1972 (Atlantic Records)
“Close To The Edge”, the fifth album by English symphonic rock band Yes, is on the edge of perfection, no, it’s beyond that. In any case, the album from 1972 shows a boom in creativity that leads to sublime playing and above all to musical ingenuity. A recording had to be made of every session, otherwise the musicians would no longer be able to remember the complex parts they had come up with the day before. The advantage you have as a progressive band is that the duration of a composition is never limited. Jon Anderson, Bill Bruford, Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Rick Wakeman do their thing in just three tracks, songs of 18:50, 10:09 and 8:57 minutes respectively. As if it were no big deal.
The sacred fire of the full-length title track is ignited by an adventurous piece in the vein of Mahavishnu Orchestra. After an opening of keyboards, birdsong and running water, Yes goes full steam ahead with The Solid Time Of Change, the first of four subtitles, all parts of this mega-epic. No one but Bruford can lay down such a furious drum rhythm as he does, but his band mates also know how to handle their instruments. Just listen to Squire making his bass guitar sweat and toil and hear how passionately Howe is engaged with his guitar, while Wakeman takes an appropriate backseat. It’s a graceful surprise, this instrumental opening. To kick off like this is quite overwhelming, but Yes does set a precedent for the future of many a band. What follows is a vocal section and you can’t ignore it: Anderson forms the undisputed glue in this epic. In various places he lets phrases and melodies return in the song without being ‘song-like’. In the subsequent Total Mass Retain, one cannot but applaud the enormous inspirational part he proves to be. Part of the lyrics are based on the book Siddhartha by the German writer Herman Hesse and have a spiritual twist with things like vicious circles, babbling rivers and Buddhist philosophies. In the third part, I Get Up I Get Down, there are some sections that tear the skies open. The church organ played by Wakeman not only sounds majestic and brilliant, the moment it appears is also beautiful in terms of timing. Initially, as I read on Wikipedia, the piece was intended for guitar and it took a genius mind to think that it would actually sound better on church organ. As a transition to the bombastic final part, Wakeman lets his Moog roar for a while. The band comes up with a fantastic closing section and then the finale has yet to come. A wonderful organ solo also passes by. Everything comes together in Seasons Of Man. It’s a wonderful heap of bombast and Anderson who seems to be bursting at the seams.
After the overwhelming title track, it is a welcome blowing off steam with the two tracks of the B-side. In a nutshell: And You And I is an atmospheric folk-tinged song with lots of 12-string acoustic guitar, while Siberian Khatru is an electric guitar-oriented rocker that would not have been out of place on, for example, “The Yes album”. Both songs are very strong with moments to cherish. For example, And You And I contains a great relieving section when Howe starts his pedal steel part. On such moments you forget everything around you and are most likely completely under the spell of the music. Siberian Khatru doesn’t rely so much on such sections. It is a song full of infectious guitar parts, excellent harmony vocals and typical Yes sound created by Mellotron and harpsichord, among others.
“Close To The Edge” is a monumental album that stands out as a classic within progressive rock. It is therefore not surprising that the album has been reissued regularly. For me, however, there is only one “Close To The Edge” and that is the LP I received for my birthday as a 15-year-old. Seasons will pass you by.
© Dick van der Heijde 2023