Close To The Edge
Atlantic Records, 1972
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/10/2002
Ever since I bought my first Yes album when I was about 16 years old (and, no, kids, it wasn't 90125), I've noticed that my musical tastes have changed. What I used to go nuts over at 16 sometimes seems to be a bit melodramatic at 31. Add into this the level of distrust I've earned from the diehard Yes fans (ever since my little treatise on Tales From Topographic Oceans back in '97), and you have a situation where people cringe any time I dust off a Yes album to review.
In the case of Close To The Edge, Yes's 1972 release (and final album featuring the "classic" lineup of Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman and Bill Bruford), I'm reminded of a line from The Simpsons after Marge reveals the painting of a naked Mr. Burns: "I know what I hate... and I don't hate this."
Nope. I actually like this album - so much so that I'd easily call this the best release from Yes's early '70s work. Keeping the self-indulgent moments of their style to a minumum, Anderson and crew tackle a mere three songs but make things sound like a symphony.
As much as I don't like reviewing an album on a track-by-track basis, it's hard to not do so when there are only three tracks to discuss. The title track, a side-long opus clocking in at 18 minutes, does have a few of the "self-indulgent" moments where musical virtuosity sometimes is presented over the importance of the actual song. But, to Yes's credit, this one minor slip occurs right at the beginning of the track - after the nature sound-effect intro, guitarist Howe leads the charge with a solo that just doesn't seem to fit the song. Once the opening notes of the main body of the song begin, though, Yes rarely looks back, and creates a powerful song. The energy of this track rises and ebbs at times (I'd have liked a little more energy on the portion I believe was labeled "I Get Up, I Get Down"), but it's a natural flow, and before you know it, 18 minutes have gone by in the blink of an eye.
If the track "Close To The Edge" shows the potential of Yes at this stage in their career, the next two tracks absolutely seal the deal. "And You And I" is a gentle, melodic piece which knows just when to throw in the right amount of bombastic energy. The interplay between Howe's guitar work and Wakeman's keyboards (not to mention Anderson's vocals) is the sweet spot of this work, creating a harmonious texture that keeps the song flowing.
The closing track, "Siberian Khatru," is a mirror image of "And You And I" in terms of approach, but there is not a single wasted note on this track - a song which is quite possibly the best one from this stage of Yes's career (albeit overshadowed by "All Good People" and "Roundabout"). Again, the chemistry between Howe and Wakeman is what really keeps this track flowing, as does the solid rhythmic backbone of Bruford and Squire. The die-hard Yes fans know this one is a classic - and if there is any track just waiting to be re-discovered by classic rock radio, this is the one.
As overindulgent as prog-rock can get, Yes shows on Close To The Edge that there was a way to balance musical virtuosity with pop sensibility, without weakening either. As much as I believe certain Yes albums were overblown in their bombastic approaches, Close To The Edge is almost a perfect picture - and even the flaws are minor in comparison.
|all i have to say is that yor score contradicts your absolutely raving review|
|Explain how they contradict, please.|