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Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Prog-rockers Yes wow Edmonton boomers

yesman

You wouldn’t have been able to fling a guitar pick at Monday night’s Yes concert without hitting a Baby Boomer who still has a copy of Close to the Edge lurking on his record shelf.

LURKING, I say! On a record shelf, what holds “records,” nestled betwixt Genesis, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Pink Floyd and all those other British progressive art-rockers who were so stoned that they decided mere rock ‘n’ roll was insufficient to express their magical hallucinations. No, this new music of the mind had to be bigger, grander, more symphonic, more intricate, with more extended arrangements than mere “songs,” these concept pieces arranged in movements like Beethoven symphonies and more complex than Beethoven besides. It had to be “progressive.” Now there’s a good name for it.

To prove the point, the Yes show of 2014 opened with the title track of Close to the Edge – all 19 convoluted minutes of it in four sections that spanned the gamut from atonal jazz to bluesy drones to neo-classical riffing at its most bombastic. It was a musical fever dream, a psychedelic journey, a musical adventure through space and time. Not just a pretty tune with four beats to a bar and three chords. Ha! How quaint that would be. No, to call Yes self-indulgent is to sell this band short. It would be like calling the Milky Way galaxy “big.”

Out of the entire English prog-rock pantheon to which North American counterparts barely hold a candle (Kansas excepted), Yes was – and is - probably the weirdest one of all. But they’re not dark in any way. The melodies are sweet. The sentiments expressed are gentle. Make love not war. We stand to lose all time a thousand answers. Make the white queen run so fast she hasn’t got time to make you a wife. You know, the usual. For while those outworldly album covers by Frank Frazetta made the band’s music seem better than it actually was, when you were at that point in the evening where you were pulling out the Yes records from your record shelf, you and your friends were probably aware that the LSD had finally taken effect.


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