Regarded by many as Yes' masterpiece, Close To The Edge is virtually the opposite of its immediate predecessor, 1971's Fragile, with only three songs on the whole album. The side-long title track begins with the sounds of running water and chirping birds, but soon erupts into some serious psychedelic guitar work from Steve Howe and around 12 minutes into the track there is brilliant church organ solo from Rick Wakeman. Throughout, there is the incredible rhythm section of Bill Bruford on drums and the immaculate bass work of Chris Squire. And not forgetting the mellow (and often nonsensical) lyrics of Jon Anderson. I remember thinking at the time of its release that it was like having a fifth instrument. The track was composed by Howe and Anderson who wrap the vastly differing textures and moods together in a dream-like way. The track ends as it began, with nature sounds.
"And You And I" is much mellower and less of a suite than "Close To The Edge". It is mostly built around layered acoustic guitar riffs, with occasional spacey sounds from Rick Wakeman's synthesizers. It swings from Folk Rock to Space Rock and back to Folk at the end. It is very Emerson, Lake & Palmer at times, but done in Yes’ unique and beautiful style.
"Siberian Khatru," on the other hand, is a straight forward, fast, constantly shifting rock track, with loads of sharp and stinging guitar work with purring and bubbling organ and with Bruford and Squire driving the band hard all the time. Wakeman's keyboards take on a variety of roles, from sitar to harpsichord, moving the music through multiple moods. It features Yes’ unique combination of funky bass which really drives the song through from beginning to end. I read that in order to achieve the unique sound of Howe’s guitar, Eddy Offord (the sound engineer) used two microphones, one stationary and a second swinging around to replicate a “Doppler effect”.
Impressed with the commercial and critical success of Close to the Edge, Atlantic Records signed the band to a new five-year contract, which carried Yes through to the end of the ‘70s.
A true masterpiece that has also stood the test of time – never sounds dated and the pinnacle of Yes’ achievements for me.