on 20 November 2009
I first picked this album up some 25 years ago on holiday in Guernsey and have been consistently wowed by it ever since. It truly shows a band that, with an average age of their early to mid 20s (incredible fact in comparison to today's out put by young scamps) effortlessly producing their arguably best album and then chasing that zenith ever since.
The album's opener, `Roundabout' is a catchy number, with a spring-driven very trebly Rickenbacker bass courtesy of Chris Squire. A staple of their live shows ever since I think, and a good intro what Yes are about. Followed by the first of an idea that was I think a success; each band member produces heir own track. Due to contractual reasons, Rick Wakeman plays some Brahms, which is pleasant, if slightly out of character with the rest of the album and makes one consider what he would have done if his hands weren't bound by red tape (he had only just joined the band at this point). Secondly, and more satisfactorily we have alto Jon Anderson makes a wonderful multi-tracked, if mantra-like song called `We Have Heaven'. A wonderful dreamy soundscape and very easy on the ears. This is thrown into sharp focus by `South Side of the Sky', a jagged, hard hitting effort with some wonderful piano in the middle, this song seems to match the wonderful painting on the cover of the album.
Next is a drum riff called `Five Percent for Nothing' (a title that was a dig at their previous manager) in which the band accompanies drummer Bill Bruford and has a very strong jazzy feel (Bill joined Yes, thinking it was a jazz band!), followed by another classic Yes track `Long Distance Runaround', again which sums up Yes rather nicely; strong vocals, accomplished playing and an imaginative feel. Steve Howe then plays `Mood for a Day', one of his finest solo pieces, very classical in flavour, which leads up to the tour de force `Heart of the Sunrise', my fave ever Yes track. Quite dizzying in its speed and mood changes, but never feeling lumpy or fast for its own sake. Squire and Bruford sparkle here in particular.
All in all, a wonderful example of Yes, and why Prog Rock, despite lazy journalists still using the same opinions written about when punk came along (it's boring etc - no mate, you're boring for not having open ears or a fresh opinion!), is still a wonderful and thought provoking style of music.
on 28 July 2007
Fragile is the album that most fans would consider Yes' first real masterwork. It's predecessor, The Yes Album paved the way for Fragile in many ways with more intricate and complex musical passages. This album saw Yes become the standard bearers of the progressive rock 'movement'.
Keyboardist Tony Kaye, who's style was always more of a rock and roll Hammond organ player a la Jon Lord, had been 'booted' out of the group and replaced by the flamboyant, curryholic caped crusader, Rick Wakeman. Wakeman's impact on Fragile would certainly be as important as Steve Howe's debut on The Yes Album.
Not only was Wakeman a more skilful keyboard player than Kaye, he liked to experiment with different sounds and effects that would add a new dimension to Yes music. He also liked to use his classical training, and inject it with his own brand of rock.
Fragile is an album that features not only group compositions, but also allows each member their own track, giving the listener a good idea of what styles and sounds that particular musician brings to Yes as a whole. This may seem a pretentious, self indulgent idea, but I think those 'solo' tracks provide good links to the bigger, more expansive group numbers.
Once again, Yes fans need no introduction to the tracks on offer here. 'Roundabout' is a perennial crowd pleaser and legendary Yes track with Steve Howe alternating between acoustic and electric guitar, some smooth bass playing by Chris Squire, some pounding Bill Bruford drums, awesome vocal harmonies and some killer soloing from Wakeman. It's got the lot.
'South Side Of The Sky' is my favourite track on the album. A stark number about a group freezing to death on a mountain climbing expedition. Steve Howe lets rip with some hard rock guitar, once again Wakeman gets in on the act with a great piano 'interlude', and the vocals are top shelf throughout. It's a real powerhouse of a song.
'Long Distance Runaround' is a nice catchy 'pop' song that shows that Yes aren't all about huge epic tracks, and album closer 'Heart Of The Sunrise' shows this lineup of the band really blowing off the cobwebs with some serious riffing from Howe, great interplay between him and Wakeman, a thumping rhythm section and a quite jaw dropping vocal display from Jon Anderson make it the perfect end to a stunning record.
As for the solo tracks, Steve Howe's Spanish guitar/English folk fusion number 'Mood For A Day' is a highlight, as is Chris Squire's 'The Fish'. In fact those two tracks actually worked very well in the live arena too. The remaining efforts are nothing more than links and album fillers.
The production is bang on the money and the package is complimented by Roger Dean's first album cover for the band.
