More Than "Close to the Edge" of Greatness: Prog Review #5

More Than "Close to the Edge" of Greatness: Prog Review #5

I’m pretty sure a degree in musicology is prerequisite for writing about Yes: a Master’s at least for an album like Close to the Edge (1972).

Rolling Stone Rankings                       

  1. Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon

  2. King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King

  3. Rush - Moving Pictures

  4. Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here

  5. Yes – Close to the Edge

Just kidding, I do have something to say, however inadequate. I’m going stream of conscious this week because writing intelligently on Yes would take way too long.

The album begins with about twenty seconds of silence followed by some weird atmospheric effects and chimes, and then gradually builds into this building flurry of incomprehensible guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard, each instrument playing more chaotically than the last. Things never again get quite as crazy as those opening three minutes of the title track that set the stage for the whirlwind journey of this album.

The short respite at four minutes that leads into the main riff of part one of “Close to the Edge” quickly gives way to more controlled instrumentation and the introduction of vocals, but that sliding bass line is all I can focus on – this time. Really, there’s a new aspect of the song to appreciate every time. It’s so busy and so brilliantly constructed that I can never feel like I really know the song.

It’s also pretty amazing that a composition like this actually has sing-able choruses that provide cohesion. In my experience, long, multi-part songs of this sort are often just a string of discrete pieces linked with transitional sections and perhaps a recurring musical theme or two. But “Close to the Edge” to me sounds like a single song, even though there are of course many twists and turns to the structure. The musical and lyrical variations on the “close to the edge/ down by the river” choruses in sections I, II, and IV, and then “I get up, I get down” in parts III and IV create a remarkable unity to a song that feels far shorter than its nearly-nineteen-minute run-time.

And then there’s the better song, “And You and I”, that I’m always dying to get to when I put on the album. Although much simpler sounding, particularly in its folky intro, “And You and I” takes the energy of “Close to the Edge” – its brilliance of structure and virtuosity – and channels it into emotionality. We go from blistering keys in the first track to a very simple sounding, leisurely acoustic guitar with some spacey synths and sing-song vocals.

Just when we’re feeling secure in this nice simple melody, things get a little bit harsh in the second section when the drums kick in, and the bass and vocals get heavy. That and the spaced-out solo section set the stage for the truly great third part of the song, “The Preacher, the Teacher”, when things get real bouncy. This section also contains the line about “no mutant enemy” that I only just realized was the source for the name of Joss Whedon’s production company.

Things wind down with the “Apocalypse” section that’s a nice comforting end to a song full of beautiful highs.

And then we’re immediately thrown into that dancy main riff of “Siberian Khatru”. More amazing bass that makes me wanna move. And that guitar slide accent. Great stuff. Those funky staccato interludes, and then we throw in some harpsicord. This song goes from hard rock to dance to funk to classical to psychedelic to folk. I can’t keep up. Just in case I wasn’t sure if the drum work was quite as impressive as everything else, they throw in some machine-gun rolls to make me sit up and take notice. And this outro has got all the sound firing away.

By now it should be obvious that I love this album and I absolutely get why it belongs in the prog rock top 5.

ASK Rankings

  1. Yes – Close to the Edge

  2. Rush - Moving Pictures

  3. King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King

  4. Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon

  5. Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here





Getting a Great Deal "Selling England by the Pound": Prog Review #6

Getting a Great Deal "Selling England by the Pound": Prog Review #6

The Real Monster at the End of This Book is Your Child

The Real Monster at the End of This Book is Your Child