Yes: ‘Close To The Edge”


In 1968, five like minded souls put the band Yes together and a little over 12 months later released their first self titled album.  Listening to that album today still sends out a positive vibe of a genuine group trying to establish their mark, a joy to behold.

The following year a follow up album was released, “Time and a Word” (1970), by which time fractions were beginning to open up within the ranks as the battle for band leadership started.  By the time the album was released, lead guitarist and star of the live shows, Peter Banks, had not only been unceremoniously dumped from the band and replaced by the far more manageable Steve Howe, but also Banks’ guitar parts had been remixed so low as to be almost inaudible.

One more album was released in the shape of the pompously titled, “The Yes Album” (1971), after which another band member, keyboard player Tony Kaye, was thrown out as the others were laying a beady eye over new keyboard sensation Rick Wakeman, who was hastily lured away from his job with the Strawbs.  At this stage it’s fair to ask if the band is still Yes – having already lost the two leading instrumentalists in the band.

Another album was released, “Fragile” (1971) – the title perhaps referring to the band’s individual egos, whilst the musical content amounted to two band compositions (both of which are Progressive/Rock paint by numbers affairs) and a selection of solo efforts by each individual member of the band, which when listened to show the different directions that each member wanted to go, and they are quite definitely not on the same path.

Bill Bruford obviously wanted to go on and become recognized as one of the world’s leading drummers, a feat he was to achieve when he headed out on his own after jumping from the Yes airship (that’s hot air) after the next album, the one under review, which we will soon get to.

Chris Squire clearly wanted to play bass for The Who, as his hero John Entwistle did, whilst Rick Wakeman was blatantly using the band to turn himself into a keyboard superstar and launch his solo career, to sponsor his hobby: drinking copious amounts of alcohol and wearing capes that even Batman would be embarrassed by.

Steve Howe had set off on a course where he wanted to be able to play the guitar half as well as his predecessor, an achievement he wouldn’t even come close too, whilst lead singer Jon Anderson was moving himself closer and closer to the edge of La-La land.

Then this incantation of Yes entered the studio to record another album, one of the few times this lot went into the studio for consecutive albums with the same line-up.

The results are laughable.  “Close To The Edge” (1972), was, at the time, either proclaimed as a masterpiece or pretentious rubbish.  Listening to it today, even calling it pretentious slop is one of the nicest things you can say about it.

Jon Anderson in 1973. (Wikipedia commons)
Jon Anderson in 1973. (Wikipedia commons)

Upon arrival in the studio it was quite clearly decided that if they wanted to stake their claim in the progressive rock field they had better come up with a song of epic proportions.  Well, it’s certainly long.  The first track on this collection (mercifully there are only three, although they are all excruciatingly long) took up the whole first side of the vinyl edition, and sounds like a mixed bag of ideas; bits of this and bits of that, all thrown in, and held together by Steve Howe’s feeble twiddling on the six-string.  This had actually been done to good effect by a more talented musician (try Peter Banks’ solo album “Instinct’’ where he twiddles away for sixty minutes without losing his audience’s attention once, and there are no vocals on the album at all to distract you).

Chris Squire plays as many bass notes as he can squeeze in no matter what the rest of the band is doing whilst Bill Bruford is quite clearly baffled by what is going on, probably the reason he left halfway through the tour to promote his album that followed.  Rick Wakeman plays the odd keyboard flourish, which almost yells at you to wait for his upcoming solo album, and singer Jon Anderson seems to have stumbled one step closer to the edge when he sings the opening verse:

“A seasoned witch could call you from the depths of your disgrace,

And rearrange your liver to the solid mental grace,

And achieve it all with music that came quickly from afar,

Then taste the fruit of man recording losing all against the hour”

I mean, I ask you, what does any of that mean?  Try and come out with that gobbledygook as your opening gambit whilst sitting round a table in a pub in Pattaya and you would be carried out in a very straight jacket.

“Close To The Edge” it certainly is, before they went into the studio I wish someone had pushed them over it.  It’s music from the Seventies that quite honestly should have stayed there.

Somewhere out there, a bunch of musicians are still going around playing under the Yes banner for whoever will listen to them (every so often Rick Wakeman rejoins the band when he needs to top up his beer token rations).  I could tell you who is still in the band, who has left, who has left and re-joined, the name of their 35th album etc, but who really cares?  Listening to this album today, the production is so weak you wonder whether there was any in the first place.  The early Seventies is responsible for some fine music, but this is not it.

The one consolation is a nice Roger Dean inside cover, at least you get something to put on the wall, and for that reason alone it gets a solitary one star.


Jon Anderson – unnecessarily twee and high vocals.

Steve Howe – covering Peter Banks guitar work, badly.

Rick Wakeman – keyboards and solo promotion.

Chris Squire – bass guitar.

Bill Bruford: desperately drumming from the back and looking forward to being in King Crimson.

Album Tracks:

Close to the Edge

And You and I

Siberian Khatru

Note: Written by Mott The Dog and Hells Bells.  Mott can often be found in his kennel at Jameson’s on Soi A.R, North Pattaya.

