on August 17, 2014
The very first Yes album that I ever heard and owned and it has a very special place in my heart. This masterpiece of prog contains individual contributions from each individual member - Can and Brahms by Wakeman, We Have Heaven by Anderson, Five Percent for Nothing by Bruford, The Fish by Squire and Mood For A Day by Howe - that are all quirky and brilliant pieces reflective of each member. The 4 other group written songs are also awesome tunes. Roundabout kicks off the album and as its hit status reflects, it one one of Yes' most defining songs of this period. South Side of the Sky and Long Distance Runaround are also prog rock classics that feature numerous time changes and brilliant musicianship from all members of the band. However, the standout for me has always been Heart of the Sunrise with its quiet intro combined with its slow build up into its numerous changes of direction finally xclimaxing with the ending crescendo. All in all - A MASTERPIECE. The new CD version also includes Yes' cover of Simon and Garfunkel's America which was never originally released on album but performed live many times. It is great to see it included here and only adds to the package. Totally recommended !!!!
on January 25, 2003
Probably the best thing about the new edition of Fragile is the beautiful new packaging. The liner notes include many more photos and a hagiographic but interesting essay. Presumably the new packaging is supposed to recreate the original LP edition (which I don't own, so I can't comment on).
The bonus tracks: America is a fantastic song that I've never heard before buying this album. The "early rough mix" of Roundabout is a curio at best, and it doesn't sound much different than the final version. I think they should've put the single edit version of Roundabout on here instead.
Another good thing is that the "footsteps" at the beginning of South Side Of The Sky have been edited to instead be at the end of We Have Heaven. SSOTS is one of my favorite Yes songs and those footsteps annoyed me.
If you don't own Fragile on CD already, buy this edition immediately. If you already own the original CD release, I guess it depends on whether you're a big enough Yes fan to pay for new packaging and 1 1/2 additional songs.
on November 5, 2003
While 1971's The Yes Album gave Yes their first exposure in the United States, Fragile was their first bona fide hit album. Cosmic keyboardist Rick Wakeman was brought into replace the talented but dangerously unadventurous Tony Kaye, thus completing the "classic Yes" lineup. The album consisted of four true songs, and five short-form compositions from each of the band members. It's a concept that works rather well.
The opener "Roundabout" was a huge hit, and rightfully so. Every single aspect of the song- vocals, guitars, keyboards, drums, and especially Chris Squire's ferocious and unrelenting bass- are perfect, and blended together to create one of the greatest classic rock songs of all time. No matter how many times I hear this on the radio, I'll never get tired of it.
"South Side Of The Sky" is one of my all-time favorite Yes songs. This is a band that rarely treads on the darker side of music, but when they do, it works great (i.e., future classics like "The Gates Of Delirium" and "Machine Messiah"). Bill Bruford gives a stupendous performance- it's probably the closest to straightforward rock 'n' roll as this jazz fusion drummer would ever get. Guitarist Steve Howe gives a hard and heavy performance comparable to Led Zeppelin. The middle section of the song, with Wakeman's foreboding piano and the gorgeous vocal harmonies, is the highlight of the entire album for me.
The three and a half minute "Long Distance Runaround" is pretty typical of early-70's AOR, but it's great nonetheless, with its playful guitar and rich rhythm section. "Heart Of The Sunrise" is the longest song Yes had recorded up to that point at eleven minutes. This is a true fan favorite that is played at most every Yes concert. However, to offer a dissenting opinion, I don't like this song. The opening section, while seeming brilliant the first time you hear it, loses its effect after being repeated ad nauseam what seems like constantly throughout the song. Jon Anderson gives an impressive unaccompanied vocal performance, but it really doesn't fit in the context of the song. "Heart Of The Sunrise" is just plain boring, to put it bluntly. It seems like it belongs on Yes's 1974 dud "Tales From Topographic Oceans."
