With 1971's Fragile having left Yes poised quivering on the brink of what friend and foe acknowledged was the peak of the band's achievement, Close to the Edge was never going to be an easy album to make. Drummer Bill Bruford 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. For it was vast. Close to the Edge comprised just three tracks, the epic "And You and I" and "Siberian Khatru," plus a side-long title track that represented the musical, lyrical, and sonic culmination of all that Yes had worked toward over the past five years. Close to the Edge would make the Top Five on both sides of the Atlantic, dispatch Yes on the longest tour of its career so far and, if hindsight be the guide, launch 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.
Poorly treated by the first decade and a half of CDs, Close to the Edge's 2003 remaster is initially most notable for a positively shimmering remastering job -- the title track's "I Get Up I Get Down" section has a warmth and depth that past CDs were simply unable to capture, while the intricacy and delicacy of "And You and I" -- pound for pound, the apex of Yes' achievement -- is revealed in all the glory that must have attended its original studio playback. The slipcased packaging, meanwhile, restores Roger Dean's original artwork in all its (albeit miniaturized) glory, and a booklet offers up a tidy document of the sessions. Finally, four bonus tracks all but double the length of the original album. The single mix of "America," of course, should be familiar to all, but its B-side, a three-minute edit of "Close to the Edge"'s "Total Mass Retain" section, is startlingly punchy. "Siberia," a studio runthrough of "Siberian Khatru," is best left for connoisseurs, being little more than a lightly more ragged interpretation of the regular performance, but an alternate version of "And You and I" fascinates with its slightly slower pace, lower register, and a distinctly hesitant Anderson vocal. Several of the familiar changes, too, are absent and, while it will never replace the original in the heart of fans, it does remind listeners that the members of Yes really were human after all. For there are moments elsewhere on the disc where they truly seem somewhat beyond that. ~ Dave Thompson