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Yes - Fragile CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.44 | 3242 ratings

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4 stars Rick Wakeman's first appearance in Yes, and a leap forward from them from the previous (nontheless excellent) Yes Album.

The only reason this doesn't get 5 stars from me is the solo tracks weaved in betwen the group efforts; let's start with these first. Wakeman - the new boy - does "Cans & Brahms" which is part of a Brahms concerto transcribed for keyboards; it's disappointing, more-so when you find out he was going to contribute an original composition called "Handle with Care" (to Fragile..gettit?) - but copyright reasons etc didnt allow it (he was signed to A&M, Yes were on Atlantic). So that track re-appeared, rewritten, on "Six Wives". Jon Anderson gives us "We Have Heaven" with layers of vocal harmonies - good but not outstanding; Bruford does "5% for Nothing" with its syncopated timings, his first and maybe least succesful attempt at recorded composition - at least it's short; Squire gives us the best - "Fish" - with its variety of running bass lines - an amazing variety of sound for what's usually considered a backing instrument; & finally Howe does an acoustic number, the pleasant "Mood for a Day".

But this is a Yes album and its the group tracks that really matter. "Roundabout" - 'nuff said - the default choice for their encore (well the first one of the evening) for many years. It's driven along by Chris Squire's bass; then there's that Wakeman Hammond solo in the middle - not the flashiest he's ever done, that's not the point; it's just so right for the song. "Long Distance Runaround" is a clever - in the best sense - number with a simple melody from Jon, backed by snappy little runs in harmony from Howe and Wakeman, a brooding bassline and complex time signature. The album finishes with another Yes standard, "Heart of the Sunrise", with a beautiful melody, backed by powerhouse instrumentals. If I were being really pickey, I might say that the instrumental build-up at the start, and the keyboard noodling in the middle, go on just a teensey-bit longer than they should.

The one track I haven't mentioned is one of the most under-rated tracks they've done - "South Side of the Sky" which is apparently about explorers freezing to death on an arctic expedition - you know, with that information the lyrics make some sense, though I wouldn't have known otherwise. Wakeman makes a dramatic piano break in the middle that heralds the start of a simple but quite lovely vocal harmony break - Yes especially Anderson had an ear for a great tune, and they can sing (even Steve Howe, in harmony anyhow!). This track on stage last year (2004) was a highlight with guitar and keyboards duelling at the climax.

Although the Rhino CD releases are lovingly restored, and the art-work is pretty good given the size limitation of a CD, I still fondly hang onto the booklet that came with the original vinyl release, which includes the only Roger Dean artwork I've seen with "real" people in it (a climber on a steep mountain).

It's a landmark album let down by the perceived need to give each member of the band a solo spot. Nonetheless, it's prog at its best.

Phil | 4/5 |


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