The "solo" pieces are a mixed bag. Rick Wakeman's "Cans And Brahms" is pointless, as is Bill Bruford's 35-second "5% For Nothing" (even though it is interesting from a technical standpoint). Jon Anderson's "We Have Heaven" is upbeat and comical- it's a very fun little ditty. Steve Howe's acoustic solo "Mood For A Day" is good, but pales in comparison to the live version on 1973's Yessongs. Chris Squire's "The Fish (Shindleria Praematurus)" is easily the best of the solo spots- not only is it incredibly impressive; it's also very fun to listen to. "The Fish" is presented as an add-on to "Long Distance Runaround."
The bonus tracks include an early mix of "Roundabout" which is interesting to listen to once, but then becomes pointless, as it's not much different than the final version. Yes's cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "America" is a masterpiece. It's kind of misleading to call this a cover, as the only resemblance it has to the original is the lyrics. Steve Howe gives what is in my opinion his greatest guitar solo on the ten-minute track. If this were part of Fragile proper, it would be its best song.
The remastered and expanded Fragile is definitely a must-have for any music fan, if only for "Roundabout," "South Side Of The Sky," and "America."
on August 19, 2007
Yes has got to be one of the best progressive rock groups ever. They have great lyrics, great instrumental music, great vocals and their just plain cool. Jon Anderson is such a talented singer and his voice is amazing.
Fragile has the hit single Roundabout [best sing ever!] As well as features We Have Heaven, Heart of the Sunrise, South Side of The Sky and many more. This edition also features two bonus tracks America and Roundabout rough mix. I love the songs on this album and I also love the art. I think its very interesting.
Besides the amazing Jon Anderson on vocals Yes is made up of Steve Howe [Electric and acoustic guitars], Bill Bruford [drums and percussion], Chris Squire [Bass Guitar] and of coarse Rick Wakeman [keyboards, mellotrom and synthesizer].
So buy this CD without question. It is amazing and is a classic of rock. Yes is a great band and they are one of my favorites. I think I was born into the wrong generation. None of my friends like or know old bands like these. Oh well. That's not a problem. I still love Yes and other bands of old.
on July 2, 2004
The reviewers below really hit it dead on: this is not Yes' most cohesive or best album, but it still is one of the essential albums in any rock collection. Every member of Yes is incredibly talented: Jon Anderson's raspy voice sounds like two people singing at the same time; Chris Squire plays bass as if it was a lead instrument; Steve Howe's guitar at times rings with classical underpinnings and at other times rips out overwhelming lightning fast rock riffs; Wakeman's only peer on keyboards is Keith Emerson; and I suspect Bill Bruford is one of the few drummers who could possibly anchor this much talent.
Without reviewing the songs individually, the music is some of the most complex to be produced by a mainstream rock band with extended instrumental passages which paint great musical landscapes. The lyrics are pure poetry, the meaning of which is not always ascertainable. In a way this enhances the band in that it allows Jon Anderson's voice to be a musical instrument communicating pure emotion without the necessity of resorting to the meaning of the words he is voicing.
Amazingly, 30 years after this album was released, YES! can still fill the 2500 seat Universal Amputheater in Los Angeles, with seats going for an average of $... a pop. That says a lot for the quality of the musicians and their compositions. And that is why this album is essential to a music collection.
Why buy the DVD-Audio?
CDs are harsh and brittle. They produce listening fatigue in minutes, and have always left me fiddling with the trebble in a feeble attempt correct the uncorrectable sound. Nothing worked. So, for serious music appreciation, I needed to resort to the long playing vinyl album. These have their own problems such as limited dynamic range, transient distortion, poor pressing quality, tape hiss and noise, scratches and thousands of pops and ticks, rumble, wow and flutter, and expensive playback equipment which needed care and tuning. And worst of all, I had to get up to flip the album half-way through!
