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Yes - Fragile CD (album) cover

FRAGILE

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

4.42 | 2359 ratings

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Ivan_Melgar_M
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Prog Specialist
3 stars I can clearly remember the day I bought my first version of Fragile, it was a very cold afternoon of January 1977, I was a 13 years old prog newbie passing my vacations in Birmingham Alabama and had nothing to do because it was snowing, so when my father said he wanted to go to the mall I ran into the car (Still was too young to drive) and went to the first record shop I could find..

Being a kid from Perú, a country where prog' was almost unknown (Music in English was almost forbidden by the military regimen), a USA music store was like paradise and hell at the same time, I saw lots of bands and albums that never even imagined but I didn't knew where to start, and lets remember that there was no Internet to help me make my choice.

Yes was one of the bands I knew on those days and Roundabout one of he few tracks I was familiar to, so when I saw the name of the song in the album and noticed it was the debut in Yes of my idol Rick Wakeman bought the LP without listening any track.

I can't compare Fragile with any other album being so unique, but I feel it's the natural central point in the evolution of the band between The Yes Album and Close to the Edge because Frágil shows a more commercial format of six short songs with three longer tracks that last between 8:04 to10:54 minutes like in The Yes Album, but it's more complex and classical - Symphonic oriented as Close to the Edge.

Please, don't let the short songs confuse you, the music and lyrics are among the most complex and progressive in Yes career, not only in the long but also in shorter tracks, only slightly behind Relayer. After listening Fragile it's evident that a great band can create prog' masterpieces of 3, 10 or 20 minutes, with no problem.

But there's another special characteristic in Fragile, each member has the chance to develop his personal ideas in one track (that we will comment later) but with much better results than the similar works of other bands Like ELP in Works II (not talking about Works I because here it was one side per member). Probably because each Yes musician gave their best in each song and not compiled some forgotten tracks left from previous albums.

The first thing the listener can notice is the huge difference between Rick Wakeman and Tony Kaye in the keyboards and how easily Rick takes the lead role in Yes.

His classical formation and baroque inspiration has almost nothing in common with an efficient but more rock oriented keyboardist like Kaye, who also did a good but different job in Yes Album, even when he never took the lead role.

At a first listen it's absolutely clear that Chris Squire is a hell of a bass player. IMO Chris performance is more memorable in Fragile than the one by Steve Howe, because he doesn't limits his contribution to the rhythm section (aS expected in a bass player), but he also adds his distinctive bass to the melodic parts of the songs. In this way he dreates extremely complex chords, riffs and rhythms, plus his outstanding backing vocals that help Jon Anderson with the amazing and elaborated voice sections, much more complex than ever before.

The work of the rest of the band in Fragile is also good but not as crucial as the one by Rick and Chris, Jon collaborates with his usual voice (not my cup of tea), Steve Howe is sober and proper as always (incredible in Roundabout though) and maybe Bill Bruford is another crucial member with his extremely accurate drumming and a certain jazzy sound that complements the music greatly.

The album opens with Roundabout, a hit single that had a lot of radio impact even in my country, excellent guitar and bass and keyboards plus the chorus at the end of the song, the most popular Yes track before 90125 but that doesn't affect it's great quality, the perfect mixture of commercial success and artistic quality, a classic in 1972 and 2004.

Cans and Brahms is only the chance to listen Rick Wakeman playing his arrangements of Brahms music, a cute song but nothing specially complex or transcendental. We Have Heaven is a personal idea of Jon Anderson, overdubbing his voice enough times to create a one man chorus, again good idea and a beautiful track but not particularly important for Yes development.

The next turn is for another relatively long song by all the group, South Side of the Sky, simply impressive, Rick's Keyboards, Steve's Guitar and Chris Bass blend all together in a precious cacophony of crossed rhythms and melodies, perfectly marked by Bill Bruford's drums and enhanced by Jon's vocals in one of few tracks that I find his voice amazing. The piano semi solos plus Jon and Chris vocal chorus provide instants of relief for a breathtaking song. A perfect masterpiece.

Five Percent Nothing is a very short sixteen bar tune by Bruford that works as an intro for another classic like Long Distance Rounaround, a track that doesn't need reviews or critics because it's well known and beloved by every progressive fan, maybe only a couple of words about Bruford's work, because the guy is a human metronome, perfect rhythm and timing that create the base of the song.

Everybody focuses their attention in the longer tracks because those reveal the work and inspiration of the whole band but one of the best songs is The Fish, where Chris Squire proves how versatile can the bass be in the hands of a virtuoso, often seen as a second class rhythmic guitar or almost as an aid for percussion by the average listener, turns in this song to a sublime instrument that can also take care of the melody.

The next track is the Flamenco inspired Mood for a Day, where Steve Howe proves how great acoustic performer he is, a well known track played in every concert for the last 33 years that needs no comment.

The album ends with another all time favorite of Yes fans, Heart of the Sunrise, with it's extremely long instrumental introduction that later develops into a very complex track where Jon's vocals are again among the best of their career. It's also important to notice how easily the jump from hard and frantic passages to melodic and even nostalgic sections, this is what prog should be.

Now comes my worst problem, how to rate this album, before I started this review I was sure that Fragile deserved not more than 2 stars, but after giving the album a new listen and reading the words I wrote, I'm sure that Fragile deserves 3 stars, because IMO it's not an essential Yes release.

Ivan_Melgar_M | 3/5 |

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