Solid Mental Grace

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Another one of those album experiences that are permanently imprinted in the memory. It was a cosy winter’s evening. I had just bought Yes’ Fragile and Close to the Edge and was already roughly familiar with the former. I stick on Close to the Edge and let myself be washed away with the distant utopian sounds, until the jarring polyrythmic sections come clinging and clanging in. Stunned, amazed, I ask myself: ‘What is this crap?!”.

So, I stay with it for its sublime 18-minute lifetime and the piece of grandiose progressive rock reveals itself as a kind of masterpiece. Further listens and I still deem it one of the most transcendent uses of the studio since the inception of recording. Close to the Edge ultimately transcends the stigma of its genre to become something quite momentous.

To those who dismiss prog as utter pretentious tosh (and god knows some of it definitely is), just give this an objective listen. I can think of only a IMG_2307handful of records of this era that use the synthesizer and still sound fresh today without a hint of cheesiness. Of course, the lyrics sometimes smell of stoned teenage poetry, but also make perfect phonetic sense when played with the music. Sort of?…

A seasoned witch could call you from the depths of your disgrace
And rearrange your liver to the solid mental grace

Deep, man. As for the gatefold on the right, note its careful design – engineered for equal parts philosophical contemplation and herb-rolling. And You and I follows the title track with a gentler, acoustic tone…

Ah. I give up. I just can’t explain it. Maybe that’s why it is so brilliant. You know music has entered the realm of the ineffable when trying to describe it makes you sound like a blubbering idiot, desperately throwing superlatives at it. How about this: when I play it really loud, it boggles my mind that a group of human beings and some reels of tape made it. In other words; good prog.

100,000 Siberian Khatrus out of 10

I leave you in typicaly ostentatious style with John Martin’s The Plains of Heaven:

John Martin - The Plains of Heaven - Google Art Project.jpg

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4 thoughts on “Solid Mental Grace

  1. Although for me the album doesn’t rate quite as many Khatrus, I will agree that it is quite a good album. (I’m somewhat more partial to Fragile and The Yes Album). That said, I haven’t listened to it in quite some time. I have a growing “must-listen-to” list to which I will now add this album. Good post, thanks for the reminder. And you know, screw Johnny Rotten if you catch my drift. 😀

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  2. Of course I was exaggerating with the Khatrus. It’s not quite as magical as it was back when, but yeah – I agree about the Yes Album and Fragile. Both good albums. As is Relayer, actually.
    Now Johnny Rotten’s interpretation of Herman Hess’ Siddartha would be interesting…

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  3. Well I found some time yesterday and listened to the album all the way through. I am definitely increasing the number of Khatrus on this one. I was surprised at how well I remembered it. I forgot how glorious “I Get Up, I Get Down” is especially with the chorus of answering voices. Excellent. Thanks for the reminder. I am definitely giving it at least one more spin.

    Also I look forward to the Siddartha CD. After that maybe he can work on Joyce’s Ulysses. 😀

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  4. Great! That’s what I want this blog to be all about – sharing music.
    I’m laughing my face off thinking of so many more classic 20th century novels for Johnny Rotten to adapt into a punk opera 😉

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