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Yes - Fragile CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.44 | 3242 ratings

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4 stars After the fluffy, uneven The Yes Album, which mostly felt like a blunt attempt at more pompous music - in mixing trippier, happy pop with richer, pseudo-orchestrated music - Yes flexes their muscles in a terrifying way with Fragile. Speculation if whether the addition of Rick Wakeman was the missing piece of the puzzle seems a little vain, but I can't deny that the incredible shift towards greater compositions, a more mature sound, a lot more sinister edge and a vast improvement of the keyboard sound must have originated in a spark of some sort. Suddenly Yes is performing at full potential, with each member's skill highlighted and brought up front. And not only by working as a group, but also via short but sweet solo parts dotted across the album. It's an upgrade in production, it's an upgrade in overall sound and it's the first essential Yes album for me.

Fragile is nothing of what it name suggests. It's an altogether heavier effort compared to The Yes Album, but at the same time also more delicate. Much of this can of course be accredited to Wakeman's contribution, which opens up the whole guidebook of prog keys (piano, oh the sweet piano) with his frequent and immodest runs from the gear he has to his disposal. But what's most important for me is the immediate surprise of how Steve Howe and Chris Squire suddenly fills their shoes and deserves the hero status they've reached in many a music lover's heart. The interplay between Wakeman and Howe, in combining the sometimes noodling style of the two, moving in and out of the song in a co-ordinated way, brings the best out of them both and forms a fluent melodic carpet on which the sharp bass and Jon Andersons vocal can bring the songs forward in a steady pace. It is not as apparent here as on later albums, but it's a pleasure hearing it for the first time. Neither Wakeman nor Howe fear delivering textures though, and thus prevents the album from becoming entirely carried by the other three.

The album's backbone is without doubt formed by the three longer songs on the album: Roundabout, South Side of the Sky and Heart of the Sunrise. Roundabout is one of those instantly catchy songs that will stay in your head forever after hearing, especially the chorus' steady guitar riff and sparkling organ. It starts with a brooding guitar with smooth harmonics until it unfolds in a characteristic pungent bassline from Squire. Howe more in the background here, with some textural chord work. It more or less continues this way (but with refrain) up to the point where another segment, darker and heavier, kicks in. Carried by Squire and Howe, Bruford adds an extra percussive touch together with a determined Wakeman manning the organ. It's then back to the beginning again, but with mellow twist and a soft-singing Anderson, which...but you know all this and more don't you?

Better give the solo songs a little credit instead. I've never found them redundant, and far from over-the-top. To me they're a great expression of the artistic freedom and democracy in the band at this stage, a chance to show off on you own with the blessing of your bandmates and perhaps the ultimate way of presenting all the aspects of your combined sound. The classically oriented parts of Wakeman and Howe, the spear-heading bass of Squire and Jon Anderson's unique voice. The only thing missing is an extended solo by Bruford. But you can't have everything.

Essential, representative and delicious. 4 stars.


LinusW | 4/5 |


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