Yes | Close To The Edge | A 45th Anniversary Retrospective
This Retrospective Written With Love In Memory Of:
Chris Squire – (March, 4, 1948 – June, 27 , 2015)
Label: Original Distribution/ Atlantic Records
Release Year: 1972
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Progressive Rock
Band Members – Classic Yes ‘Close To The Edge’ Lineup
Jon Anderson – Lead Vocals
Steve Howe – Guitar/Backing Vocals
Chris Squire – Bass/Backing Vocals
Rick Wakeman – Keyboards
Bill Bruford – Drums/Percussion
Track List – Original Pressing 1972
1. Close to the Edge
Lyrics – Jon Anderson/ Steve Howe
Music – Jon Anderson/Steve Howe
I. “The Solid Time of Change”
II. “Total Mass Retain”
III. “I Get Up, I Get Down”
IV. “Seasons of Man”
2. And You and I
Lyrics – Jon Anderson
Music – Jon Anderson/Themes by Bill Bruford/Steve Howe – except “Eclipse”/Chris Squire
I. “Cord of Life”
III. “The Preacher, the Teacher”
IV. “The Apocalypse”
3. Siberian Khatru
Lyrics – Jon Anderson
Music – Jon Anderson/Steve Howe/Rick Wakeman
Chris Squire † (RIP) †
Steve Howe’s Yes
Jon Anderson’s Yes
* Editorial Note *
This retrospective is meant as a nostalgia piece and celebration of such a fine classic of progressive rock. Please note, Power of Prog or myself will not be forced into publicly taking sides as far as the fractured camps of Yes are concerned. We will not condemn nor condone any public behaviour displayed by the respective surviving members of Yes. This is why I have included various ‘Contact Links’ in my introduction. Furthermore this will be a very objective and unbiased article. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation in this matter.
-RUSH’s Geddy Lee to Rolling Stone Magazine- June, 6th, 2016 –
“To my mind, Yes may be the single most important of all the progressive rock bands,” said Rush’s Geddy Lee, who calls Close to the Edge “among my favorite rock albums of all time.”
Preface – Signs Of The Times
During the 1960’s in the United Kingdom there was much going on at that time. The United Kingdom were still rebuilding from World War 2. The United Kingdom were also as much a part of the Cold War with the Soviet Union as the United States of America was. Due to the rebuilding from World War 2 and the Cold War to follow things appeared to be very bleak and dark in the United Kingdom especially in England. Much like the USA, the United Kingdom also was experiencing its very own ‘Baby Boom’. It would be a set of ‘Baby Boomer’s’ such as these that would go on and make rock history.
In the USA the Civil Rights movement was well underway, Psychedelic Rock and ‘Flower Power’ was born in San Francisco, California. America had been totally wrapped up in the Vietnam War which resulted in protest marches across the country which sometimes ended in violence. One of the protests resulted in four people dead in Kent State University in Ohio. The United Kingdom was also a mirror reflection much like America however much much darker times.
Employment was at an all time low with the post war economic boom and it was important to the economic and cultural development with in English society. A better economy allowed for parents to the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation to send their children to institutions of higher learning and art schools. This was clearly apparent with the musical education of Rick Wakeman – Keyboards , who went to the Royal Conservatory, which was a absolute essential instrument in the creation and evolution of the new fledgling genre of progressive rock movement. Chris Squire – Bass , had some early formal musical training as a choirboy. That experience of vocal melody and harmony would become a fixture in his personal and professional life musically until his untimely passing in 2015.
For those too young to know or to some that need a reminder late 1940’s through early 1970’s in the United Kingdom was not really a beautiful place to live as it is in 2017. These ‘Baby Boomers’ in the UK had to pass by places everyday that were a vicious reminder of World War 2. Many of their parents solely went to work to just rebuild the United Kingdom.As they were coming of age like their American counterparts they too in the United Kingdom also took to the streets to protest nuclear weapons with the Aldermaston Marches. There were plenty of jobs and development but if you were a child like many of the progressive rock bands were during this time, all you knew was old bombed out areas under construction. They did not have the luxury that their counterparts in the USA or Canada that were being raised in what we call the suburbs and subdivisions.
