Close to the Edge Review
By Rachel Brown
In accordance with their recent Nashville appearance on July 28th, this month’s review is dedicated quite appropriately to Yes. Although the band’s fervent following is more underground than most (as with most progressive rock groups), they did manage to break into the mainstream with tunes like “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and “It Can Happen” in the early 80’s. However, while these songs certainly are catchy, for any true prog fan the most recent reincarnations of Yes seem to have lost much of the artistry the ensemble displayed in the early 70’s. The band has had a plethora of members over four and a half decades of music, but it is arguable that at no time was the line-up more flawless than on their 1972 release, Close to the Edge.
Opening with the soft fade-in of running water in perfect harmony with the soothing chirping of birds, this momentary peace is instantly disturbed by a cacophony of guitar, keyboard, bass, and drums as Close to the Edge roars to life. After such a startling genesis, the nineteen-minute title track twists, turns, and plummets in a sporadic pattern, breaking the song itself into several “mini-songs” or movements.
The over-arching theme that links them together is loosely based on Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, from which Jon Anderson, Yes’s front-man, drew inspiration. Unfortunately, even with prior knowledge of the record’s origins, most of it is incomprehensible to the average listener; however, this matter is trivial in comparison to the music itself, which loses none of its power in spite of Anderson’s arbitrary lyrics.
The B-side, consisting of two slightly shorter anthems, mirrors “Close to the Edge” with its grandiose choruses, majestic refrains, and haphazard composition. Yet, in the midst of all this chaos, there still seems to be a fine strand of careful intention threaded throughout the record.
Within each selection alone, Close to the Edge employs a myriad of musical genres, including classical, psychedelic, and even folk. From the tender acoustic strumming that introduces “And You and I” to the more traditional rock chords of “Siberian Khatru”, the album is an delightful adventure chock full of endless surprises. If nothing else, no one could ever call Close to the Edge boring. Whether you’re a fan of progressive rock or not, Yes deserves all the credit they are due and a moment of your time to sample this spectacular album. For anyone who deems himself a true classic rock fan, it is a requirement.