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Close to the Edge
By Zack Taylor
September 29, 2004
Rating: 9.0

Yes has been guilty of serious crimes against rock and roll: technical skill at the expense of soul; pretentious lyrical conceits, overwhelming arty bombast, and most egregious, hanging around long after they should have called it a day. But before the Yes concept imploded, they had some great moments. The magic arrived two albums into their career with guitarist Steve Howe in 1970 for The Yes Album; the addition of caped keyboardist Rick Wakeman for Fragile and the single “Roundabout” honed the alchemy to commercial pay dirt. Close to the Edge, the third album in the classic triumvirate, saw the group pulling out all the stops, making no concessions to subtlety or commercialism, and reaching a plateau they would never again touch. The 18-minute title suite occupying Side One starts slowly, then breaks into furious ensemble soloing amongst Howe, Wakeman, and bassist Chris Squire, segueing into gorgeous high harmonies about “seasons of man” by lyricist Jon Anderson, and slow, churchy passages that echo and repeat--all coming together in a glorious, crashing finale. Side Two features some of Howe’s most brilliant acoustic work on the beautiful “And You and I,” and the closer “Siberian Khatru, title notwithstanding, shucks the “art” and surges to the finish with a balls-out rocker driven by drummer Bill Bruford and stunning instrumental work all around. The success of this album and obligatory world tour raised the group’s stock to the point that it was no surprise the next album, consisting of four 20-minute dirges based on Hindu scriptures, went over that proverbial edge. Critical lambasting of Tales of Topographic Oceans soon signaled the party was over. The following years saw myriad line-up shuffles, comeback tries, and most of the crimes noted above. But while the original fire burned, few groups could combine dizzying musical talent, conceptual ambition, and commercial appeal like Yes.

To listen to some sound clips from Close to the Edge or to buy it. click on: Close to the Edge [Bonus Tracks]

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