(All Album Reviews by I.M. Weasel)
Close to the Edge is Yes' 5th studio album, and features what many consider to be the definitive Yes lineup: Steve Howe on guitar, Jon Anderson on vocals, Chris Squire on bass, Rick Wakeman on Keyboards, and Bill Bruford on Drums. CTTE is also considered by many Yes fans and Progressive Rock fans alike as the peak of Yes' output, and perhaps represents the peak of Prog rock in general.
This album is divided into 3 songs: the epic sidelong "Close to the Edge" then a 10-minute ballad "And You and I" followed by a 9-minute rock song "Siberian Khatru". CTTE starts off with the title track, “Close to the Edge”, which is divided into four sections. This song is considered by many to be the definitive Yes side-long epic, and it certainly lives up to much of the praise it has. CTTE starts off with ambient forest and ocean noises before it all seems to swirl together before an explosion of supercharged Yes noise.
Steve Howe plays a frantic solo at the beginning of the song amidst frenzied playing by the rest of the band. This goes on for about 4 minutes until it culminates into the main "riff" of the song; then starts Anderson with some of his most profound lyrics. Much has been discussed about the actual meaning of the lyrics but they are supposedly based upon ancient scriptures.
After the first two verses, the song moves into its 3rd section, known as "I get up, I get down". This is as beautiful a passage of music as Yes has ever done, with some incredible backing vocals. This culminates with a monstrous-sounding Wakeman organ section, then another explosion launching us into a section of music even more frenzied than at the beginning.
Wakeman plays an impressive solo here, perhaps one of his best and easily one of the most distinct in all of Prog Rock. The song closes out with the final verse by Anderson, and it ends much the same way it began, with many ambient noises fading out. Chris Squire's bass playing throughout the entire song is bone rattling and melodic at the same time, not to mention his backing vocals are key.
Next is "And You and I", a favorite among many Yes fans, and a concert standard. This song is mainly a showcase for Steve Howe's brilliant slide guitar work, but also features some great acoustic guitar by Howe, as well as some great backing vocals and lyrics by Anderson and backing vocals by Squire. However, “And You and I” is not one of my favorite Yes songs, but I will admit after hearing it live on this past years' Symphonic Tour, it took on a grandeur and beauty I had never seen before.
Finally, the album ends with the rocker "Siberian Khatru". When I first heard the CTTE album, this was the song I gravitated most towards. The song features a strange, almost psycho guitar riff and a great middle section where Howe and Wakeman trade off solos. The lyrics are again another high point, yet still cryptic.
An interesting note to this album, this would be Bill Bruford's final association with Yes until the late 80s/early 90s, when the ABWH and Union projects took place. Alan White took over right before the tour was to begin, and you can hear his interpretations of Bruford's drumming on the live Yessongs.
Even though White is an accomplished drummer, in my opinion he does not match the brilliance that Bruford achieved here. There is a reason why this is considered the definitive lineup/album of this band. Wakeman, Howe, Squire, Anderson, and Bruford are all top class musicians at the top of their game here, and this ranks as a sure "must have" for any fan of the band Yes or Progressive Rock in general.
(All Album Reviews by Sean)
Just a few words about the new Rhino remaster of Close To The Edge and the bonus tracks included-
The folks at Rhino have shown over the years a great attention to detail when it comes to remastering and rereleasing classic albums by such known artists as Frank Zappa and Chicago, to name just a few. They continue this quest for detail here with the newly acquired Yes catalog.
The version of CTTE is not the best of the recent lot of remasters- bonus material wise- there is no studio run through of the title track for instance (probably becuase it was only played/pieced together once). But what is included is pretty interesting.
The coolest is the tune "Siberia", which is of course an early version of "Siberian Khatru". What is different? The first three minutes are very close to the final version. Then we reach the harpsicord solo from Rick, but it is played all on Hammond here and it is a bit different. Anderson scats the opening riff when it gets to the "dah ta dah dah dit dit dah" bit. Cool twist there. At the end there are no solos. There are none of the slide guitar bits here either.
The single edits are kind worthless though the one of "Total Mass Retain" is interesting becuase you get a dose of the opening sound effects from CTTE tacked on this single and the mix is way different. You can clearly hear the arpeggio Rick plays at the beginning during the birds and waterfall sound effects. Sounds like a bit up hit on a Hohner electric piano to me. The single edit of "America" is pointless but kind of a nice addition.
The run through of "And You and I" is pretty close to the final version. The vocals are real rough and Jon just sings "And you and Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiii" instead of "And you and I climb over the sea to the valley" (or whatever he says there). Not a very interesting version there.
Soundwise this remaster seems a bit less brittle than the previous one that was done back in the mid 90s. Warmer over all. But not a radical improvement or anything, not enough to run out and replace your collection.
The packaging here (the main draw of this new batch) is fantastic (if you can tolerate these cardboard "digi-pack" cases) looking and extensive. Everything that was ever included in the original album is here and a whole lot more. A short thesis on the band at the time of the making of the album and the process that created is explained in detail.
These rematers are probably for completists only. It is more about repackaging and bonus tracks that give a glimpse of the Yes creative process than the most amazing remaster of CTTE ever, though it sounds damn good. Your mileage may vary.