DVD-Audio and SACDs fix these problems. Initially, I put on the CD of Yes' "Close to the Edge" just to assure myself that CDs aren't for extended listening. I then played the DVD-A and the vinyl of Fragile at the same time and flipped back and forth. The stereo track on the DVD-A revealed instruments which were burried on the vinyl: Steve Howe's guitar has a beautiful warmth to it which is missing on the vinyl -- the ring and sustain of the guitar notes at the beginning of Roundabout held on longer; the echo from the room in which Anderson was singing became more apparent; Wakeman's synthesizers sounded crystaline without harshness; and you could hear with clarity the wood of Bruford's sticks as they hit the rim of a drum. The 5.1 track reveals even more, most notably in "Cans and Brahms" when Wakeman hits a deep bass organ peddle and the room vibrates.
A must have album. If you have a DVD player, I also recommend Yes Live at the House of Blues and Keys to Ascension.
on September 19, 2003
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.
on August 25, 2003
FRAGILE, the prototypical prog-rock masterpiece, gets a very nice makeover with this new release. The CD packaging is first rate, the sound is brilliant, and the new additional tracks add great interest. I must agree with an earlier reviewer that "Heart of the Sunrise" is the real revelation here. Always one of my favorite tracks, it takes on an added vitality on this CD...it is the aural equivalent of a velvet covered brick. It's where virtuosity and soul collide in a rich tapestry of sonic mayhem and sublime pastoral passages. And, of course, all of the other tracks have become classics in their own right. Somewhere in the world at this instant, "Roundabout" is playing on a classic rock radio station...that song being the epitome of "classic rock." On each track, the instrumental passages sparkle, and the vocals are crisper and richer than ever. Turn "Mood for a Day" up LOUD and be amazed all over again at Steve Howe's gorgeous and innovative guitar. Sure, you may have already purchased the LP, the 8-track, the cassette, the CD, the enhanced CD, the remastered CD, and who knows, maybe even the reel-to-reel. But, go on and pick up this edition of FRAGILE. You know you want to...go ahead!
on April 26, 2003
It's possible no one will ever see this, as Amazon's warped indexing system makes it almost impossible to FIND this DVD-A (it doesn't come up on ANY search for Yes OR Fragile, nor is it listed in Amazon's DVD-A section), but here goes...
I've read most of the reviews of this DVD-A piece; nowhere did I see mention of a very important fact: This is NOT the 5.1 mix of the classic Fragile album. There are a number of points on this version that have unforgiveable editing changes from the audio CD. Yes, it's true the mix allows you to hear things you were never able to make out before, but I believe SOME of those things were never IN the original released mix. There are changes here that remind me of Frank Zappa's own CD release of We're Only In It for the Money, where he changed not just the mix, but the CONTENT of the pieces. It was horrendous, and I couldn't wait until the original mix was eventually released. I'm astounded that no other review I read mentioned the cuts in "We Have Heaven", "South Side of the Sky" and "The Fish", to name the most glaring of them. The changes are small--only a measure or so removed or changed--but they ruin the music, to my ear. I also object to the small changes in the arrangements (the very ends of "Roundabout" and "We Have Heaven", for example).
And where the hell is the bass? Squire's bass playing and Bruford's drumming were the elements that REALLY separated Yes from other prog-rock groups of the time; a new mix should CERTAINLY have brought the bottom of Squire's sound out more to match the high end that was a trademark of his style. I should say that I DID like the mix on "The Fish", lack of bottom and that inexcusable 6/4 measure (in a 7/4 piece) near the end notwithstanding.
To my particular ear, Fragile (my first DVD-A) is the least impressive of the DVD-A pieces I've bought, but perhaps that's because I'm a bit fanatical about Yes. Surprisingly, ELP's Brain Salad Surgery came off much better--and I'm entirely predisposed towards Yes and not an ELP fan at all. It's not terrible, but it could have been much better.
