40. close to the edge

“So here we are, decades after the fact and it’s still difficult to discuss the music of the band known as Yes without somehow disparaging it as overwrought, pretentious, guilty of trying too hard. To which I say, f*** that (unless you’re talking about their later stuff – the 1980s and beyond, some of which I’m pretty sure is on perpetual repeat in hell’s jukebox). Because the good stuff, the grand stuff, the vast and virtuous and ambitious stuff of their early-mid 1970s phase, we need that stuff, particularly Close To The Edge (the song and the album, but particularly the side long song). Because it’s true, I think, the edge isn’t a place, the edge doesn’t exist. You’ve either gone too far and you’re falling the long fall into oblivion, or you’ve found that sweet spot just short of it where everything opens up. All those BIG unifying passions and ideas that have been floating in and around you since before puberty even – the idea of indivisibility. Jehovah and Allah and Jesus and Muhammad and Krishna and every known and unknown god or whatever, all one big happy. Bigger than any cathedral, that’s for sure. Because every church, every creed, every ideology gets it wrong the instant it claims to have gotten it all right. Because even if you have vast chunks of the truth, you can’t have it all. It’s the nature of it, beyond mortal comprehension. So the very claim of TRUTH divides us, sets loose corrosive elements, brings the f***ing roof down.

Which is what’s going on in the middle of Close To The Edge, I think, the part where the church organ kicks in. That’s the capital T Truth failing. That’s the cathedrals all collapsing, and the mosques, the temples, the synagogues. That’s the outside crashing in, the inside gushing out. Now that you’re saved, now that you’re whole. Seasons will pass you by. You get up. You get down.  It’s all so clear once you stop trying to make sense of it. Just smoke a doob, put on the headphones, stretch out and let it all be … for eighteen and a half minutes anyway. Maybe the best damned band on the planet. Ever. Or certainly close to it. Hell even Led Zeppelin had to be looking over their shoulders by 1972. Because Yes simply had more going on. Hell, they had Rick Wakeman and his mountainous stacks of keyboards, conjuring choirs and orchestras and all manner of big and mysterious colours and textures and everything really, or damned close to it anyway. As close as anyone got at the time, and maybe ever since. Because has there ever been another time like it? We were definitely close to something.” (Philip Random)

299. nuclear war

“There’s no point in trying to do justice to the universe expanding alien immensity that is the Sun Ra story with a few words. So I won’t bother trying. Just urge you to look into it, please, explore at least some of those extra-stellar regions. As for Nuclear War, I think it speaks well enough for itself. We’re f***ed if we allow for even its possibility in our stratagems. True in 1945, true in 1982, true forever to the ends of the time and space.” (Philip Random)

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479. highway blues

“I probably heard Roy Harper at the time, Highway Blues jangling away on one of the cool FM radio stations that I was just starting to really explore in 1973. So much of that sort of long haired cosmic truth telling at the time. But it would be the 1980s before I really discovered Lifemask, going through my mid-decade retro-phase (that’s never really ended, it’s true). It was Mr. Harper’s voice that hooked me, the loose, confident freedom of it. Whatever he was on about, you were glad he was getting it out, making sense at least to himself out on that lonely highway.” (Philip Random)

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