, from band members to sound engineer.
 
Chris Welch, the band biographer, recalled visiting the band in the studio during their one month recording period, just to find “outbursts of anarchy”, disagreements between band members, and an exhausted sound engineer who even fell asleep on his mixing console from exhaustion. The stress of recording was too much for drummer Bill Bruford, who left the band in July of ’72 to join fellow Prog Rock legends King Crimson. Ultimately, the incredibly strenuous recording process resulted in the band’s best-selling album to date, reaching number 3 in the US, number 4 in the UK, and even number 1 in the Netherlands.
 
Close to the Edge could be considered an EP, if you take into consideration that it’s only three songs long. The opener, “Close to the Edge”, is a Prog Rock masterpiece. At 18:42 minutes, the song was the longest song the band had recorded at the time. The original master tape was said to be over 12m (40 ft) long. The song starts off with the sounds of birds and a river, which is slowly overlapped by chimes, before it turns into a seemingly random conglomeration of a bass line, guitar solo, and tootling from what sounds like the strings of a string instrument being plugged in quick succession. The chaos turns into a melody, forming the foundation of a melodic second part which is dominated by singing and a strong bass line accompanying a guitar melody. The song returns to a bridge-to-chorus-like structure at this point, which reminds me of the epic proportions of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
 
After roughly half, the song stops being a rock song and plays with almost extraterrestrial sounds, combined with reverb that gives you the impression of floating in space – an impression that ends so suddenly with a guitar and organ setting in that it feels like you’ve just hit the ground face first.
 
After this excursion into space and time, “And You And I” starts with an almost pleasingly simple guitar riff played on an acoustic guitar. The song is ‘only’ 10:11 minutes, and a little less experimental than its predecessor. However, after roughly 4 minutes of down-to-earth classic rock, we’re back in space, floating through a soundscape of drums and organ – an experience that is interrupted just as harshly as it was in “Close to the edge”, just that this time it’s back to the acoustic guitar. From there, the song builds up to the grand finale: organ, guitars, and drums create a marvellous soundscape full of shooting stars, laser beams, and space ships
 
After this incredibly wild ride, the relatively conservative rock sound of “Siberian Khatru” is almost a bit of a let-down. I want more flying through space, damn it! The foundation laid by bass and drums stays the same throughout the 8:56 minutes of the song, with guitar and organ forming a playful melody on top. After the initial 28:53 minutes of travelling through space and time, “Siberian Khatru” ultimately is the best way of bringing this spaceship safely back down.
 
Even close to 50 years after its release, “Close to the Edge” is still one of the most iconic Prog Rock albums of all times, and a perfect introduction into the more experimental realms of Rock in general. It broke with conventions and redefined genre borders. I’m fairly certain that we wouldn’t have had songs like “Bohemian Rhapsody” if it weren’t for the groundbreaking work these 5 musicians did here.

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