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Close to the Grail: Will Yes Get This One Right?

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Yes: Close to the EdgeOf all the progressive rock bands out there in the music universe, few have been more disjointed in their product release marketing than England’s pioneering group, Yes.  I am hoping that a just-announced restoration and reissue of their classic 1972 opus Close to the Edge will mark the beginning of a major change in how the band manages its catalog and presents its legacy to its fans, past, present, and future. Because they haven’t always done the best job of that, for whatever reason.

A series of CD reissues in the early 00s marked a step in the right direction, with decent packaging, good liner notes, some remastering, and even rare bonus tracks and outtakes.  Their 1971 breakthrough album, Fragile, got some love at the dawn of the 5.1 high-res music experiment with a sweet DVD-Audio disc containing high-resolution stereo and surround sound remixes.  Some fans who heard it balked because the mix wasn’t exactly like the original album (it was a remix after all). More problematic was the simple fact that most fans simply never actually had the chance to hear the disc because they didn’t have the technology to play it back properly at the time.  Then the album simply went out of print too quickly.  Sadly, it was another release casualty due to fact that the hand of the music industry (controlling the content) was not in sync with the hand of the technology industry (which made the playback systems for said release).

Fortunately, I got a copy of the DVD-Audio Disc version of Fragile and love it; you have never really fully experienced Chris Squire’s bass until you have heard tracks like “Long Distance Runaround” in 5.1.  I could go on about that release, but it’s not the focus of this article. And, the bottom line is that I am but one uber music geek out of millions of Yes fans around the world, so that one DVD-Audio purchase didn’t do much to support the platform.

Anyway, the rumbling about a new restoration program started some months ago with comments on the web (I can’t remember if I read them in a fan forum, a fan emailer, or on a label website) indicating that the great Steven Wilson, surround sound producer extraordinaire and leader of his own stellar prog rock band Porcupine Tree, was taking the reigns of the Yes catalog for a thorough overhaul.  Wilson has done tremendous remixes of much of the King Crimson catalog, as well as key releases from Jethro Tull and Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

Yes__Close-To-The-Edge-04The big news is that this has all finally been confirmed as real and happening, from the source.  Yes just launched the inevitable pre-order campaign for it’s 1972 masterpiece, Close to the Edge.  The album will be reissued in two double-pack incarnations, each with a remastered CD and the other — DVD Audio or Blu-ray Disc options — containing the surround mix and a whole slew of other aural wonderment.  I am pre-ordering the Blu-ray Disc, not only because it simply contains MORE STUFF, but it also has the highest resolution mixes.  On one hand, it’s good to consider the playback options of your system — if you don’t have the ability to play back something at 192/24 resolution at this time you may question your need to pay the extra coin for it. But on the other hand, you might as well future proof yourself and get the best one that is available, as it has everything and more.  Someday soon you may want to play Close to the Edge at 192/24 resolution; get the Blu-ray version and you will be ready to rock when that time arrives.

From the Yesworld.com site, here is the rundown of what will be on the disc:

• CD features a completely new stereo album mix by Steven Wilson + a new mix of America & an early mix/assembly of Close to the Edge.
• Hybrid DVD-A features a 5.1 Surround mix and High Resolution Stereo mixes of the album in its original & new stereo mixes + numerous audio extras in high-resolution stereo including single edits & studio run- throughs.
• Blu-Ray features all of the above – new mixes at 24/96, original mixes at 24/192 in DTS-HD Master Audio Surround + additional exclusive music including instrumental versions & a needle-drop of an original UK vinyl pressing.
• Special packaging for both formats, CD/DVD-A in double digi-pack in slipcase, CD/Blu-Ray in mini vinyl replica gatefold card sleeve.
• Original artwork by Roger Dean who has overseen the artwork for this new edition.
• Booklet with new sleeve notes by Sid Smith, rare photos & archive material.

They also go on to say:

Mixed from the full multi-track sources, the 5.1 mixes reveal every nuance of the complexity of the original recordings in Surround sound, while a sparkling new stereo mix is presented on CD & in high resolution stereo, as is a flat transfer from the original stereo master tape source.

It is that last bit about the flat transfer off the original stereo master tape source that will be real interesting. No compression. No additional mastering for LP. Nothin’.  Just the final mix that they did back in the day. Of course, the 5.1 mix is what I’m most excited about here, and the new approach to Yes’ cover of Paul Simon’s “America” in 5.1 will be interesting (it was issued in surround as a bonus track on the Fragile DVD-Audio Disc).

This is all very exciting news for Yes fans and audiophiles alike. One of the most influential progressive rock albums of all time is finally — seemingly — getting the white glove treatment it so rightly deserves.

I hope this series is successful so that the band will be able to do a surround mix of my favorite Yes album, Tales from Topographic Oceans.  That is my personal holy grail. Hopefully it will happen in my lifetime.  :-)

Visit the Yesworld.com site to read more about it and then pre-order your copy of Close to the Edge. The word is Yes!

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3 Comments

  1. Great news! I hope there will be some treatment for “Going” as well. My favorite record, but the sonics never really impressed me. I can’t wait to hear Awaken played in all its full ass-kicking pipe organ majesty.

    Joachim Baecker
  2. I too was lucky enough to get Fragile in 5.1 and I agree, hearing Squire so clearly is what sets Yes apart from all others. Can’t wait for this!

    MRKELP
  3. I also have Fragile in 5.1 and the first thought I had when I listened to it was that they should do this with all their albums. Here’s hoping!

    Milkyway