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Yes - Fragile CD (album) cover

FRAGILE

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

4.42 | 2462 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Pnoom!
4 stars Yes' Masterpiece!

As I have noted in other reviews of mine that I've written recently, I've been going on a spiritual rediscovering of some prog greats that failed to impress me the first few times around. Well, actually, during this time, I discovered not just some good albums, but a band! I realized that Yes was not just a bunch of virtuosos, but a band capable of writing music that sounds great. I also came to enjoy Jon Anderson's cryptic lyrics. This last month or so has been particularly good for prog, as I have discovered two masterpiece albums (Fragile and Trespass), and a multitude of albums I'd rate anywhere between very good and excellent.

Fragile features Rick Wakeman on keyboards (formerly of the Strawbs). It consists of two types of songs. There are three "major" compositions, Roundabout, South Side of the Sky, and Heart of the Sunrise, that really carry the album. In between these are "minor" solo tracks meant to showcase each of the bandmembers' talents. I put major and minor in quotes because the so called minor tracks are equally as important (and almost as good) as the longer tracks. The longer tracks are generally fast and aggressive, but still with beauty, and the shorter tracks are simply all over the place, ranging from classical piano to Jon Anderson vocal exercises. And it all comes together perfectly to create a masterpiece album.

The album opens with Roundabout, which was, surprisingly, a huge hit when the album came out. Who knew the public could like head on collisions with prog. The song itself begins the short buildup to the ping, and then jumps in. The lyrics and vocals are wonderful, the drums and bass form a great rythm section, and the keyboards really set the stage, even in the background. The guitar in the foreground with the vocals is also really nice, and this is one of Yes' best tracks. Around five minutes in, the song slows down majestically, and is really beautiful, before picking up to a section similar to the beginning for the ending. This transition begins with an amazing and great-sounding keyboard solo by Rick Wakeman (second only to the keyboard solo in Close to the Edge). The guitar comes in and makes everything even better, and this song is simply bursting with energy. What a great way to open the album. I will admit it took me a while to get into it, but I must also admit that almost all truly excellent progressive rock takes a while to grow on me.

Next come a few solo pieces, first Cans and Brahms. This is Rick Wakeman's take on a classical piano piece, and it is very nice. Before I discuss it further, though, I must say a few words about these "filler" tracks. Here's what I have to say: they are in no way, shape, or form even at all related to filler. They are an ability for you to gaze behind the scenes, so to speak, as to all the factors that come together in creating songs like Roundabout or Close to the Edge. You get to see just how everyone contributes, and I relish the oppurtunity. And, not only that, they sound good and carry the mood of the album. In all honesty, they are needed to seperate Roundabout, South Side of the Sky, and Heart of the Sunrise, to give the listener some room to breath without sacrificing musical quality in the slightest.

Well, now that I've ranted on why the "filler" is essential to the album, I'll talk about it a bit. I've already discussed Rick Wakeman's piece, a wonderful bit of great piano playing. Jon Anderson's solo piece comes next, basically consisting of him singing on top of himself, with some inconsequential (but nice) music in the background. Called We Have Heaven, it's about announcing to the world that the Messiah has come, and that we have heaven. This is probably my favorite solo piece on the album, and the band thought so, too, or at least it would seem that way (you'll find out why a bit later).

The second major track on the album is next. South Side of the Sky is my second favorite song on the album, but I adore all three long tracks. One thing I do know is that people often focus on just the first and last tracks, and overlook this one, which is really too bad. Like Roundabout, it is full of energy, in fact, I'd say it has even more. The drums are incredible, the guitar really carries the song, the bass is omnipresent, the keyboards are Rick Wakeman (which is a synonym for Godly), but what really carries this track are Anderson's vocals and lyrics, which are some of his best. The melodies he creates are simply incredible. Now, the first few listens, it may seem like this track is throwing way too much at you at once, and it can be quite overwhelming (it was definitely so for me), but giving it time will guarantee that it will grow on you. There's a very nice piano and la-la-la dominated section in the middle of the song that tones it down a bit so as not to leave you cowering in your seat, and this is surrounded by the beginning theme, which is also the closing theme, and it is that makes this song probably my third favorite Yes song and among my top 25 songs (which, now that I own close on 1500 songs, is quite an accomplishment).

