Yes – Close to the Edge
I loved this album on the first listen, which was unexpected since more progressive rock after the displeasing Jethro Tull experience was not my idea of a good time. I loved it less on listens 2 and 3, but was still happy with it overall. Plus, it lead me to some nostalgia listens of Jon Anderson’s team-up with Vangelis on “Friends of Mr. Cairo”, leading into Vangelis’ “Chariots of Fire” theme, an all-time Top 2 inspirational sports movie theme (along with “Gonna Fly Now” from “Rocky”, of course).
You can’t really talk about songs – these are true epics – but of moments and movements within tracks. Anderson says the album was inspired by “Siddhartha”, which I read in high school and only vaguely remember. I kept hearing the Beach Boys in some of the vocals, especially in “Close to the Edge” and “Siberian Khatru”. The beginning isn’t promising – nature sounds are the hallmark of a pretentious band, as are four-part songs that take up an entire side of vinyl. The opening few minutes is discordant, like the musicians haven’t agreed yet on what they’re going to play. I love the chorus in parts 1 and 2 (and 4) of “Close to the Edge”, but part 3, “I Get Up, I Get Down”, is one of my two favourite things here. There is a crazy tonal shift from what surrounds it – haunting keyboards, gently beautiful harmonies on the chorus and overlapping during the verses, rising to the sounds of a church organ encircling the last unmussed run-through of the chorus. My other favourite is the jazz fusion-funk (yes, you can dance to Yes) of “Siberian Khatru”, which is just a really fun way to end a fairly serious record. If it makes you think of Red Hot Chili Peppers, that isn’t an accident.
The sound is so rich, so immersive, at times it can feel like you are at a live show for one listener – this record was made to be played with headphones on, your head thrown back as the sound washes over you, especially the “Eclipse” portion of “And You and I” and the lead in to “Apocalypse”. There’s a strange unity, with the songs echoing each other in tiny snippets of instrumentation or vocal tics.
You know, I take it back – I do still love this record. It just took writing this (and my 4th listen) to make me realize it. Music is funny that way.
(Originally posted on Facebook, May 30, 2021)