Getting the ratings and stats out of the way: Close to the Edge (CTTE) is ranked #445 of the 500 Best Albums by Rolling Stone Magazine. Among Progressive Rock albums, CTTE is #5 and in stellar company with Pink Floyd, Rush and King Crimson.
After having been a fan for over a half century of Yes, I am awed and a bit mystified even today as how the band conceived these three tracks on virgin vinyl. Jon Anderson's lyrics have always been a bit esoteric and difficult to interpret, so I'm not delving too deeply into an explication on CTTE's songs.
Yet one theme has jumped out over the years of reading about Jon Anderson's interests, and that is his belief in Buddhist philosophy. Jon incorporated into "CTTE" some portions of Herman Hesse's Siddhartha, a novel about a young man who goes on a journey seeking personal experience in order to gain enlightenment. At the end, he encounters a ferryman on a river whom he'd met many years before. Siddhartha realizes the river is symbolic of one's life, from babbling brook to roaring rapids to lazy decline and finally joining with The One at sea. The theme of rivers is also in "And You and I" and "Siberian Khatru." My favorite? Yes to all.
Some six weeks after release, I got to see- for the first time- Yes featuring CTTE at St. John Arena November 4, 1972. The cruciform ceiling bounced great acoustics, the arena was sold out and sweet herb was wafting for all inside. Alan White had replaced Bill Bruford at drums but didn't miss a beat. It was a magical night of music. Years after reading about the Sturm und Drang of trying to meld five incredibly talented musicians and their egos, I still wonder how they managed to pull it off. Bruford left after the album's release and joined King Crimson, citing creative differences with Yes.