Given all that mentioned above these ‘Baby Boomers’ or Fathers of Progressive Rock were looking to create a world through music to perhaps escape from the post war madness. This is probably why they sat in studios or basements or even the sheds practicing and writing for hours on end. The long epic compositions of fantasy and otherworldly concepts was birthed out of both the pain of childhood and a coming of age attitude that also produced ‘Acid Rock’, ‘Heavy Metal’, ‘Psychedelic’ and ‘Folk’. Progressive Rock was another tentacle and extension of the ever growing counterculture on a global scale.
Yes’ Close To The Edge – Revisited
Close To The Edge is the fifth album in the Yes library. Yes had just wrapped up their tour in support of their previous album, 1971’s Fragile. They entered into Advision Studios to begin work on what would become Close To The Edge. This was also around the time that the band really started to stabilize as a collective union. After many laborious sessions in the studio Bill Bruford – Drums decided to leave Yes to join King Crimson after the tour and Alan White from the Plastic Ono Band. Now you had what would become the ‘Classic Yes Lineup’ of Jon Anderson – Lead Vocals , Steve Howe – Guitar/Backing Vocals, Chris Squire – Bass/Backing Vocals ,Rick Wakeman – Keyboards and Bill Bruford – Drums.
As far as song volume, Close To The Edge is one of the shorter albums in the Yes library. This is highly ironic due to the fact that the album opens up with the nearly 19 minute epic and self titled track Close To The Edge, which in those days on vinyl almost rode the fine line with the 22+ minute physical restriction that vinyl had. This left Side B that only housed And You And I & Siberian Khatru , which both averaged 10 minutes a track. The recording studio for the band to perform in, thoroughly enabled Bill Bruford’s drums to resonate with the wooden platform and making the group sound “more live”. The studio also housed a booth-like structure constructed of wooden boards which Steve Howe performed in to further enhance his sound. During the recording, the band decided to use a particular take for a track, but realised the studio’s cleaner had put the tape in the rubbish. A scramble in the bins outside the studio ensued, and the missing piece was found and inserted into the master.
During their month of recording, Melody Maker reporter and band biographer Chris Welch visited the studio to observe the recording progress. Welch described a stressful atmosphere, coupled with “outbursts of anarchy” from Bill Bruford, Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman and disagreement from each member after one mix of a song section was complete. Welch sensed the band were not a cohesive unit, with Anderson and Howe the only ones who knew what direction the album was to take, leaving the rest adding bits and pieces “to a vast jigsaw of sound”, to which Chris Squire and Offord were the two who helped put their idea into shape. Wakeman and Bruford, to Welch, remained “innocent bystanders” in the matter. In one instance, Welch arrived at the studio to hear a preview of a completed passage that took several days of round the clock work to produce. He heard a dull thud, to find Offord had fallen asleep on top of the mixing console from exhaustion, “leaving music from the spinning tape deck blaring at an intolerable level.” Bill Bruford found Close to the Edge particularly difficult to write and record with the rest of the band, calling the process torturous and like “climbing Mount Everest”. He became frustrated with the band’s happy, diatonic music and favoured more jazz-oriented and improvisational compositions. Bill Bruford was constantly encouraged by Jon Anderson to write, something he felt grateful for years later, but by the time recording was complete, he felt he had done his best on Close to the Edge and could not offer better arrangements.
Bill Bruford had this to say about that time recording the album before leaving the group.
“So then I knew I needed a breath of fresh air”.
Track By Track – A Look Into Yes’ Close To The Edge
Close To The Edge
This song would be written in four symphonic movements, each staying on point and coming to the intended message the band wanted to say and the tapestry they desired to paint. This was also the very first song where I heard every instrument in a well balanced harmony with one another. The first song I heard where not one instrument overwhelmingly drown out one another or the vocal narratives.
This song was written by Yes lead singer Jon Anderson and guitarist Steve Howe. Jon Anderson has said that many times the lyrics he writes reveal their meanings to him later. He told us that this song is one such example,
“The lyrics, ‘Season witch could call you from the depths of your disgrace,’ I realized what I was singing was all about the idea that your higher self will always save you if you keep your heart in the right place,” he said.
