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Yes - Fragile CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.45 | 3455 ratings

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5 stars This is Yes' first album with the classic line-up that we have grown to know and love, all the cylinders are firing well and all of the geniuses are in place. The only difference in the line up from the previous "The Yes Album" is the addition of the keyboardist extraordinaire Rick Wakeman who replaced Tony Kaye. The difference in the keyboards is obvious almost immediately as we can hear the confidence in Wakeman's playing. Even though the previous album is a masterpiece also, if there was anything missing, it was a more up-front, in-your-face type keyboardist and they found that in Wakeman. The keys are more defined and technically complex, and thus, you have the classic amazing Yes sound beginning with this album.

This essential album is made up of songs credited to the entire band and also shorter tracks composed and credited to each single member of the band, sort of like ELP's "Works Volumes I and II" but more consistent. (By the way, "Fragile" was released long before "Works", but I just make the statement as a comparison to album structure.) We start off with the ever popular "Roundabout" which should only be heard in the full album version, not the edited versions that were made for radio play. This is the perfect album starter and immediately lets us know what we are in for when listening to this album. The mix is perfect as you can hear every single instrument and each contributor equally and as such you can hear all of the wonderful things that go into each of Yes' most complex works. I know this song has been overplayed, but the amazing thing is that I still love this song and it still has not lost it's amazingness to me like other overplayed radio songs have. Definitely still one of my all time favorites, but then this album has a few of those. Next is Rick Wakeman's solo contribution to the album called "Cans and Brahms" which is a keyboard arrangement of a composition by Brahms. Sort of underwhelming considering the pompousness of Wakeman's other compositions, but still short and enjoyable. Another solo contribution follows, this time from Jon Anderson. "We Have Heaven" is a complex composition of multi-tracked vocals all of Jon in an amazing harmonic blissfulness. There is some support of instruments, but they are minimal and drowned in the vocals. Once we get to the climax of this short song, we are swallowed up in harmonics each singing all the different hooks from the melody at the same time when this is suddenly stopped by the sound of a door slamming and the sound of footfalls of someone running away.

The next track is a long epic "South Side of the Sky" which is not one of my most favorite epic songs but it is still a great one. I do love the long piano interlude from Rick here though, and it is at this point that we know that Yes has made a wise choice. The interlude is full of flourish, beauty and excitement, and proves that you don't need special effects and fancy synthesizer to create a powerful passage, this time it is all done acoustically and it is amazing. The rest of the song is great, but not one of their best. The next track is the short contribution from Bill Bruford. At only :35 seconds, this composition has more going on in it than most other bands can put in a typical 5 minute song. It goes by quickly, but still begs to be listened to closely. There is nothing typical about this song, but it does plenty to prove that Bruford is an amazing musician. Another band composition follows, this time a relatively short one called "Long Distance Runaround" which ends up segueing into "The Fish" which is the outstanding contribution by Chris Squire. These two songs have always been expected to be heard together almost as one song. Of course, this features the bass which is amazing. The good thing about this entire album is you can hear the bass as much as all of the other instruments, but in later albums like "Relayer" and "Going for the One" the bass seems to be pushed down into the mix. Even though the version of "The Fish" is longer and slightly better on the "Yessongs" live 3 album set, this one is still amazing.

Finally, the last track is another one of my all time Yes favorites "Heart of the Sunrise". This has to have one of the best bass/guitar hooks in existence that switches back and forth from 6/8 to 3/4 time without even blinking. The introduction of the song goes on for quite some time and I love this part of it. It starts right off on a tension filled riff at high power and lots of energy before calming down for a while with a killer bass line and building back up slowly to the high energy riff again before the tension breaks again and it comes into the main melody. Jon sings softly in 6/8 with a 5/8 riff thrown in just to keep it unconventional and Rick adds a 9/8 meter keyboard riff and the song builds and releases several times repeating several riffs, especially that crazy powerful hook that is so entrancing. This song just has to be heard, that's all there is to it. If there ever was a perfect rock composition, this is it! I just can't say enough about it. Oh, then "We Have Heaven" has a short reprise thrown in at the end.

Anyway, yes I love "Heart of the Sunrise", but I love this whole album and even though "South Side of the Sky" is one of their weaker epics (except for that piano solo), it is still better than most musicians can even hope to come up with and still does not take away the fact that this is by all means an essential Yes album and essential prog album.

If you get the 2003 reissue, you also get the excellent cover of the Paul Simon song "America" which is Yes-ified completely and made into a progressive rock marvel sounding almost nothing like the Simon & Garfunkel version and stretched out to over 10 minutes. You also get an early version of "Roundabout" which has some interesting twists from the version we are used to.

Anyway, no progressive rock collection should be without this album. It's just as important as their next album "Close to the Edge". 5 stars, but if there was a 6th star for perfect albums, this one would have it.

TCat | 5/5 |


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