Unbelievable technical ability balanced with warmth and emot
Jeffrey J.Park | Massachusetts, USA | 12/18/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 1972 album showed Yes starting to move even further into the realm of progressive rock and features the classic lineup of Chris Squire (Rickenbacker bass, vocals); Rick Wakeman (Synthesizers, mellotron, Hammond organ, piano); Steve Howe (acoustic and electric guitars, vocals); Bill Bruford (drums; percussion); and Jon Anderson (lead vocals; guitar). I think it goes without saying that this lineup would produce some of the finest material released by Yes and was comprised of virtuosos. Certainly, all of this is very much present on Fragile, which I personally consider a showcase of staggering instrumental skill that is very warm and inviting somehow.
Because of contractual problems largely stemming from Rick Wakeman, Fragile consists of three band compositions and several smaller solo pieces. The three band compositions are excellent and include the alternately ripping and melodramatic Heart of the Sunrise (their response to 21st Century Schizoid Man (King Crimson, 1969); South Side of the Sky (about a failed mission to Antarctica I think); and the classic piece Roundabout. The solo pieces vary in quality and include the excellent Long Distance Runaround/The Fish (Jon wrote Long Distance Runaround, while The Fish is a Squire tour de force on the electric bass with percussion by Bill); Rick Wakeman's Cans and Brahms (extracts from Brahms's 4th Symphony in E Minor Third Movement performed on an arsenal of synthesizers) (Rick did not like Cans and Brahms at all); Steve Howe's excellent acoustic solo piece Mood for a Day; Bill Bruford's painfully short and unfinished sounding instrumental piece Five Percent for Nothing (a slam on the band manager apparently); and finally, Jon Anderson's We Have Heaven. As a bassist and avid worshipper of Squire, The Fish is hands down my favorite, although I generally like all of the solo pieces.
Overall, the music on Fragile is simply amazing and has all of the emotional punch (some might say melodrama) of tracks like Survival (1969); and Starship Trooper (1971), yet with the instrumental sophistication that would mark all of the 1970s work. Some very melodramatic moments can be heard on Heart of Sunrise, which is an absolutely super 10'34"; and South Side of the Sky is certainly not without drama. However, what really got me when I first listened to this album over 25 years ago (and to this very day) is the playing - these guys were in a class by themselves when it came to sheer virtuosity. Although the playing can get overwhelming at times, it is nicely leavened by softer, acoustic passages (on guitar and piano) and Jon Anderson's high pitched vocals. Along with some unbelievable vocal harmonies, this makes for one amazing listening experience.
With respect to the cover art (the first with Roger Dean), I feel that the painting of the tiny and "fragile" world on the front cover is very warm and intimate despite the planet being surrounded by the cold vacuum of outer space. Of course, on the back cover this peaceful world is depicted as breaking up - a very different scene from the front cover. The neat thing is that the breaking up of the planet was reiterated on the live Yessongs album. As I recall, I used to stare at the "large" cover art on the Fragile LP and it was very much a part of the listening experience. Then again, the cover art was very important for me on all of the Yes albums (even Drama (1980)) and is something I feel compelled to mention when I review any of their works.
The remastering on this album is incredible and (sort of) takes me back to the vinyl days. The booklet is excellent and features the original album artwork; a ton of liner notes; and photos of the band. Although the liner notes are pretty much old hat for the typical Yes freak (such as myself), they should prove informative to lots of folks. The excellent bonus track America was a very nice addition that was originally recorded for the 1972 Atlantic sampler LP "Age of Atlantic". Although I did not own this LP, I did own the compilation album "Yesterdays", which also featured America. The other bonus track includes an early rough mix of Roundabout that really does not add much.
All in all, an incredible Yes album that is very highly recommended along with all of their works from 1971 -1977."
The 1972 Classic Yes Release Finally Sounds Terrific!
highway_star | Hallandale, Florida United States | 05/17/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Released in 1972, "Fragile" is a progressive rock masterpiece that should be in all rock lovers cd collection. As excellent an album as it was, it produced just one major hit in "Roundabout". I remember hearing the song played repeatedly on radio back then and never got sick of it. The entire album is full of excellent, well crafted songs such as "Heart Of The Sunrise", "Long Distance Runaround", "South Side Of The Sky" and the above mentioned "Roundabout". Of note, this album was also keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman's debut with the band and there's a definate classical influence in the songs with the addition of Wakeman (listen to "Cans And Brahms"). This special edition of "Fragile" contains two bonus tracks in "America" (the full 10 min. version) and an extra version of "Roundabout" (Early Rough Mix) which is similar to the original version except that the vocals and harmonizing are more pronounced and the arrangement is different in certain parts. There's also a thirteen page booklet included which tells about the songs on the album as well as some nice color photos of the members of the band. The digipack that holds the disc is also very attractive. Soundwise this new remastered version is far superior to the early 90's remaster in that the sound is cleaner, more mid-range, bottom end and punch has been added. If you enjoy seventy's classic rock such as Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Genesis, King Crimson, etc. "Fragile" is a must have. Highly Recommended."
