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Close To The Edge
To download this album via iTunes, click here: Yes - Close to the Edge (Bonus Track Version) [Remastered]
To buy this CD from Amazon.com, click here: Close to the Edge


Few artists are fortunate enough to create a work that transcends its time.  The muse appears at a particular point in a creative career to draw out an artist’s best elements, connecting with an audience in a manner that is rarely repeated.  Such an event marks a creative maturity and points to a fearlessness in the pursuit of perfection.

However, all that the members of Yes were concerned with in 1972 was how to follow up their successful Fragile LP.  Rick Wakeman had joined Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, and Bill Bruford on that album to produce a collection of songs exhibiting their collective and individual talents.  Not content to cover the same ground, the quintet concentrated on pushing the envelope even further, crafting a piece that would double the length of their previous extended pieces.

Yes had already amassed an impressive collection of epics that hovered around the ten-minute mark, exceeding what was perceived as the standard length in popular music.  But song length itself wasn’t the point: the band took the time to say what they had to say.  Instrumental sections may have abounded, but they weren’t just random jams; they were deliberately conceived and integral to the totality of the desired effect.

Producer Eddie Offord was back, which at this point was a given.  According to Steve Howe: “At the time he was an integrated part of the recording experience, and then he’d become part of the life experience as well.”  Eddie was instrumental in collaborating with the band to design the Yes sound.  The fruition of this partnership resulted in an album of three pieces titled Close To The Edge, one of the crowning gems of Yes’ career and possibly of the progressive rock genre in general.

Compared to their later works, the structure of the opener, the title track, was deceptively simple in its construction.  Broken down to its barest components, “Close To The Edge” boasts an introduction followed by four movements; all but the third contain a common structure.  This allowed the band to explore and extend the various themes and melodies in a more linear fashion than usual.  Edge begins with an idea developed by Jon: a gradual rise of sounds – celestial, tinkling, with flocks of birds – building to a crescendo, where Yes come in with a crash.  Rarely has the band opened with such intensity.  The main ascending theme in the song’s intro was pulled together by Steve, Bill, and Chris, and based on a Bill concept – not surprising, given the drummer’s jazz sensibilities, though the entire band at the time fell under the spell of the instrumental intensity of the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

The intro was essentially recorded live in the studio.  It propels at top speed; Chris and Rick both play ascending runs, Bill’s all over the drum kit, and Steve peels fluid and frenetic riffs from his recently acquired Gibson 335 – it’s like hanging from the caboose of a speeding train.  The momentum is broken by abrupt stops for brief, blissful vocal pauses in the instrumental storm.  The introduction ends with the vocal blast leading to the main theme, a lilting melody that varies as it moves between major and minor keys.

What follows is the Edge movement “The Solid Time Of Change.”  The aforementioned common movements feature two sets of two verses broken up by choruses, plus a recurring theme echoing the celestial introduction.  Steve’s Coral Electric Sitar adds an appropriate ethnic flavor to an almost chanted monotonic vocal line, with Chris contributing a yelping bass figure (he would play a different line in the next movement, then use them both in the final one).  In the second set Steve would play fluid electric guitar lines against Jon’s more melodic vocals, Rick
providing a foundation in playing one note common to the chords.  Overall these verses originated in songs that Jon and Steve had both developed separately.  Jon conceived the verses, and Steve contributed to the chorus from a song he had written titled “The Longest Day Of The Year.”  Steve: “Jon would take things out of the personal, autobiographical sense and put it in a worldly sense.”

As in the best Yes music, the lyrics work on many different levels. The first chorus (“Down at the end, round by the corner”) is tentative, with Jon’s high voice warning “not right away,” almost as if he’s telling the chorus that it’s not time yet for the payoff.  When said payoff arrives later, it’s jubilantly depicted, the melody ascending with “I get up,” descending for “I get down.”

After the second movement (“Total Mass Retain”), Yes takes a different journey.  The band drops into “I Get Up I Get Down,” a pastoral detour where dreamy backing vocals from Steve and Chris (based on a Steve idea) play off against Jon’s main line; Rick’s simple electric piano leads to anxious Moog.  This section proved memorable in Yes performances, as a haze (courtesy of dry ice) would cover the stage, contributing to the suite’s airiness.  Rick’s synthesizer drives the track to an intense peak, and before we know it, we’re on to “Seasons Of
Man,” the keyboardist’s stunning organ solo leading to the final verses.  The song’s elements – performance, production, and composition – all cohere in a brilliant climax, a feeling akin to being “on the hill,” viewing “the silence of the valley,” musically taking your breath away.  The recurring celestial theme, which breaks up the repeated choruses that follow, is washed into the album’s opening sound effects, now descending in volume.  The cumulative effect of what was then Yes’ longest piece is jaw-dropping, all components essential to the wallop the piece ultimately delivers.