Now, what I want is a COMPLETELY FAITHFUL DVD-A of Tales from Topographic Oceans. (Don't hold your breath...)
on March 15, 2003
Yes was "different" from the very first. The orchestrated styling of the group coupled with the unique vocal sound of Jon Anderson created a group that has always been in a class by itself. While Yes had progressive leanings from the beginning, "The Yes Album" and "Fragile" firmly established Yes as the leading progressive rock group, overshadowing The Moody Blues and King Crimson.
Rick Wakeman replaced Tony Kaye on keyboards, and brought a symphonic interpretation to rock music that would be even more fully realized on his later solo efforts. Yes had already been creating detailed and complex music in "The Yes Album", with three songs near or beyond nine minutes in length, and "I've Seen all Good People" at nearly seven minutes. Rick added to the already complex rock music by using synthesizers that focused on an orchestra-like sound.
One of the characteristics of Yes' progressive rock has always been the surrealistic lyrics that are often obscure, sometimes nearly or even completely incomprehensible. Jon Anderson later pointed out that this style may have peaked in "Tales from Topographic Oceans", where it was revealed that the words were meant to convey a sound and feeling as much as meaning, and the sounds of the words were chosen more than the meaning; so one is often left trying to seek meaning in the choice of the words when the meaning may be better found musically than lyrically. Read the title; assume the title tells you everything you need to know about the meaning of the song unless the lyrics are readily apparent.
Back in the dark ages of the 70s music from the bass guitar seems to have been better appreciated than it is today, where it seems to have been relegated to establishing a beat and little more. Listening to "The Fish (Shindleria Praematurus)" you can see how the bass guitar can lead and set the musical theme for a song. Chris Squire is one of the best bass guitar players ever, making the bass guitar sing and act as a real musical instrument versus a string equivalent of drums.
As with many multi-member groups, the effort of each of the members is highlighted on at least one song. Steve Howe is prominent in the instrumental "Mood for a Day", which has excellent acoustic guitar playing that seems more akin to Spanish music than progressive rock, yet it fits so well into this album. Bill Bruford's somewhat experimental and percussive "Five Per Cent for Nothing" is too short, and yet it is well-used as the transition from "South Side of the Sky" to the classic "Long Distance Runaround".
I could spend many pages of discussion about this album because there is so much content within it. Often maligned by critics that never had the intelligence to understand progressive rock (overblown, pretentious, etc.), "Fragile" and others of its ilk is a highly experimental musical style that has sometimes emulated classically orchestrated music, but always tries to create something that is off from the mainstream of anything. From our perspective, this type of music reinterpreted the boundaries of rock music to be anything an artist could conceive and execute. That the music was readily accessible and enjoyable was an added plus. A must-have for every fan of progressive rock and Yes.
on February 27, 2003
Whenever most people mention prog rock, you can get weird looks and it is understandable to a degree -- it takes more than a passing interest in music and a little patience to dig into the headier symphonic jazz fusion 'thinking man rock' found within that genre; it is not a genre known for its accessibility.
But if any group can be both listenable and retain its prog rep, its YES. And on Fragile, the band combine stellar playing and complex arrangements with catchy riffs and singable passages.
The album marks the debut of keyboard caped wonder Rick Wakeman. His ease with a various array of keys brought a new canvas of sounds for YES to play against, and the combination works well, like on the hit Roundabout, or on the album's grand opus Heart Of the Sunrise. South Side Of the Sky is a rocker that features a quieter middle section that sounds as if it could have been clipped from an ELP album.
The band continue to build inviting vocal harmonies atop their musical landscapes, led by singer/lyricist Jon Anderson, who was also beginning to truly find himself as a writer here as he paints abstract stream of consiousness phrases that roll and weave their way into your ears without much need of ever really knowing what it all means.
The other members are all tremendously talented at their respected instruments, and they know it; each band member is given a slot to showcase his particular gifts. An indication of artistic merit, or ego?
No matter -- this disc is a classic, and while it isn't as cohesive as its follow-up Close To the Edge, it offers a good starting point for those interested in the band.