The definitive symphonic prog album
Michael Topper | Pacific Palisades, California United States | 09/20/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although "Close To The Edge" beats it out for the crown of best Yes album, and repeated listens to "Relayer" reveal countless layers and subtleties, "Fragile" is the album I would recommend as a starting point for Yes--and since Yes is the definitive symphonic prog act, it provides an excellent starting point for prog in general. Although the five brief solo pieces scattered in-between the epics are frequently thought to have made it sound a little disjointed, every track is strong, with the one exception of Wakeman's pleasantly dull "Cans And Brahms" (its brevity is, however, an advantage in this case!)."Roundabout" is the group's most overplayed track and one even the most devoted fans might get tired of after the ten-zillionth listen, but fresh ears cannot deny its brillliant composition, playing and production, with stunning harmonies and definitive guitar and keyboard solos. Speaking of stunning harmonies, "We Have Heaven" bursts from the speakers like a postcard from above
and will have you singing along in no-time. Offsetting its optimism is the darker "South Side Of The Sky", oddly overlooked
by the group over the years (apparently it was too difficult even for them to play live!) and thus a very fresh listen. The howling wind and footsteps (reminiscent of Pink Floyd) presage a monster guitar riff that carries the track, although the jazzy piano/vocal interlude is perhaps the highlight. At times during the playing of this album one is tempted to think that this is the direction The Beatles may have gone in had they continued with the experimentation of "Abbey Road". Bruford's 30-second "5% For Nothing" acts as a novelty introduction to "Long Distance Runaround", in which Yes implants their unique musical approach onto the conventional three-minute pop song. Lyrically, this is one of the album's strongest statements, being a subtly phrased questioning of religion. The song melds with Squire's pulsing bass experiment "The Fish", in which he overdubs dozens of basses (fuzz, wah-wah, both, you name it) on top of each other playing variations on a kinetic riff that rocks extremely hard. Not only will one be dazzled by Squire's prowess, but the appearance of a more straightforward rocker is exactly what the album needs at this point. Indeed, I'm tempted to name "The Fish" one of the greatest rock instrumentals ever. Howe's moody, Spanish acoustic guitar piece "Mood For A Day" follows, influenced heavily by Segovia and very tastefully played with a "less is more" approach unusual for this genre of prog. That is not the case with the closing "Heart Of The Sunrise", however, which remains my all-time favorite Yes work and one of the best prog songs ever (note how this album has the best of everything--best pop song, best instrumental, best epics...). The peaks and valleys in this song are quite extreme and frame what is, at its heart, actually a simple ballad with an emotional lyric that paints abstract impressions with words. The way the group embellish this "simple ballad" to classical proportions, playing contrapuntal bits and extended keyboard variations that twist and turn against each other along with Howe's screaming metal-ish opening guitar riff, is like a picture-perfect advertisement for the virtues of progressive rock. As a pop song, "Heart Of The Sunrise" would have been charming but minor. As a ten-minute epic, the track manages to touch on all moods and emotions, while not a single note is wasted; the themes are all carefully composed and interwoven into each other for maximum atmospheric impact. When a reprise of "We Have Heaven" bursts in and fades out just as quickly at the close, one is tempted to simply press "play" all over again. Yes' sound crafted here is like the perfect natural buzz; endorphins are sparked and heightened virtually every second this CD is in the machine. Indeed, I have at times sung along to this in the car with friends and had a blast. Wakeman is almost certainly the definitive factor that made this a step above the already brilliant "Yes Album"--his virtuosic (what else?)keyboard layering colors each track ingeniously, which is why it is a little puzzling that his own solo contribution sounds like background muzak--although all of the members seem to be challenging each other here. The bonus tracks are not too rare but it is great to have the full-length "America" added to this collection, it fits better here than it would on "Close To The Edge" (and the single version is a bonus track on the latter album anyway). "Close To The Edge" may be even tighter and more complex, with just three epic tracks that all complement each other, but "Fragile"'s bits and pieces all fit endearingly together as well and in my opinion this album is only one miniscule smidgen below its successor in quality, and certainly the most fun. Even if this is the first Yes album you ever purchase, its accessibility (especially for people not usually into prog) may make this the most-played, even after decades."
