Close To The Edge (Steven Wilson Remix)

Yes

Warner, 2019

http://www.yesworld.com

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/08/2020

How do you improve on a masterpiece? Maybe more importantly: why would you even try?

Close To The Edge is one of the landmark albums of both the progressive rock genre and the 1970s, not to mention one of this writer’s favorite albums of all time. And while I’ve admired much of Steven Wilson’s work and enjoyed a few specific albums, I wouldn’t call myself a big fan. I find a lot of his music too cold and heavy and dour for my tastes—quite a contrast from the warmth and lightness and vibrance that characterizes the best Yes music.

With that as background, the work Wilson has done remixing Close To The Edge is nothing short of miraculous. It’s like someone walked up to Michaelangelo’s David with a hammer and chisel, fiddled for a bit, and actually made it better.

The 18-minute title track is both a milestone and a masterpiece in its original incarnation—and yet Wilson’s mix immediately feels not just better, but definitive. Every note played by every player has greater clarity and fuller dimensionality, as if every element in this collection of priceless family silver has been painstakingly polished by hand.

Certainly, the sharp attack of guitarist Steve Howe’s opening volley has never felt more visceral. A little while later, when lead vocalist Jon Anderson comes in heavy at the start of the “Total Mass Retain” section, it’s like he’s singing in one ear while Chris Squire’s dynamic bass line vibrates your rib cage from the other side (or was I listening too loud again?). my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

In the quiet interlude at 10:00, it feels like you could reach out and touch the dripping water. Then the three voices come in—Anderson center, Howe, left, and Squire right—and it feels like you’re standing there in a sun-dappled glade with them. When Rick Wakeman’s church organ solo begins at 12:10, it’s ASMR city as every pore from scalp to elbow tingles; it literally feels like you’re inside the organ pipes. The heavy jam from 15:00 to 15:55, again featuring Wakeman, also feels sharper and fuller in every respect, and while I didn’t think it was possible to make Squire’s bass in this section any fatter and skronkier, Wilson has done it. Thanks to the clarity and separation, you even pick up fresh subtleties and textures during the closing fade.

“And You And I” shines in similar fashion; even the in-studio acoustic noodling that introduces the song sounds warmer and more immediate, with a “you are there” vibrance to every note. The same holds for the mid-song transition at the start of “The Preacher The Teacher”; each voice and player sounds like the band is in the room with you. Drummer Bill Bruford—who would leave the band after this album—has a moment as well as his snare strikes during the 8:30-to-9:15 climax of the song echo up into the sky like rifle reports.

The rippling, rollicking “Siberian Khatru” sounds great from the start, but the second half, starting from 4:45, is where Wilson’s work is most evident, with every element in the dense, brawny arrangement standing out clearly. As the voices play off one another, Wakeman’s organ and synths shimmer, Squire’s bass bounds and throbs, Howe’s circular riff rises, repeats, and rises some more, and Bruford drives the whole thing like a Formula One racer, it’s pure adrenalin all the way to the fade.

As a matter of policy, the Daily Vault doesn’t give A+ ratings, but this one honestly gave me pause. If the original Close To The Edge is an “A”—which it definitively is—and Wilson’s remix is an improvement on that—which it absolutely is—then the math becomes fairly compelling. Rather than upset the 22-year-old ratings applecart, though, I’ll just say this: if you love prog, or Yes, or Close To The Edge, you absolutely owe it to your ears (and head and heart) to pick up this remix. It’s a revelatory new look at a trio of tracks that were already magnificent beyond measure.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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