This song came about at a time when the members of Yes were concerned with how to follow up their successful Fragile album. Rick Wakeman had joined Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, and Bill Bruford on that album. Yes had already amassed an impressive collection of epics that hovered around the ten-minute mark, exceeding what was perceived as the standard length in popular music. But song length itself wasn’t the point, the band wanted to take the time to say what they had to say.
It was during the recording of this album, and particularly this song that Bill Bruford decided to part with the band. He felt the group was going too far with the progressive music and he also felt he had nothing to contribute to the new direction Rick Wakeman would leave for similar reasons after the band’s next album, Tales From Topographic Oceans. He quit shortly after they finished the album, prompting Jon Anderson and Chris Squire to politely ask session drummer Alan White to join for the upcoming tour just days away, or be thrown out of the window of the room they were in. He agreed and has been with the band ever since.
This was one of the songs Yes recorded that couldn’t be recreated live without some outside help. They solved this problem by bringing their producer, Eddy Offord, on the road. He put various church organs, sound effects and vocal bits onto tape, and played them during performances at opportune times from a Revox tape machine. On this track, he was the live sound of the pipe organ and the waterfall.
During a radio show called Yes Music – An Evening With Jon Anderson, the singer explained,
“The end verse is a dream that I had a long time ago about passing on from this world to another world, yet feeling so fantastic about it that death never frightened me ever since. That’s what seemed to come out in this song, that it was a very pastoral kind of experience rather than a very frightening one.”
Jon Anderson is no fan of organized religion, and he takes some shots at the institution in this song, both in the lyrics “How many millions do we deceive each day?” and in the music , a church organ comes in, which is replaced by a Moog synthesizer. Here is what Jon Anderson went on the further say,
“This leads to another organ solo rejoicing in the fact that you can turn your back on churches and find it within yourself to be your own church,”
The chorus lyric “Close to the edge, down by a river” was inspired by Howe while he lived in Battersea by the River Thames. The music played during this section was originally a song of the same name that Howe put together several years before that was in part based on the longest day of the year. Anderson and Howe agreed this section fitted best with a Jon Anderson composition titled “Total Mass Retain”, thus joining the two ideas together.
And You And I
Written by band members Jon Anderson, Bill Bruford, Steve Howe and Chris Squire, this song runs 10:08 and is divided into four parts:
I) Cord of Life
III) The Preacher the Teacher
A 5:45 edit was released as a single and charted at #42 in the US.
So who is the “you” referred to in this song? In a interview with Jon Anderson, he answered,
“Probably God. Or it could be we collectively. The audience and I, collectively we look for reality of being a true understanding of the beauty of life. We reach over the rainbow for an understanding of things. You and I climb closer to the light.”
Few song titles start with the word “and”; a more logical title would be “You And I.” Jon Anderson said in a interview why the conjunction appears at the beginning:
“I sang it that way as I was writing it with Steve (Howe) and it just stuck: ‘And you and I climb over the sea to the valley.’ It’s all about the reasons that we have to call our connection with the Divine. So it was something that just rhythmically worked.”
Rick Wakeman, who played keyboards on this track, said,
“It has different movements which all go into each other. The object was having a piece of music that was everything that the Yes critics hated us for and the Yes fans loved us for, which was emotion.”
This was a highlight of the band’s live shows, and one of their favorites to play in concert. The Close To The Edge album was conceived with live performance in mind, which was prescient considering they were still performing it more than 40 years later. They played it start-to-finish along with The Yes Album and Going for the One on a tour that spanned March 2013 – June 2014. When the group resumed touring in July, they once again played the full album, this time along with Fragile.
In a 2014 interview with Chris Squire, he said,
“The audiences respond real well to hearing the music in that format. It reminds them of when they first heard probably what was a vinyl album.”
It originated as a more folk-oriented song that Jon Anderson developed with Howe. Its style and themes were worked on by Howe, Bruford, and Squire, the only track on the album that credits Bill Bruford and Chris Squire as writers.
