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Yes - Fragile CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.44 | 3390 ratings

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4 stars The entry of Steve Howe brought flair to the table for Yes. With the addition of Rick Wakeman, they gain vital quirk and intrigue. While Yes have consistently crafted catchy and infectious prog that is yet sophisticated and inventive, it is the Wakeman years that brought them as close to emotional resonance as they would get. I don't think it is entirely on account of Wakeman and he may just have coincided with the most productive years of the band, but he certainly contributed to making this period a special one in Yes's journey.

It is not that I dislike happy music (on the contrary, celebration is a pervasive element of my native culture) but the Yes brand of happy-bland music seems to me to have more to do with happy chords than a powerful release of joy or ecstasy. Except, that is, on Fragile.

In this aptly titled album, Yes step away from the lingering Superman-OST quality of their previous album and attempt to confront emotions. I cannot say I am always overwhelmed by the depth of the emotions they project here. But, as usual, even when I don't find the proceedings so emotionally engaging, their sheer brilliance and creativity doesn't hurt at all.

South Side of the Sky is the one that resonates most with me. It is quite unique in the entire Yes canon, seemingly enveloped in imbalance and uneasiness. It never falls over or melts down, but the whole track seems to be as if at a tipping point, leaving me with a very powerful impression. It is interesting to note that even the melodies are not all happy this time. I don't know why they didn't try to tap this side of their music more, but I guess I am in the minority here as their happy-bland anthems (to me) have endured for years and created a huge following.

Heart of the Sunrise.....there's more heart in the lyrics here than the music. I feel the theme of confusion could have been exploited in a different direction and, possibly, a better one. It seems to be subordinated here by another showcase of quintessential Yes. The rather obvious nod to King Crimson in the beginning is not a great note to start on but the powerful Bruford-Squire rhythm section soon dispels these misgivings and paving the way for Anderson to do, er, what Anderson does. I do appreciate the clean and melodic quality of his high notes here but the lack of expression continues to be a problem for me and probably always will be. In terms of structure, it's a brilliant track and one of their best on that count.

There's not much for me to say about the rest. Roundabout is somewhat like an improved version of Yours is no disgrace. There is a feeling of familiarity that I could do without as even Wakeman veers towards John Lord-like organs here, but the execution is much improved.

I don't quite know what to make of the other tracks. They don't put together a cohesive impression to me and the album could have been better without a few of them. I usually skip them altogether while listening to the album so, practically speaking, it doesn't detract too much from my experience of Fragile. I don't really need Mood for a Day or We Are Heaven to make sense of Roundabout or Heart of the Sunrise. So should I just ignore it and give it all five stars?

What I cannot so easily overlook is the unfinished quality of these individual compositions. I cannot see the point of including these snippets of music. If it had to be done to, perhaps, please all members equally, they could have been developed and a double album released instead. I don't mind tracks that I dislike (because it's just about me) as much as I do rather dispensable affairs such as these which require a high level of devotion from the fan to endure.

I am fan of many artists and their best albums, but not a diehard fan of too many because I don't suffer filler too easily. Four stars for an album that I really love but one which is ultimately too flawed to warrant the masterpiece rating.

rogerthat | 4/5 |


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