Close to the Edge by Yes - the album that changed me
Here's the story:
During the early 1980s, I was a teenager trying to find my identity, just like every other teenager. I loved the music of Beethoven, Mahler, and Bruckner, but that elevated taste made me seem highly pretentious to my friends at school - normal teenage boys don't chill out to Bruckner's Eighth Symphony after a hard day of math and science. The hugely popular music of Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, Queen, and Black Sabbath just wasn't clicking for me like it was for the other kids at school, but I knew I wanted to get into Rock music somehow, since it seemed the thing that all the cool kids liked and talked about non-stop.
One evening I started looking through my dad's record collection to see if I could find something new, something that the other kids hadn't heard of. One album intrigued me by it's cover. It was plain green with the color draining from the top to the bottom of the sleeve, and the name of the band ("Yes") and the album title in wonderfully unique and beautiful hand-drawn fonts. Inside was a picture by artist Roger Dean, of a mysterious world which looked like it only really existed in the imagination of a truly gifted artist. I took the record up to my bedroom, dropped the needle on the first side (which I discovered to my surprise was one entire 18-minute song called "Close to the Edge") and started to read the lyrics on the record jacket. What did it all mean?
A seasoned witch could draw 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 recorded losing all against the hour.
I sat totally transfixed for the entire song. I heard changes of dynamic, key, texture, time signature, emotion. I heard sounds of water, bells, and birds mix with the sounds of the band in ways in which their separate worlds could not be distinguished. I heard virtuosity and simplicity co-exist in the same song. I heard the most complex and demanding lyrics give way to the most simple - Down at the end, round by the corner, close to the edge, down by a river. Above all, I heard the majesty and grandeur of symphonic music translated into the modern instruments of a Rock band. The next day, I bought a full size poster of the Roger Dean drawing and hung it in my bedroom, and I drew that beautiful Yes logo on my bookbag, for all my friends to see. After all, I had discovered a music way more cool than anything they were listening to.
Music must constantly challenge me for me to feel fulfilled, and I knew that I had found the music of a band that would constantly challenge me through the next years. Of course, I was unaware at the time that I had discovered a band whose music would continue to inspire and challenge me my whole life. At that moment I just knew I needed to listen to the other side of the record to hear what other wonders were in "And You And I" and "Siberian Khatru", and then start over and listen again and again , to see what secrets this music would continue to reveal to me as I continued to try and absorb its majesty and beauty.
Later I would discover other Progressive Rock bands such as Genesis, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, and Gentle Giant, and became a huge fan, but Yes continues to hold the most influence on me today. The music I write tries to create atmospheres. I love writing music that reflects natural elements and also evokes space and light. The world of "Close to the Edge" is a world I am constantly exploring, as I want others to explore worlds in the music I create.