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Yes - Fragile CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.44 | 3234 ratings

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5 stars Enter Prog Here

Fragile is perhaps the most common entry point into classic prog rock. The massive success of the single "Roundabout" and to a lesser degree "Long Distance Runaround" represent some of the few examples of true prog hits. Yet these doors open fans to an album that contains a monster epic, some challenging prog, and some requisite noodling. The album represents the genre in totality superbly, with its weak moments being brief and actually enjoyable in context, and the high points being truly spectacular.

As most fans know, this album includes four band pieces and five solo spots. I'd like to begin with the solo pieces, which are a source of more groans and curmudgeonry than about any part of a major album other than "More Fool Me." As I mentioned on the SEBtP review, I do not mind when there are points of relaxation on an album. While certainly not the meat of the record, these pieces allow us a glimpse into the experimentation or personal tastes of the band members. Bruford's solo piece seems as a precursor to the opening of CTTE. Steve Howe's nylon string solo "Mood for a Day" has been a treat dear to the hearts of guitarists even beyond the Yes fanboys. Squire and Anderson's bits are transition pieces that really neither hurt nor tremendously help the album. Rick Wakeman's "Cans and Brahms" is the goat of this album, derided much like the early Phil Collins vocal piece. And again, I think the criticism is overdone. The piece is an attempt to mix classical with some rock sensibility, exactly as Howe did with his piece. Admittedly, it doesn't work as well, but it's also listenable enough and not nearly as over-wrought as many Keith Emerson's similar attempts.

Of the remaining pieces, "Roundabout" requires no comments. Other than it does everything it is asked to do. "Long Distance Runaround" is a special piece for me, as it was one of the first intricate pieces I learned on guitar. Artistically wound rather than speedy, I could pull that piece out and impress just as much as the many who would show off with "Eruption." One of my early forays into prog that I enjoy to this day. "South Side of the Sky" is a piece that I didn't full appreciate until recently. It is easy to somehow think of Yes as lighter or immersed in an aloof hippy sunshine, but piece like "South Side" show just how much range they had. Though what set them apart was their ability to make complex music of true beauty, they still were able to create dark soundscapes as well. Finally, I place "Heart of the Sunrise" behind only CTTE among Yes' best epics. Ranging from the frenetic dark bass intro to intertwining complex time lines to pure beauty, this piece has everything I love about Yes. Besides CTTE, nowhere else does an epic succeed so completely from start to finish.

Flawed masterpiece? "Easy" version of Yes? Too pop? Too indulgent?

I don't think so. It's not perfect top to bottom, but neither are many of the best prog albums. The high points really are so good, and the album so important, that to call it anything other than a masterpiece seems a crime.

Negoba | 5/5 |


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