Yes released their fifth studio album on September 13, 1972. Close To The Edge continued its worldwide popularity established by their previous album, Fragile. It would reach number four in the U.K. and number three in The United States. They also emerged as one of rock’s top concert attractions as well.
Jon Anderson has stated that the album title was inspired by Herman Hesse’s book, Siddhartha. On the other hand, drummer Bill Bruford has stated it described the band’s state of mind at the time. Whoever was correct does not really matter as it remains one of the better progressive rock albums in history.
The lineup of vocalist Jon Anderson, guitarist Steve Howe, bassist Chris Squire, keyboardist Rick Wakeman, and drummer Bill Bruford remained intact, but change was in the air. Bruford would leave as soon as the recording process had been completed in order to join King Crimson. He was replaced by former Plastic Ono Band drummer Alan White. He would prove to be a good match for the band and remains a member nearly four decades later. He would tour with the band in support of the album.
The album had a more unified approach, as opposed to the five virtually solo tracks contained on their last release. It was made up of three lengthy solo releases that flowed into one another.
The title track was nearly 19 minutes in length and took up the entire first side of the original vinyl release. It was a complicated piece that was broken down into a classical sonata form. The track was divided into four sections which explored different themes and variations. The lyrics were cryptic, which was to become the norm for the band. But it didn’t matter, as they fit the nature of the song.
The second track was the 10-minute “And You And I,” which was also divided into four parts. It was a delicate track that had a spacey sound and feel. Rick Wakeman’s keyboards and Steve Howe’s guitar provides the foundation.
The final track clocked in just shy of nine minutes. “Siberian Khatru” was basically a rock song, even though it may have been an odd rock song. Steve Howe’s guitar playing is brilliant and is one of the reasons Guitar World placed the LP at number 67 on its list of The 100 Greatest Guitar Albums Of All Time. Bruford’s drums and Wakeman’s keyboards are also up front and push the song along.
Close To The Edge should be a staple in any progressive rock collection. Thirty-nine years after its original release, it remains a defining moment in the career of Yes.
Article first published as Music Review: Yes – Close To The Edge on Blogcritics.