What follows does not disappoint.  “And You And I” starts casually, with Steve tuning up his 12-string; though it wasn’t deliberately intended for the album, its inclusion contributes to the track’s warmth, where the vocal melody and guitar rise and fall, lulling us into powerful and vast vistas.  Rick’s sumptuous Mellotron parts drive the band, Steve’s steel guitar gets its first thorough workout on a Yes album, Chris and Bill add to the dreamy quality, and Jon’s vocals soar in and hit the movement home.  The early version included in this reissue not only gives a fascinating look at the song’s development, it also shows how integral the sections are to the song.  One key part had yet to be written; after it was conceived, it allowed Yes to arrange the song for greater impact.

“Siberian Khatru” contains darker elements, though it does feature jaunty riffs and vocal melody verse.  Steve credits Bill with the main guitar line that runs through the song; it wasn’t unusual for one Yes member to write a line for another’s instrument.  A backing vocal from early in the piece (“Outboard…river…”) is reprised later as a chant, driving the song to the outro.  The early version included here has a few distinct differences, with more conventional instrumentation in the middle section.

Yes were getting more adventurous and confident with Close To The Edge, a big step up from their earlier releases.  But the recording process took longer than previous efforts, which grated on Bill Bruford.  During the mixing of the album, Bill told his bandmates that he was leaving Yes to join King Crimson.  Though he offered to tour, the band decided it was best to find a replacement drummer sooner rather than later.  That someone was Alan White, a friend of Eddie’s who'd been a regular visitor to the Edge sessions.  He was already friendly with the members and was interested in joining.  Above all, he was a “name” drummer, making his mark with the likes of John Lennon and George Harrison.  But despite Bill’s eagerness to move on, his contribution here is nothing short of spectacular, and he left the band on a high note.

When it hit the streets in September 1972, Close To The Edge won critical accolades and shot to #3 on the Billboard Album chart.  It featured another cover by artist Roger Dean, who created a Yes design markedly different from the one on Fragile.  This graphic would become known as the “bubble logo” that is indelibly associated with the band to this day.  Predictably, Atlantic wanted a single, so the group remixed “Total Mass Retain” (including a sped-up version of the celestial intro), also included here.  Excised from the greater whole, it really didn’t work on its own – long Yes pieces somehow aren’t conducive to slicing and dicing.

In a sense, this album was progressive rock’s peak, embraced by both consumers and critics.  Yes had created a masterwork that was appreciated in its time, and stands today as what could arguably be the band’s finest moment, even in the face of another upheaval in personnel and the winds of musical ambition.  Close to the edge, indeed.

– Mike Tiano

Mike Tiano is Project Manager for Yes’ Web site, YesWorld, and edits Notes From The Edge (http://nfte.org), the official Yes Internet fanzine founded in 1990.

(Jon Anderson/Steve Howe)
I. The Solid Time Of Change
II. Total Mass Retain
III. I Get Up I Get Down
IV. Seasons Of Man

© 1972 (Renewed) Topographic Music Ltd. (ASCAP)
All rights administered by WB Music Corp.

(Words by Jon Anderson;
Music by Jon Anderson, William Bruford, Steve Howe, and Chris Squire)
I. Cord Of Life
II. Eclipse
III. The Preacher, The Teacher
IV. Apocalypse
© 1972 (Renewed) Topographic Music Ltd. (ASCAP)
All rights administered by WB Music Corp.

© 1972 (Renewed) Topographic Music Ltd. (ASCAP)
All rights administered by WB Music Corp.

All Songs Copyright Renewed. All Rights Reserved.
International Copyright Secured. Used by Permission.


(Single Version)
(Paul Simon)
Atlantic single #2899 (7/17/72)

5. TOTAL MASS RETAIN (Single Version)
(Jon Anderson/Steve Howe)
Atlantic single #2899 (7/17/72)

6. AND YOU AND I (Alternate Version)
(Jon Anderson; Themes by Bill Bruford/Steve Howe/Chris Squire)
I. Cord Of Life
II. Eclipse
III. The Preacher, The Teacher
IV. Apocalypse
[Previously Unissued]

7. SIBERIA (Studio Run-Through of “Siberian Khatru”)
(Jon Anderson; Themes by Jon Anderson/Steve Howe/Rick Wakeman)
[Previously Unissued]

Close To The Edge was first issued as Atlantic #7244 (9/13/72)

All Arrangements by YES

Production: YES & EDDIE OFFORD


Coordinator: BRIAN LANE



Reissue Supervision: STEVE WOOLARD & DAVID McLEES

Sound Produced by BILL INGLOT


Product Manager: MARC SALATA

Editorial Supervision: CORY FRYE

Alt Direction & Design: GREG ALLEN @gapd with BRYAN LASLEY

Photos: ROGER DEAN (under tray), PIETER MAZEL/SUNSHINE/RETNA LTD. (pg. 6 top), MICHAELOCHSARCHIVES.COM (pg. 15), NEAL PRESTON (pg. 9 top right), MICHAEL PUTLAND/RETNA LTD. (pg. 4, 6 bottom & 9 top left), & RETNA LTD. (pgs. 2-3 & 9)



YesWorld, The Yes Online Service

© 2003 Warner Strategic Marketing. Warner Music Group, an AOL Time Warner Company.

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