Fragile is a top album by a top band firing on all cylinders. It's a quite marvellous debut by Wakeman, and also shows that Yes weren't prepared to stand still in any way, shape or form. This was a band pushing the boundaries and breaking the rules, and Fragile is a good example of the creative and musical confidence that was flowing through the band at this stage in their career.
on 8 August 2003
It's great when something or someone you've known for so long (in this case around 25 years) can still surprise you. Well hearing Fragile on the DVD-A format did just that, bringing a new depth and clarity to an already excellent recording.
The degree of presence provided by the higher resolution format brings the band into the room. The group pieces work best, with the title track and 'South Side of the Sky' serving as a showcase for the band's virtuosity and atmospheric vocal harmonies.
A must buy for any Yes fan. Can't wait for more Yes releases on the format.
Roger Dean hadn't quite perfected the logo and Yes hadn't quite completed their development with this fine, diverse album. Three tracks form the nucleus of 'Fragile', the best of which is the first, 'Roundabout'. This eight-minute gem displays the fluidity and energy that pervades the whole of their next album, 'Close to the Edge'. 'South Side of the Sky' and 'Heart of the Sunrise' are the other epics and both are very good. Neither, however, are as distinct in style. Steve Howe's electric guitar playing on the latter is, for example, deft but relatively anonymous.
Apart from 'Long Distance Runaround', the remaining tracks are cameos for each member of the band. Though brief, they're generally impressive. Rick Wakeman reveals the fruits of his classical training, Jon Anderson creates a typically celestial vocal arrangement and Bill Bruford gets his contribution out of the way almost apologetically. My favourites though are Chris Squire's unusual but engaging instrumental and Steve Howe's gorgeous acoustic piece.
The bonuses include a long interpretation of Paul Simon's 'America' which wouldn't have sounded out of place on the original album. 'Fragile' is one step away from Yes's peak and well worth buying if you like 'Close to the Edge'.
`Fragile' was released in the UK in November 1971, with release in the USA delayed by 2 months in order not to inhibit sales of `The Yes Album' which was still selling well in America after a slow start. It's the band's fourth studio album, the first to feature Rick Wakeman on his battery of keyboards, replacing Tony Kaye who departed midway through rehearsing the `Fragile' material. `Fragile' was also the first Yes album to employ the striking stylistic cover-artwork of Roger Dean, and is considered by many fans to be the greatest Yes collection of all. It's a personal favourite of mine, a played-almost-to-destruction 1971 vinyl copy bought as a young teenager having been in my collection for 40 years.
The album pivots around three long tracks, opening with Yes' all-time best-known number `Roundabout'. `South Side of the Sky' at 7.58 & `Heart of the Sunrise' at 11.32 are musically sophisticated tours-de-force, demonstrating the band's developing musical & compositional skills to great effect. A shorter track, the single-length `Long Distance Runaround' completes the set of numbers by the whole band. In between, each of the five offer a solo composition, the most interesting Chris Squire's `The Fish' followed by Jon Anderson's multi-tracked rhythmic vocal `We have Heaven' & Steve Howe's solo classical guitar piece `Mood for a Day.'
`Fragile' takes the distinctive style beginning to emerge on its predecessor `The Yes Album' to a new level. The compositions are more complex, the playing even tighter, the soundscape more expansive, the whole feel of the album more - well, awesome would not be an overstatement. Wakeman fits right in and brings a lot to the party, though contractual problems between A&M and Atlantic meant he couldn't be formally credited as composer of any of the material. Anderson's bizarre song lyrics, imaginative & full of poetic imagery, are an essential ingredient to the distinctive character of the music and part of the `Yes style.'
On the `expanded & remastered' version of `Fragile' you get, as a bonus, the storming 10.33 version of `America', never on the original album. You also get an early rough mix of `Roundabout' which, whilst not overshadowing the version chosen for the original album release, is interesting nevertheless. The sound mix is exemplary.
Roger Dean's very distinctive cover-art is reproduced in full, plus the 16-page photos-&-words insert which, on the original vinyl release, was stapled into the gatefold. Here the text is expanded to include an essay by Bill Martin on this period in Yes' career.
This is the best-so-far version of one of the best albums from the 1970s era, recommended unreservedly to all genuine music fans including younger aficionados interested in getting to know more about the great British prog movement of the 1970s.
on 1 September 2014
This is one fantastic album by Yes coming from a time when they had yet to fall into the excesses of their double album 'Tales From Topographic Oceans'. The epic songs on this one are only just over ten minutes and very manageable to listen to in contrast to padded out twenty minute plus songs.
