Side One: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- Two killer earning seriously good Double Plus (A++) grades - these early pressings are the only ones that can make any sense of this challenging music
- An incredibly complex recording, with huge organs, light-speed changes and an abundance of multi-tracked parts
- And the other good news is that the vinyl on this copy is exceptionally quiet for this title - on the low side of Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus, about as quiet as we can find them
- 5 stars: "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."
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This vintage Atlantic pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn't showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to "see" the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It's what vintage all analog recordings are known for -- this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it -- not often, and certainly not always -- but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What superb sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1972
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments (and effects!) having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
We Love the Complexity
We had started and then abandoned this shootout multiple times prior to 2008. Most of the pressings of Close to the Edge we played were painful to listen to, and even the better pressings weren't all that we had hoped for. Where was the Tubey Magical analog sound with the HUGE Whomp Factor that we knew so well from the best copies of Fragile and The Yes Album?
Let's think about it. This is a complex recording, with huge organs, light-speed changes, lots of multi-tracking, and what practically amounts to an overload of information. Can you imagine how irritating all that can sound crammed onto a third-rate copy? We didn't have to imagine it -- we heard it. We feel fortunate to have survived it.
But that's exactly what made the shootout so rewarding. We had finally gotten the sound we were searching for from Close To The Edge, although it was anything but easy. The toughest peaks to climb are the ones you feel proudest standing atop, and I have no doubt that many of you will be able to get there, just as we did.
What We're Listening For
Less grit - smoother and sweeter sound, something that is not easy to come by on Close to the Edge.
A bigger presentation - more size, more space, more room for all the instruments and voices to occupy. The bigger the speakers you have to play this record the better.
More bass and tighter bass. This is fundamentally a pure rock record. It needs weight down low to rock the way Eddie Offord wanted it to.
Present, breathy vocals. A veiled midrange is the rule, not the exception.
Good top end extension to reproduce the harmonics of the instruments and details of the recording including the studio ambience.
Last but not least, balance. All the elements from top to bottom should be heard in harmony with each other. Take our word for it, assuming you haven't played a pile of these yourself, balance is not that easy to find.
Our best copies will have it though, of that there is no doubt.
It should be noted that there is distortion on the tape. It's on every LP copy and it's on the CD too. There are cacophonous passages that have what sounds like board overload, mike preamp overload, tape saturation or some combination of all three. As a rule, the less the distortion the better the pressing, and our best pressings will have very little distortion indeed.
The British originals can be good, but they are hard to find and usually have bad vinyl and weak sound. The better MoFi pressings can sound decent, but those are pricey too and have issues of their own.
It seems as though our Hot Stamper pressings are the only game in town for those who want to hear this wonderful music sound its best, but you've got to be up for the challenge. If you haven't done the work with your stereo that must be done to play a recording like this, you might want to spend your hard-earned money on some of our other Hot Stampers, the ones that are easier to reproduce.
Better yet, buy it and consider it a challenge. When it starts to work its magic in your system, that's a pretty clear sign that you've really accomplished something.
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of later pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful originals.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
Close to the Edge:
I. The Solid Time of Change
II. Total Mass Retain
III. I Get Up I Get Down
IV. Seasons Of Man
And You and I:
I. Cord of Life
III. The Preacher the Teacher
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 ...
In 1972, Close to the Edge was a flawless masterpiece.
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