Close to the Edge
Released: September 13, 1972
Peak: 3 US, 4 UK, 7 CN, 21 AU
Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.3 UK, 1.3 world (includes US and UK)
Genre: progressive rock
Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.
Total Running Time: 37:56
3.696 out of 5.00 (average of 16 ratings)
Quotable: “A flawless masterpiece” – Dave Thompson, All Music Guide
Awards: (Click on award to learn more).
About the Album:
In 1972, Yes were coming off the one-two punch of The Yes Album and Fragile, albums which gave the band its most long-lasting album-rock classics with songs like “Roundabout” and “I’ve Seen All Good People.” The band were now “quivering on the brink of what friend and foe acknowledged was the peak of the band’s achievement.” WK
The band responded with the definitive progressive rock album, Close to the Edge, complete with the 18-minute epic title cut. Anderson was inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, German novelist Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, and Jean Sibelius’ sixth and seventh symphonies. Howe had composed a song called “Close to the Edge” a few years earlier about the longest day of the year and he and Anderson joined their ideas. An excerpt of the song, “Total Mass Retain,” was released as the B-side to the band’s cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “America.”
And You and I, which Anderson and Howe also developed, was originally a more folk oriented song. When they tested it on tour, Anderson gave it the working title of “The Protest Song.” Anderson later considered the song similar to a hymn. The song was released as a single, just missing out on the top 40 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.
Siberian Khatru grew out of an idea Anderson initiated on an acoustic guitar. Lyrically, he described the song as a collection of “interesting words, though it does relate to the dreams of clear summer days.” WK Anderson claimed “khatru” translated to “as you wish” in the Yemeni dialect of Arabic, but he had no idea what it meant at the time until asking someone to look up its meaning. WK
It wasn’t an easy album to make. Drummer Bill Bruford, who considered the writing and recording of the album to be torturous, came up with the album title as a reflection of the band’s state at the time. WK He “was already shifting restlessly against Jon Anderson’s increasingly mystic/ mystifying lyricism, while contemporary reports of the recording sessions depicted bandmate Rick Wakeman, too, as little more than an observer to the vast tapestry that Anderson, Steve Howe, and Chris Squire were creating.” AMG Bruford left the band after the album, joining King Crimson.
The results, however, “represented the musical, lyrical, and sonic culmination of all that Yes had worked toward over the past five years.” AMG The album was a top-5 hit in the US and UK and “dispatch[ed] Yes on the longest tour of its career so far and, if hindsight be the guide, launch[ed] the band on a downward swing that only disintegration, rebuilding, and a savage change of direction would cure. The latter, however, was still to come. In 1972, Close to the Edge was a flawless masterpiece.” AMG
Notes: The 2003 Rhino reissue adds the single version of Simon & Garfunkel’s “America,” the single edit of “Total Mass Retain,” an alternate version of “And You and I,” and an alternate version of “Siberian Khatru” known as “Siberia.”
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First posted 3/25/2008; last updated 7/24/2021.