Yes, “And You and I” from Close to the Edge (1972): YESterdays

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“…Oh, coins and crosses never know their fruitless worth
Cords are broken locked inside the mother earth
They won’t hide, they won’t tell you
Watching the world, watching all of the world
Watching us go by
And you and I climb over the sea to the valley
And you and I reached out for reasons to call…”

The first bridge to Yes’ “And You and I” hints at the epic nature of the song. However, there are so many elements that make this four-part opus an enduring classic alongside the title track of Close to the Edge. Jon Anderson has often claimed these lyrics are a protest to several things. There are elements of environmentalism and activism in his words. Anderson also comes back to an often-explored theme of searching for greater meaning to life in the lyrics. Whatever the narrative is intended to mean, Jon Anderson and cowriters Chris Squire, Steve Howe and Bill Bruford weave the lyrics in to a thematic landscape.

“Chord of Life” starts with a plaintive 12-string acoustic guitar. This, the longest of the four sections in “And You and I” at almost four minutes, quickly develops as Bruford’s muted floor toms and chimes set the foundation for Rick Wakeman’s Mellotron break. In short order, Anderson paints the initial brush stroke. The first two verses are delivered in rapid succession, then a counter melodic verse is sung by Squire and Howe as all of Yes then picks up the pace.

“Eclipse” quickly follows after Chris Squire delivers a trademark harmony with Anderson. In “Eclipse,” Howe delivers a swooping steel guitar run, as Wakeman builds the tension of his Mellotron with string effects. Moog bass parts are also part of the foundation. Are they from Chris Squire or Rick Wakeman? In any case the steel guitar, Moog bass and Wakeman’s Hammond B3 created a foundation for Jon Anderson’s restating of the main lyrical theme. Just as Yes’ song is about to peak, Steve Howe tamps down the fire with his 12-string guitar.

“The Preacher, The Teacher” begins with a folk-type melody, were Wakeman quickly adds Moog accents and Squire incorporates harmonica. Then, the mood shifts from pensive to jaunty as Howe enters with a brief, yet effective electric guitar break played over a mid tempo rock back beat provided by Bill Bruford. Anderson and Squire complete a recapitulation of Yes’ main theme.

“Apocalypse” marks a fitting end to the masterpiece with Steve Howe’s steel guitar returning with more zeal and delay than before. Squire works his Rickenbacker bass in tandem with bass pedals, which threaten to rattle the entire room. But before that happens, Rick Wakeman’s piano sweeps lead the world’s greatest progressive rock band back to the beginning theme.

The opening title track on Close to the Edge may be longer, but “And You and I” may truly be Yes at the peak of its powers.

Preston Frazier’s YESterdays is a song-by-song feature that explores the unforgettable musical legacy of Yes. The series runs every other Tuesday.

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