Wednesday, 3 May 2017

"Close To The Edge: How Yes's Masterpiece Defined Prog Rock" by WILL ROMANO (March 2017 Backbeat Paperback Book) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Total Mass Retain..."

I've been pouring over Will Romano's book for about a fortnight now and there's both good news and bad - with the bad being largely out of his control and the good news hugely outweighing any annoying omissions.

At the age of 58 (I'm 59 this September) - I'm probably one of the old gits this New York writer has aimed his book at. Romano has already penned a tome on the subject of Progressive Rock - "Mountains Come Out Of The Sky: The Illustrated History Of Prog Rock - Prog Rock FAQ" - which was an excellent and truly informative read(aka "PROG ROCK FAQ"). Romano has also scribed a homage to a fave subject of mine called - "Big Boss Man: The Life & Music Of Bluesman Jimmy Reed". So he's not new to this music-book malarkey...

"Close To The Edge: How Yes's Masterpiece Defined Prog Rock" was published March 2017 by Backbeat Books in oversized paperback - 288-pages of seriously in-depth detail about a September 1972 album that amazed then - and is still making jaws drop 45 years later in 2017.

The fourth YES album "Close To The Edge" had only three tracks - one of which was the 18-minute 4-part "Close To The Edge" suite on Side 1. The others over on Side 2 were "And You and I" - four-parts at just under eleven minutes - and "Siberian Khatru" (all one track) at just under ten minutes. "Close To The Edge" had taken months to rehearse and record and cemented the rep given this most British of bands by adventurous Rock with "The Yes Album" and "Fragile" from either end of 1971.

Centred are 12-pages of photos - but only one of the cover – no rear, no inner gatefold, no inner bag? For an album that was so dominated by Roger Dean's artwork - especially the inner painting and the beautifully CTTE scripted lyric bag - it's absence here gives you no insight into what the actual LP looked like - that whole tactile thing. I dare say Romano and Backbeat couldn't get clearance from Dean to reproduce that inner sleeve that so many of us poured over back in the day (I even copied the writing into my schoolbooks) or even show the other three unused RD paintings that turned up for our titillation on the Steve Wilson Remixed 'Panegyric' reissues of 2013 (CD and BLU RAY).

He does reproduce the American A-side label for Atlantic SD 19133 - but sloppily it's a late 70s pressing with the corporate Warner Brothers logo and not an American original. Besides - where's the British original LP label for such a very British band - the Orange and Yellow variant of Atlantic K 50012? The other photos are of band members - the sadly passed Bassist Chris Squire in a church choir as a child - an Atlantic Records 'Gold' LPs trade advert for 1972 and so. They’re good – but I think they missed a trick here by not having the actual artwork…

Impressively detailed reminiscences come from Engineer Eddy Offord, lead singer Jon Anderson, keyboard-whiz Rick Wakeman and everyone else who was key to the project. There are histories of each player (Wakeman with The Strawbs - Bruford with King Crimson etc) - the torturous recording process where certain tracks ended up in a bin by mistake - the endless layers on layers - Steve Howe's amazing guitar playing - Wakeman the same.

This is a good book on an album that actually bears up to this level of scrutiny. It’s just a shame that the very thing that turned us on (as much as the awesome music did) - isn't here – how it looked - the visuals. Fans will know what I mean…

But the best compliment I can pay "Close To The Edge" the book is that it made me want to drag out my Steve Wilson Remastered CD reissue again. And as those 'climb clear of the morning' lyrics and gorgeous acoustic guitar themes kicked in on "And You And I" - not for the first time with this groundbreaking record - I shed a little Proggy tear.

Nice one Will...

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