  • Paul Watson

    It’s one of the top selling Prog albums of all time; it’s been voted as one of the top 5 albums of all time; it’s loved and talked about even today by thousands of Yes fans; you seem to think Yes have recorded 35 albums (actually it’s 21) which leaves me with the believe you know shit about Yes. Best you stick to your Celine Dion albums than try and say anything about Yes.

  • Doug Irwin

    You’re kidding, right? You must be because your review is a joke.

    Close to the edge is by far one of the quintessential PROG albums EVER made. It fits nicely beside, King Crimson’s, Court of the Crimson King, Genesis, Selling England by The pound, UK’s first, ELP Brain Salad Surgery or Trilogy, Jethro Tull, Thick as a Brick, Dark side of the Moon, or ANY classic PROG recording from that era.

    Honestly, you wouldn’t know classic PROG if it bit you on your cloth ears.

  • Mike Jones

    Agree with Doug and Paul

  • Jeff Crecelius

    Close to the Edge is the consensus best progressive rock album of all. This review is worthless garbage.

  • James Reyome

    Don’t feed the troll.

  • Robert Bartholomew

    Great review!

  • David Collins

    You are joking surely? This album introduced me to progressive rock in the late 1990s and I have been collecting it since then. This album is a must have for any prog rock collector and musically it is excellent. Perhaps have another listen because this album is one that grows on you?

  • Simon C

    Dear Mott, so sorry that your human has obviously used one of those awful high-pitched whistles that both annoy other dog owners and also render their own dogs completely tone deaf. It is very sad that you will never enjoy the glorious Close to the Edge which is just one of many magnificent recordings that have led to the recent induction of the mighty Yes into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But life’s not all bad, go and enjoy that juicy bone and chase that old tennis ball to your heart’s content. Woof woof.

  • Art R

    Your review is laughable!

  • RPTerror

    Wow you got it all figured out. Squire wanted to be Entwistle, Wakeman was only using Yes to create a solo career, the earth is flat, and Abraham Lincoln was merely trying to sell big hats. Speaking of big egos. Pot, kettle, black hole where your brain is supposed to be.

  • Dan Page

    You must be from the Lou Reed end of things. Anyone can play guitar if you know three chords. Now Yes, is known as not everyone’s cup of tea. 1977 Post Punk junkies loved to destroy the rock dinosaurs like Yes and Genesis. This author clearly does not like progressive rock. That’s all right, as a Yes and Genesis fan I never paid attention. I do know that it was Phil Collins and producer Hugh Padgham( Peter Gabriel, Genesis, The Police, XTC and Sting) created the gated drum sound on Peter Gabriel 3 (Melt). No cymbals were used. It created this huge sound, that the post punk art bands liked on their albums. But we are talking Yes here, often some people like simple songs that are 4 minutes in length. When “Close to the Edge” was released in 1972, it was a success, people bought this record, Rolling Stone said it was Yes’s best album. “Close to the Edge” is a composition rather than one song. It has parts to it, some up some down. “And You and I” is one of my favorite Yes compositions. An album with only three songs over 4 minutes in length good in 1972 we had freeform rock radio. You could play the whole “Close to the Edge” on radio in full. I like Yes for the melodies and ambiences and how Jon’s lyrics sounded with the music. The words went great with the music even if you didn’t fuckin know what they meant. I don’t compare Steve Howe to Peter Banks, one oranges the other apples They both contributed to Yes’s sound. Both great players but different sounds. Steve likes solos and Peter Banks not so much.

  • leo damsma

    Dear Editor;
    With amazement i have read the review of the Close to the Edge album by Yes. An album acclaimed by all serious music lovers around the world as one of the groundbreaking albums from the 70’s and best rock albums of all time in general, here reviewed by Mott the Dog as a poor, not even 1 star album… of course this album is not everybody’s cup of tea, i know that, but this album and these 3 beautiful songs are without a doubt the best this band has ever produced, wonderful compositions, melodic and emotional, played with such intense and virtuosity and highly regarded by peers from the music industry. To call Steve Howe a feeble guitarist who can not stand in the footsteps of his predecessor Peter Banks is ridiculous, Steve Howe was named 5 times in a row guitar player of the year and was the first rockguitarist inducted in the guitar hall of fame, even before guys like Clapton, Page and Hendrix. In fact all 5 the musicians playing on this album, Anderson, Bruford, Howe, Squire and Wakeman were masters of their instuments and ranked most of time top spot in their respectively category. Also is this album used by many audiophiles to check out new equipment, so really the whole review is pure rubbish to be honest, i think it’s better that this Mott the Dog guy sticks to his pub rock genre, because he obviously is way out of is league here and has no idea what he’s talking about here exept making so called fun at others expense…

  • Robert Brown

    Mott The Dog and Hells Bells, your review shows you know nothing about this music. You should find another line of work.

  • Rich Adler

    This was obviously a joke, or perhaps bait, in order to provoke a response, knowing how loyal and devoted prog-sters (Prog listeners, being only second to Trekkies) are… or perhaps the guy listens to Punk Rock, and can’t handle more than hearing a three chord riff? It got me to reply… hats off to ’em! Love it or hate it, Prog is more underground than Punk!

  • Ben

    What a petty review. Even dissing the people themselves. Poor journalism.