Released three months into its supporting tour, Close to the Edge was a commercial and critical success for the band. It peaked at number 3 in the United States and number 4 in the United Kingdom. "And You and I" was released as a single that reached number 42 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The album is certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America for selling over one million copies.
After rehearsals at the Una Billings School of Dance in Shepherd's Bush, the band returned to Advision Studios to record their next album. They were joined by audio engineer Eddy Offord, who had worked on Fragile (1971) and served as their sound mixer for its tour. Production duties were shared between Offord and the band. According to Bruford, he came up with the album's title to describe the state of the band at the time, as he had with Fragile. Bruford recalled "a cheap black velour settee at the back of the control room" where he slept one night as Squire was "poring over a couple of knobs on the desk, and jerking awake a couple of hours later to find him in the same place, still considering the relative position of the two knobs".
Offord made the band's road crew "build a huge stage in the studio" to make the album sound "more live". In one incident, after the band decided to use a particular edit of a track, the group found out the studio's cleaner put a piece of tape in the rubbish. Following a "desperate hunt for the missing section" in the bins outside, the piece was found.
Side one of the album is occupied by its title track, of which Anderson and Howe share composition and lyrical credits. With a running time of 18 minutes and 43 seconds, it is the longest song the band had recorded at the time. The track was assembled in pieces throughout, as Bruford described, "in ten, twelve, sixteen-bar sections". Anderson based its theme and lyrics from reading Siddhartha by German novelist Hermann Hesse. Reflecting on the song's lyrical content in 1976, Anderson noted the concluding verse is a dream that he had "a long time ago about passing on from this world to another world, yet feeling so fantastic about it that death never frightened me ever since". Wakeman's organ section was originally written by Howe for the guitar, but he thought it sounded better on the organ. The motif is played on the pipe organ at St Giles-without-Cripplegate church in London.
Side two opens with "And You and I", a ten-minute track written by Anderson, Howe, Bruford and Squire. When introducing the song on tour, Anderson said its working title was "The Protest Song".
The album closes with "Siberian Khatru", the only track where Wakeman receives a writing credit. Anderson described the track as "just a lot of interesting words, though it does relate to the dreams of clear summer days".
The album marked the first use of the band's "bubble" logo designed by Roger Dean.
The album's sleeve was designed and illustrated by English artist Roger Dean, who had also designed the cover for Fragile (1971). It marks the first use of the Yes "bubble" logo. Some of the photography used was shot by Martyn Adelman who had played in The Syn with Squire. On reflection of its artwork, Dean said: "There were a couple of ideas that merged there. It was of a waterfall constantly refreshing itself, pouring from all sides of the lake, but where was the water coming from? I was looking for an image to portray that".
Close to the Edge was released on 13 September 1972, three months into the band's 1972–73 world tour to promote the record. It was their biggest commercial success; the album peaked at number 3 on the US BillboardTop LPs chart and number 4 on the UK Albums Chart. In the Netherlands, the album reached number one in the charts. "And You and I" was split into two tracks and released as a single titled "And You and I (Part I & II)" that peaked at number 42 on the US Hot 100 singles chart. The album is certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America for selling over one million copies.
A promotion-only version of the LP was distributed to US radio stations that featured the title track split into shorter segments. This was done to increase radio exposure as most radio stations did not want to air an 18-minute song. Most of the segments were in the range of 3 to 5 minutes and all were marked on the record to assist disc jockeys.
Upon its release, Close to the Edge received favourable reviews among critics. In a positive review, Billboard selected the album in its weekly "Billboard Pick" feature, noting that Yes had "progressed to the point where they are light years beyond their emulators, proving to be no mere flash in the pan. The sound tapestries they weave are dainty fragments, glimpses of destinies yet to be formed, times that fade like dew drops in the blurriness of desires half-remembered. All involved deserve praise and thanks, this being not a mere audio experience, transcending the medium it brings all senses into play."
In a special edition of Q and Mojo magazines published in 2005, Close to the Edge came in at number 3 in its "40 Cosmic Rock Albums" list. The record is also listed in the musical reference publication 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery. In a reader's choice list of the "100 Greatest Guitar Albums of All Time" for Guitar World, the album came in at number 67. On the music database ProgArchives, Close to the Edge is voted as the best progressive rock album ever. In his review for AllMusic, Dave Thompson writes:
Close to the Edge would make the Top Five on both sides of the Atlantic, dispatch Yes on the longest tour of its career so far and, if hindsight be the guide, launch the band on a downward swing that only disintegration, rebuilding, and a savage change of direction would cure. The latter, however, was still to come. In 1972, Close to the Edge was a flawless masterpiece.
In 1987, Close to the Edge was reissued by Atlantic Records on compact disc in the United States[nb 1] and Europe.[nb 2] Another issue of the album was digitally remastered by Joe Gastwirt in 1994.[nb 3] In 2003, the album was reissued again on disc in an expanded and remastered edition by Rhino and Elektra Records. Included were two previously unreleased tracks: an alternate version of "And You and I", an early run-through of "Siberian Khatru", and Yes's 1972 single "America" with its b-side, an edit of "Total Mass Retain".[nb 4]
In 2013, two new editions of the album were released. Steve Hoffman of Audio Fidelity Records conducted a remastering in both CD and Super Audio CD formats.[nb 5] For the Panegyric label, Steven Wilson used the original multi-track recordings to produce a "2013 stereo mix", a 5.1 surround sound mix, and an "original stereo mix" from a flat transfer of the LP, in both a CD and DVD-Audio and CD and Blu-ray Disc package. Bonus tracks include single edits, an early rough mix of "Close to the Edge", and instrumental versions of the album's three tracks.[nb 6] On 2 December that year internationally & later on 24 December in the US, the 2003 remaster was reissued as a part of the box set The Studio Albums 1969-1987.
Once recording for the album was complete, Bruford left the band on 19 July 1972 to join King Crimson. His replacement was Alan White of the Plastic Ono Band and part of Terry Reid's group. As he played on Close to the Edge but left before the subsequent tour, Bruford was contractually obliged to share album royalties with White, and claims that Yes manager Brian Lane enforced a compensation payment of $10,000 from him. White had one full rehearsal with the band prior to the tour's start on 30 July 1972 which saw the band play a total of 95 concerts in the US, Canada, the UK, Japan and Australia. The tour ended in April 1973.
^Rick Wakeman quote from Melody Maker in December 1974. When asked about the organ played on "Jane Seymour" from The Six Wives of Henry VIII: "Yeah, it's the same one I used on 'Close to the Edge'...".
^Anderson, Jon (1972). Introduction to "And You and I" on Track 5 of Disc 5 on Progeny: Seven Shows from Seventy-Two (CD). Rhino Records.