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Yes - Fragile CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.44 | 3234 ratings

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RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
5 stars Released on the same year as the magnificent "Close to the Edge", "Fragile" offers the same extremely high standards of musicianship and songwriting, though with a different, less compact format. While its follow-up had only three tracks on it, "Fragile" is equally divided between long, complex epics and much shorter tracks which showcase the band members' individual (and immense) talent. This is also the first Yes album boasting one of Roger Dean's legendary covers, which in this case contains a clear reference to the title - the earth breaking into several pieces. While CTTE's sleeve was characterised by diverse hues of green, here we have a deep blue background set off by the lighter blue of the water and the light green of the trees. Very stylish indeed, though in my opinion not Dean's best work.

The album's opener, still performed live by the band, is the celebrated "Roundabout", a very unlikely hit single, dotted throughout with multilayered vocals and bolstered by Chris Squire's monstrous bass lines. On "South Side of the Sky" Steve Howe's angular, spiky guitar comes to the fore, while the song relaxes in the middle with beautiful, soothing vocal harmonies and a great piano solo by Wakeman. "Long Distance Runaround", my least favourite of the longer tracks, offers more intricate, jagged guitar parts backing up Anderson's soaring vocals. This is probably even more accessible than the deceptively catchy "Roundabout".

The album's highlight, however, comes at the end with the monumental "Heart of the Sunrise", a real tour de force for both Bill Bruford's inimitable drums and Steve Howe's incendiary guitar. Both musicians steal the show in the song's beginning section, almost hysterical in its electric intensity - then, the calm after the storm, with Anderson's voice at its most angelic, hitting incredibly high notes with ease - then more of the same, with a coda which effectively proves how heavy Yes could be when they choose, giving the likes of Dream Theater a run for their money.

The five remaining tracks are more varied in quality, and many people find them irritating. The best by far are Steve Howe's lyrical acoustic piece, "Mood for a Day", and Chris Squire's "The Fish", a cult number for everyone who's ever attempted to play bass, displaying the legendary Rickenbacker thick, trebly sound. Bill Bruford's "Five per Cent for Nothing" is over in a few seconds, while Anderson's "We Are Heaven" and Wakeman's "Cans and Brahms", while undoubtedly pleasant, say nothing new about both musicians' already well-known talents.

The remastered edition contains an early rough mix of "Roundabout", with a very funny detail - when Anderson starts singing too early and stops abruptly midway; and a 10- minute cover of Simon and Garfunkel's famous "America" - a great prog track which sounds completely different from the original.

What else can be said about this album? It is probably less immediate than CTTE, clearly more varied, balanced between sheer electric savagery and sublime, melodic moments. In my very humble opinion, it is without any doubt one of prog's defining moments, one to be savoured and enjoyed as often as possible.

Raff | 5/5 |


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