Close To The Edge
Close To The Edge was the second and final album recorded by the best known Yes lineup, with Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Bill Bruford, and Rick Wakeman. With only three tracks and quasi-religious incomprehensible lyrics, Close To The Edge sounds like a bad idea on paper, but with a huge arsenal of instrumental talent and heavenly harmonies at their disposal, it seems that Yes were capable of making anything work in 1972; Close To The Edge was Yes’ second album for the year, and it’s amazing.
Unlike other side-long pieces, the title track is only one song, rather than a series of related songs stuck together. The structure is more like a classical piece with different themes floating in and out, building through an amazingly proficient organ solo from Wakeman into a wonderful climax. The whole piece is often overwhelmingly evocative and memorable, especially the “I get up, I get down” section, and Jon Anderson’s clear and ethereal vocals are perfectly suited to the material. The second side begins with ‘And You And I’, which is the least hard-hitting song on Close To The Edge, but still fantastic, with a more subtle acoustic flavour, which emphasises the group’s harmonies. The album toughens up again with the riff-driven ‘Siberian Khatru’, with the fabulous chanted climax. The introduction is one of my favourites, as the group transform Howe’s sublime but conventional opening blues riff into a distinctively Yes piece, while I also enjoy Wakeman’s brief harpsichord solo. Other commentators have labelled Close To The Edge as a rock symphony, which is an accurate description.
While the three pieces are distinct, they are linked by Anderson’s streams of vague religious imagery, and they all end in a triumphantly hopeful climax. Nominally Close To The Edge is my favourite album ever; there’s hardly a dull moment in this ambitious progressive suite.