The Rhino Remaster of Yes Classic
Samhot | Star Land | 12/27/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As many should know by now, many classic albums in the Yes catalogue are remastered, yet again. First, we got the remasters on the Atlantic label, and as of present, the Rhino label is dishing out the remastered treatment. The Atlantic remasters didn't feature bonus tracks, but the Rhino versions do, although for the most part, the bonus tracks are disposable...or at least, they work for small curiosities.
1972's _Fragile_ should always be considered a classic in the progressive rock genre, not just because the musicianship is virtuosic, tasteful and unique, but because the majority of it is catchy and accessible as well - something that's very rare in progressive rock as a whole.
Jon Anderson's distinctly artistic upper-register, Chris Squire's crunchy basslines, Steve Howe's floating guitar leads, Bill Bruford's tasteful drumming and Rick Wakeman's versatile keyboard work here come together to make a unique, tantalizing brand of music. The album starts off with "Roundabout," which exemplifies what I was saying in the opening paragraph. This track is ultra-catchy and addictive. The grooves on here (mostly exemplified by Bill's drums and Chris' bass) are hard to resist. Definitely a classic that has aged, and will seemingly continue to age nicely.
Next comes the first of five solo pieces: The first two of the five being my absolute favorites. "Cans And Brahms" is Rick Wakeman's impressive arrangement of bits found in the Allegro giocoso (third movement) of Brahms' 4th symphony. He did an excellent job on this (and for the record, Brahms is a favorite of mine amongst many classical composers, and I've heard and own his 4th symphony.) Next comes Jon Anderson's "We Have Heaven," which is a cerebral piece showcasing his vocal artistry. If you listen carefully, you'll find seven separate (but overdubbed) vocal parts by Jon on here. On the seventh one, he is heard saying "yes." The following track called "South Side of The Sky" seems to be a standout amongst Yes' many epic-length tracks. There seems to be a bluesy, down-home atmosphere to it, especially in Steve Howe's fluid guitar licks. While it's indeed spacy, it's not as otherworldly as most of their other epics, and seems to maintain a bit of earthiness that some of the other epics didn't.
"Five Per Cent For Nothing" is a short track showcasing Bruford's drumming ability, but, don't expect it to be a virtuoso display, as it seems more like a steady groove-oriented workout. "Long Distance Runaround" seems to showcase a slight country influence, mostly heard in Steve's guitar. Other than that, the track is a short little ditty. "The Fish" is Chris Squire's bassline workout, which plays out in something of a 7/4 rhythm, while several overdubbed bass samples are exemplified. Quite a nice track. Catchy and addictive as well. "Mood For A Day" is Steve's acoustic workout. Quite virtuosic, atmospheric and tasteful. The last track called "Heart of The Sunrise" starts out with what may have been Yes' most heavy and aggressive moment up until _Relayer_. The crushing attack borders on classic metal. That theme plays out quite a few times within the 3 1/2 minutes of the instrumental opening, which then gives way to a host of trippy atmospherics and Jon Anderson's faraway-sounding vocals.
There isn't much more that I can say. This is definitely a classic in Yes' catalog. There isn't another album quite like this one in their catalog. Highly recommended. "
Another Great Yes Remaster!
J. E FELL | Carterville, Illinois United States | 02/12/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Fragile" was Rick Wakeman's initiation into the symphonic progressive rock of Yes. This is another of the fine albums Yes released during this time period. It contains many classic tracks like "Roundabout", "Long Distance Runaround" and "Heart Of Sunrise". It also features one of my favorite Yes songs "South Side of the Sky" which features a great example of Steve Howe's angular guitar playing. However, the album has a more disjointed feel than the previous album perhaps due to the inclusion of solo tracks by each of the band members. "The Fish" is my favorite of these tracks as it displays Chris Squire's versatility on bass guitar. Wakeman's keyboard playing is soaring on this album and his vast array of cutting edge (for the times) equipment gives this set a more contemporary feel than the "Yes Album". Bill Bruford's drumming is never less than stellar. Jon Anderson is the quintessential singer for a progressive rock band with his great voice. The music here while progressive still contains enough hooks to make it memorable for nonprogressive fans which makes it one of their most popular albums. The highlight of this reissue is the inclusion of the full length version of Paul Simon's "America" as a bonus track. The track contains all the aspects of Yes with great vocals and musicianship and like their first two albums an appropriate cover tune for Yes to (re)arrange. This remaster also contains an alternate take of "Roundabout" which is somewhat interesting but the differences between this and the released version are minimal. The booklet is impressive with many photos, song lyrics and an essay by Yes expert Bill Martin. The sound of this remaster is excellent. It is much clearer than the original compact disk of this release that I already own. Rhino as usual did a great job with this remastered version of "Fragile". I can't wait until the next batch of Yes remasters is released!"