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Yes - Fragile CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.44 | 3354 ratings

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5 stars This is one messed up album. Released in 1971, it has my favourite Yes line-up of Anderson / Bruford / Howe / Squire / Wakeman, and was the first Yes album to feature the latter, who had come fresh from The Strawbs. Fragile was an album that showed Yes increasing in creativity to prog rock perfection, a trend that had started with 'The Yes Album'. The album itself has 2 different parts to it; there are 4 songs which are arranged and performed by the band, and the other 5 are songs that are solo works, to highlight each member of the band. I have to say, I've never particularly enjoyed any of these solo songs, and I feel that they give the album a rather muddled feel. The fact that on the album itself, it describes how each of these pieces are solo songs, makes it easier to accept them, and possibly pretend they aren't there. I just feel that solo works have no place on an album by a band (the same is true of 'Clap' on The Yes Album, or 'Horizons' from Foxtrot). Anyway, I shall briefly review these solo spots first.

-Cans and Brahms- Yuck. This is Wakeman's spot, where he plays a classical piece (by, you guessed it, Brahms) that is not famous enough to be recognised by most people who have a limited knowledge of classical music. The liner notes go into detail about how he plays a different keyboard sound for each part of the orchestra. This is not a Yes song in any way, thank goodness its only 1:43. -We Have Heaven- A definite WTF moment! Fortunately this song is far more listenable than the preceding song. This song is Anderson's spot, where he recorded his voice many times to give the song an a cappella feel. You will definitely be interested when you first hear this, but since it doesn't really go anywhere, I think this song loses all its appeal quickly. I do like the door slamming at the end, imagining someone saying 'STFU Jon!' whilst doing so. (If anyone can tell me what the footsteps at the end signify I'd be grateful!) -Five Per Cent For Nothing- At 0:38, Bruford's solo spot hardly feels like music. This song sounds not only difficult to play, but completely unlistenable at the same time, which makes you wonder why they bothered! -The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)- Ahh this is more like it. Squire's bass spot is the best in my opinion. This song segues from the end of Long Distance Runaround and as a result I usually listen to both at the same time. This song gives 'LDR' a natural ending. It is quite minimalistic, with the 7/8 riff being repeated constantly throughout, and slowly more and more layers of bass guitar are put on top very subtly. With Bill and Jon appearing as well, this is easily the best out of the solo tracks. -Mood For A Day- Finally we reach Howe's spot. On the one hand I do really like how this song has a really good flow to it. Steve Howe is undoubtedly a fine guitarist, and he plays the acoustic guitar expertly. HOWEver (geddit?) just like Clap or Horizons, this is a completely solo outing which has no use on a band record. I feel that sections like this work much better when they are included in a longer peice, eg the guitar solo in 'The Ancient'.

With that lot out the way, we can now focus on the bare bones of the album, and what simply makes it so great.

-Roundabout- This song epitomises the word 'classic'. I would go as far as to say it's the best known song amongst fans of prog. It's amazing that they managed to turn this eight and a half minute masterpeice into a hit single! Starting with some guitar wizardry, the song quickly launches into a really catchy verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure that stays progressive with quick keyboard inserts from Wakeman. After the haunting bridge, the song seems to begin again before launching into a fantastic triumphant intrumental which is essentially a guitar-keyboard duel! Another verse and chorus are played before ending with an a cappella part by from the band (a sign of things to come). One of the most classic prog songs around, this is a song with a really special place in my heart.

-South Side of the Sky- Starting in true prog fashion with a wind sound effect, the amazing drum fill leads into a very interesting song indeed. There are 3 rather short verses and choruses before the band suddenly stop and give way to Wakeman taking us to a completely different place indeed: a place where a cappella reigns supreme and relaxing melodies intertwine with complex drumming. After this very welcome musical digression, the band gets back on track and returns to the original song, with seemingly more energy. Howe's guitar solo leads us to fade back into the wind effect we heard at the beginning. A truly underrated song.

-Long Distance Runaround- Out of Yes's shorter early songs, I believe this is probably my favourite. Indeed it is very simple, but it is also very charming in it's own way. Without a doubt there is some sort of polyrhythm occuring in the verse and possibly the instrumental but I can't work it out. It segues into 'The Fish' which stops the experience from being too short. -Heart Of The Sunrise- Besides hearing 'Owner of a Lonely Heart' on 80s compilations or elsewhere, this song was in fact the first proper Yes song I ever heard, and consequently part of the reason I got into 70s prog in the first place! If you needed a single song to accurately sum up all that prog is about, I'd make it this one. From the 10+ mins length to the wacky 3 minute instrumental at the beginning, to the strange cosmic lyrics, to the amazing orchestration in general, in my mind this is a song that set the standard in terms of prog. The first 3 and a half minutes are truly amazing, with extremely fast playing interrupted by a 2 minute long bass solo near the beginning. Afterwards, the song goes very quiet indeed, and Jon's angelic voice comes shyly into play. The rest of the band slowly filter in around him and the dynamics of all the instruments are simply perfect as they get subtly louder as the song goes on! Another mindblowing instrumental follows with a brief vocal section thrown in for good measure. After all this is done Jon comes back, not shyly but now in full force, singing his lungs out! The song ends with a triumphant feel, and the main riff leads us to a stunning conclusion to an amazing song! Unfortunately the mood is slightly ruined when the door you hoped was closed for good at the end of We Have Heaven, is once again opened and the comical sound of Jon's a cappella with himself fades you out of this otherwise stunning album. If you can separate 'Sunrise' from this hidden track, then I recommend doing so, since it leaves you with a bitter taste. All things aside though, Heart of the Sunrise is possibly my favourite prog track ever, and extremely required listening!

As you can see, the choice to include solo spots on this album weakens it by a considerable amount, but once you get over the fact that they aren't proper Yes songs, you can listen to the album without being bothered by them, and you can pretend they aren't there. After all the quality of the 4 non solo tracks is enough to make up for anything else on the album. You really owe it to yourself to get Fragile because it does not only contain some of the most important and essential progressive rock that has ever been produced by a band, but the quality of musicianship throughout the important songs is through the roof. 5 stars all the way.

baz91 | 5/5 |


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