The closing track on the Close To The Edge album, this song is about unity across cultures. Jon Anderson, who wrote the lyric, has given different accounts of what “Khatru” means. He has said that it means “winter,” and also that it translates to “as you wish” in Yemenite Hebrew.
The meaning of the song is more clear: Jon Anderson is expressing how Siberians go through the same emotions that he does. They’re people like us, just geographically distant. We may be from different places, but we’re all basically the same.
Jon Anderson is credited with writing the lyric to this song, with keyboard player Rick Wakeman, guitarist Steve Howe and Jon Anderson credited for composing the music. The songwriting credits on Yes songs can be deceptive, since the full band was usually involved in some aspect of working up the song.
Steve Howe said that this song was one of their more collaborative efforts.
“That song came together with the arranging skills of the band,” he told Guitar World. “Jon had the rough idea of the song, and Chris (Squire), Bill (Bruford), Rick and me would collaborate on getting the riffs together.”
It is the only track on the album that has Rick Wakeman credited as a writer. In terms of its lyrics. Eddy Offord, who produced the album, remembers using a primitive studio technique to get a swirling sound in the mix: he had an assistant attach a microphone to a cable and swing it around the room to get a Doppler effect.
Siberian Khatru – Through The Filter Of The Musician
“Siberian Khatru” is written in the key of G major and is typical of Yes’ music of this period, featuring abstruse lyrics, complex time signatures and poly-rhythms, and it is divided into multiple sections, with alternating vocal and instrumental passages. The album version begins with an introductory guitar riff, after which the main instrumental theme (played by the keyboards) is introduced. The structure of the main theme is a four-measure phrase consisting of three bars in common time (4/4) and the last bar in 3/4. This theme is repeated until the verse section begins. The lyrics start at about 1:05. The song progresses through various sections, featuring solos by Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman. There is a poly-metric section featuring the guitar, playing in a meter of 12, and bass and drums playing in a meter of 8. Jon Anderson begins singing seemingly random two-syllable words and phrases, which has since become a Yes tradition. The conclusion is similar to the introduction, returning to the main instrumental theme with a guitar solo on top of it, which fades out to the end of the track.
The Art Of Roger Dean – Sleeve Design
Close to the Edge was packaged with a gatefold sleeve designed and illustrated by Roger Dean, who had also designed the cover for Fragile 1971 . It marked the first appearance of the band’s iconic logotype, placed on top a simple front cover design of a linear colour gradient from black to green. Roger Dean’s logo has been described as a “calligraphed colophon”. In his original design, Dean wanted the album to resemble the quality of a gold embossed book. The sleeve includes pictures of the group and Offord that were photographed by Dean and Martyn Adelman, who had played with Chris Squire in the late 1960’s as a member of The Syn. Dean wrote the sleeve’s text and lyric sheet by hand. On reflection on the album’s design, Roger Dean said,
“There were a couple of ideas that merged there. It was of a waterfall constantly refreshing itself, pouring from all sides of the lake, but where was the water coming from? I was looking for an image to portray that”
Close to the Edge received favourable reviews among critics. New Musical Express printed a more mixed review from Ian MacDonald on 2 September 1972. He thought the group were “not just close to the edge, they’ve gone right over it”, though they “played their God-damned guts out” on the album which he called “an attempt to overwhelm us with which resulted in only unmemorable meaninglessness”. MacDonald concluded: “On every level but the ordinary aesthetic one, it’s one of the most remarkable records pop has yet produced” Henry Medoza opened his review for The San Bernardino Sun with: “Not since … Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band has there been one side on an album that expressed such a complete and exciting a musical thought as side one”, and thought it presented the group with a new level of sophistication. He praised the group’s vocal harmonies and Bill Bruford’s “deep irregular bass drum” on the opening of the title track, but picked its third section as the most interesting with the trading vocals Rick, Wakeman’s “dream-like” and “powerful” organ playing. Mendoza described side two as more “uninspiring” than the first, but praised the vocals and harmonies on both tracks, noting they sound like its own instrument on “Siberian Khatru”