Yes - Close To The Edge
It seems quaint to recall but for my 18th birthday I received a number of record tokens. I was just starting to devote my life to vinyl and predictably had a long list of potential acquisitions to spend it on. On the list was the current Yes album, Close To The Edge, released the preceding year in September 1972.
So armed with said 'Voucher of Joy' I found my way to The Sound Of Music in Harrogate and did a swap. I have to say that my attachment to this album has now been complete for a very long time. In fact it wasn't until 2015 before I saw them live - at Newcastle City Hall. An iconic 1970's rock venue if there every was one. The line up wasn't as per the album but they did play the whole album. However Steve Howe was on guitar and Chris Squire was on bass and it was these guys who drove the album for me. (Sadly, Chris Squire has since passed).
There are only three tracks - welcome to Prog rock - and the words were generally Jon Anderson compiled gibberish. In any case the vocals were like a musical instrument and made a sound to complement the instruments. On this basis Anderson could have worked his way through the local Chinese takeaway menu for me rather than the recollections of a dream he later claimed drove the title track.
The album and its complexity seems bewildering for an age that luxuriated in 12 bar blues and songs about girls in red dresses. We start with a building yet intense cacophony of birdsong giving way to a complimentary guitar echoing the high pitched frenetic sound. All the time the fabulous jazz loping and compelling drums of Bill Bruford provide the foundation before Jon Anderson unleashes his harmonics. You start to notice the bass lines underpinning the rhythm with a fat spelshing thump of a sound.
We wait for over 11 minutes before Rick Wakeman makes a grand appearance on organ by now we have several distinctly different tunes welded together separately in the studio by Eddie Offord. (He was originally their live sound engineer but went onto become a producer of choice for many rock bands).
Over 14 minutes of captivating rock, an imposing track.
"Down at the end, round by the corner
Close to the edge, just by the river
Seasons will pass you by
I get up, I get down..."
And You And I begins with acoustic guitar and an echoing organ chord way back in the mix. It is altogether lighter in tone and instrumentation. The melody weaves it's magic throughout with the chorister clarity delivery of Anderson. Wakeman can dominate anything with his ability to create a symphony with a handful of keyboards in front of him this he does as the song and rises into a wall of sound before the folk song resumes.
Siberian Khatru ends side two with Squire's bass thumping away whilst harmony vocals recall some nonsense. Of course Howe carries the melody with Wakeman ever present, not least, on an occasional harpsichord. (Anderson had no idea what Khatru meant at the time of composition...)
An endlessly satisfying 38 minutes with its selection of melodies, remarkable musicianship, jazz like complexity, mind boggling creativity and simply a bench mark for any Prog rock act to try and emulate for the following 45 years.