'Roundabout' is a great opener and one of the band's best ever tracks. It's a beautiful blend of Yes' elegant instrumental complexities and straight ahead rock approach.
The album is also notable for featuring a solo track from each member of the band - a very nice idea tastefully done here as none of these tracks last too long but give just a taste of each member's special talents.
Aside from 'Roundabout', the main course of this album is found in the form of two lengthy tracks, 'South Side Of The Sky' and 'Heart Of The Sunrise'. Both of these tracks are brilliant and feature a mix of catchy melodies and intricate instrumental work.
on 20 August 2004
I won't comment on the album - if you're a Yes fan all you need to know is "should I buy this". The answer is "Yes you should". The next question is "How soon can I have more of these please". I would REALLY love to have 90125 and the Yes Album in this format. I have two Queen audio DVDs and this Yes album. I have a good quality surround setup and as far as I'm concerned this is the most fun music listen I've heard in years. And the sound is just super crisp - this Yes album in particular is REALLY nicely done. Some nice artwork and features on the disc as well. I prefer the DTS surround version - the Dolby surround version is somehow more subtle but less lively. Plus you get 96Khz high resolution versions as well. Great value!
on 31 January 2012
Finally, in the New Year of 1972, all the ingredients of "Classic Yes" were coalescing with the release of their fourth album, Fragile. The fantasy landscapes of the Roger Dean album cover and prototype logo - both still not quite right - compliment Jon Anderson's often bizarre lyrics . Bill Bruford's still toeing the line, for the moment but, with Wakeman's arrival, the band finally have a keyboard player who can take the band further in the direction of Jon's "symphonic-rock" vision.
The album, which quickly reached No.7 in the UK and No.4 in the US charts, combines 4 group tracks with 5 tracks from the individual members of the band. Contractural issues meant that, rather than one of his own compositions, Rick's solo contribution had to be a classical piece and the fact that most of the other tracks had already been written by the time he joined the band means that his contribution to the album was somewhat limited. The opening track, "Roundabout" - released as a single, b/w "Long Distance Runaround", in the US but not in the UK, at that time - is now an essential closer to any live performance while the final track of the original album, "Heart of the Sunrise" - the first Yes track of over ten minutes - signalled the start of a period of long-form pieces which characterised the next couple of years of the band's life. But you already know this.
I still remember hearing this album for the first time and finding it totally unlike anything I'd heard before. There's a purity to the member's individual works that's lost in the team-efforts of successive works and gives Fragile a unique feel among Yes albums.
I'll admit that when I copy these CDs to my mp3 player I skip the bonus tracks - though it's good to have a new home for the album-version of "America". As regards this version, after so many years, my brain still expects to hear the surprise-reprise from "We Have Heaven" where it used to be, after "South Side Of The Sky" (the end of Side One) but any unconscious disappointment is assuaged by it's final reappearance in it's, now, more logical position.
Every prog fan must know Yes, one of the greatest and most important artists in the genre, if not the world. If you've heard of Yes then you've probably heard of 'Roundabout,' and by extension Fragile.
Fragile is an amazing album, containing a number of classics; 'South Side of the Sky,' is simply one of the greatest songs ever written. 'Heart of the Sunrise,' is awesome, and of course there's classics like 'Roundabout,' and 'Long Distance Runaround.'
A ridiculously high standard of songwriting and musicianship is on display here and frankly, you'd be foolish not to give this awesome album at least one listen in your lifetime.
A brilliant album, buy it now!
on 27 December 2014
I first saw Yes in '68 or '69 when they were the support band for Janis Joplin at the Royal Albert Hall and to be perfectly honest they were appallingly dreadful, they had only just emerged from their previous incarnation Mabel Greer's Toyshop, thankfully they changed their name. After that evening I promptly forgot all about the band Yes and got on with life.
Some five or six years later I was at sea as an Engineer Officer when one of the "Fivers" kept playing the cassette version of the album constantly, so much so that I bought a "hooky" Singapore cassette of Fragile and played it till it wore out, as those tapes were wont to do so I replaced it with a vinyl version during my leave.
Other stuff came and went until I stumbled into Lord John Peel's telly programme "Rock Family Trees", the late '80's was it, which had one entire programme devoted to Yes and all their ups and downs and punch-ups, and once again Fragile found its' way onto my turntable once again! I do wish the Beeb would release those shows on DVD!
Not a rabid fan of Yes and did not like a lot of their stuff but this is a classic 5* album that I treasure, and for me this line-up is the best.