Friday, May 19, 2017
CLOSE TO THE EDGE
Light years ahead of its time, Close to the Edge represents nothing less than the high watermark of the prog period. The second (and last) Yes album to feature the Anderson/Squire/Wakeman/Howe/Bruford lineup is their masterpiece, though the sessions were reportedly far from carefree.
Three long form pieces are presented, two of which feature four part suites.
Opening with the gentle sound of a burbling stream, the 18 minute title track is soon overtaken by an intense rush of guitar/bass flourishes with precision drumming that straddles time signatures. Bruford
couples solid foundation work with flash and Squire's bass tone is spectacular. There is dirt in the attack on his Rickenbacker where needed, switching on a dime from roller coaster runs to smoother expressions. Special mention goes to Rick Wakeman with the nimble fingered, mind-blowing virtuosity he demonstrates in the “I Get Up I Get Down” section. According to Steven Wilson, who did the 5.1 mix:
"They went to a church [St. Giles-without-Cripplegate in London], recorded the church organ in isolation, and then came back and spun it back into the multitrack. I didn’t know that at first, but it’s such a glorious, kind of overpowering sound. And you know what? That’s pretty much the way it is on the tape. All of the reverberation is the natural reverberation from the church where it was recorded..."
This high wire act continues with meticulously layered vocal parts.
Close to the edge, down by the river
Down at the end, round by the corner
Seasons will pass you by
When the downshift occurs, it is mesmerizing. The listener is coaxed back to the pastoral soundscape that started the trip (and it is a journey), wrapping side one.
"And You and I" is the audio equivalent of a solar eclipse. Howe excels with acoustic figures that are as fine as the melody itself.
"Siberian Khatru" sees every member of the team contribute memorable passages, creating their own category in a way that seems effortless, though painstaking hours went into every recorded minute. Being a product of the analog era, there was no recourse to the easy digital solutions that are at the fingertips of contemporary engineers. Watch the creativity as it flies through the air. Going to tape was an entirely different process, yet magic was made.
Gliding high above these amazing arrangements is the voice of Jon Anderson. What else can you say? For the uninitiated, this is an album that you will happily never get to the bottom of. Easily remains as futuristic music upon this writing.