Chris Welch – Close to the edge [The Story of Yes] – 2000

Writer and journalist Chris Welch has been a major support of the progressive rock for years (he worked for a long period in the mythical Melody Maker) as John Peel was in the world of radio. Welch is a friend as well as a fan of most the bands he’s written about (and if you wanna see him remembering old times he appears in the Genesis’ video “Opening the musical box” and in ELP’s“Welcome back”) such as Led Zeppelin (“Dazed and Confused”) or Peter Gabriel (“The secret life of…”)

If most of his biographies have something in common is how the personal and musical matters intertwine and “Close to the Edge” is no exeption, as a biography in it’s own right, the description of some of the aspects of the life of Yes’ members cast a shadow over their works as a band. This “Yesstory” runs until the band’s tour for “The Ladder” in the year 2000.

And if there is another feature that most of Welch’s works have in common it’s the inclusion of personal anecdotes of which the writer himself has been part of along his friendship with the bands he’s known. He met Yes in the late sixties, from their earliest incarnation when they used to amplify other’s people songs with complex arrangements and a sophisticated approach to instrumentation. Therefore, it’s no surprise to find a meticulous description of the group’s early albums but then, the most “arty” projects like “Tales from topographic oceans” and “Relayer” are in comparison, ignored. It is curious, anyway, that albums that created some controversy amongst Yes fans like “90125” or “Big generator” have a deeper analysis than some of the most recent (and also more characteristic) as the new stuff on the “Keys to ascension” albums.

All in all, this is a curious, entertaining and very useful book for fans who’ve discovered them after most of the media have turned their backs against Yes and felt weird when they bought their albums, discovering that the names of guitarists, keyboard players, drummers (even singers!) kept changing in almost every album. There is also space for some of the darkest economical affairs that affected the band’s situation and even some of the most bizarre “Yesstories” like Jon Anderson’s strange behaviour with the chips and fried chicken, the buying of an airplane ticket for Steve Howe’s guitar, or the “famous” (at least for Yes fans) anecdote of Rick Wakeman and the curry on stage during a “Tales…tour” show. Definitely, a good book for Yes fans although it’s approach of the band’s history is very different from “Yesstories” (which is more focused on the music) or “Perpetual change” (which covers most of the memorabilia and material that the band has published over the years).