Well, that track will leave you gasping for air, so it's time for some more solo pieces. First is Five Percent For Nothing, which is apparently about some guy who was making five percent of the profits of the album sales without lifting a hand. It is a short instrumental showcasing Bill Bruford's excellent drumming, and while the first few times through it may seem like it doesn't do anything and ends too soon, the beauty of it is realized with time.

Actually, the next song, Long Distance Runaround, is a group effort, just a short one that feels, and this may sound odd, but it sounds like a group solo piece. What I mean is, it is feels like a solo piece, but with major contributions from everyone. It's actually quite enchanting with some absolutely gorgeous vocals by Jon Anderson. Everything else is excellent, but it's the vocals that make this a standout track. It ends a bit abruptly, but it's still incredible, and flows right into Chris Squire's solo piece.

The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus) is a short track showcasing Squire's abilities on the bass. Drums and guitars form the rythm section here, and the bass takes the guitar's normal spot, leading the way across this span or musical fertility. There is some chanting that I haven't figured out yet whether it is real words or gibberish (I think it's real words that I just can't make out), but they are inconsequential. It's all about the bass! Next is Mood For a Day, Steve Howes "I'm good at guitar" piece, and, let's face it, he is good at guitar. In terms of the solo pieces, I'd say this is the weakest, but it's by no means bad. There are a lot of good ideas in here, but they never seem to completely pull themselves together to create a better whole.

Last is the final group effort on the album (and the final song on the album), Heart of the Sunrise. Now, you can have your music where the bands (usually metal) play fast for the sake of playing fast and being able to say, "hey, guess what, I can play fast. No really, I can play fast. There may not be artistic merit to it, but I tell you I can play FAST!" Or, you can have your song where the band plays fast in order to create music that is both fast and artistic. And that is what Yes does in Heart of the Sunrise, widely regarded as the best song on this album. The opening is incredibly fast, and better than any fast metal music out there, and then they give you a bit of a breather with some lovely bass work, and then it's back to being fast. In the fast parts, the guitar and drums make an awesome tandem, teaming up to stick to ballads that move at a snail's pace, or bands where the drummers play the same thing over, and over, and over, and over, and over again, which adds nothing to the song and serves only to make you wonder, "well, why the hell are the drums there if no one's going to treat them like an instrument capable of making good music?" But no, here, the drums are not those wimpy drums that govern pop. These are the drums of the strong. Also characterizing this song are excellent vocals and lyrics by Anderson, backed by some fine, fine music that never fails to amaze. Everyone contributes their best to this song for all 11 minutes, and it is truly spectacular. I would have to rate this as the very best Yes song from any album (yes, better even than Close to the Edge). Every second of it is worthwhile and a joy to listen to. Now, if you haven't forgotten over the course of this long review (if you have forgotten, I forgive you as, even by my standards, this is a long review), I once talked about how Jon Anderson's solo piece must have been the favorite of the band. Well, here's why. At the end of this song, for the last minute or so, you get a surprise track almost, a reprise of We Have Heaven that closes the album off in style.

Well, other than the good but not great Mood for a Day, every song on this album is a real winner, and Heart of the Sunrise is the best they've done. Ever. Fragile introduces Rick Wakeman to the world of truly famous prog, and it stands as Yes' best album, and one of the few albums that strikes me as a masterpiece. Every moment on here is timeless, as seen by how, even today, Fragile is regarded as one of the very best progressive rock albums ever written. And for good reason. You cannot go wrong with this album. You get both some of the best music out there and a behind the scenes look at the band without any sacrifice in quality, or, as some like to foolishly put it, filler.

5 STARS: ESSENTIAL - A MASTERPIECE OF PROGRESSIVE MUSIC!!!!!!!!

Pnoom! | 4/5 |

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