YES — Fragile (review)

YES — Fragile album cover Album · 1971 · Jazz Related Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
In 1971 YES was riding the prog wave by releasing not just one but two classics that year. After going through several lineup changes it was time for yet another. Tony Kaye was asked to leave the band for not wanting to adapt to the group’s ever expanding musical vision and incorporating more modern keyboard sounds to the mix and as a result the band scouted out Strawbs keyboardist Rick Wakeman cementing the band’s most famous and celebrated of lineups in their several decade career. Noticeably different between “The Yes Album” and FRAGILE is on the former it had a bluegrass and countrified feel at times whereas with the addition of the classically trained Wakeman, the emphasis is much more in the classical music arena but plenty of jazz related influences can be found as well especially in Bill Bruford's excellent drumming department.

This album marked huge success in the YES world. The album proved the power of prog and its holy progginess hit the top 10 on the Billboard album charts and even spawned a top 40 hit with “Roundabout.” FRAGILE also marks a new beginning with Roger Dean hopping on board to create his fantasy inspired artwork which would be a staple of the band throughout the 70s. Without doubt the album cover and title are inspired by the recently invented Earth Day and the global awareness of just how delicate and FRAGILE the life support systems on this planet can be.

The album does have one thing in common with “The Yes Album.” The four longer full band tracks alternate with five shorter tracks that each member of the band contributed as to give each member a glimpse into their musical vision that isn’t always apparent when melding in a band situation. The idea was conjured up more for a money saving one than an act of brilliance because it saved time and money in the recording process. Consequently the album may sound a little disjointed but after listening to this for years i have kinda come to the point where it is ok and i actually like the turbulent changes ranging from Wakeman’s Brahms cover (Cans And Brahms), to Anderson’s vocal dubbing fantasy (We Have Heaven), to Bruford’s 4/4 timing with proggy-to-the-max dressing (Five Per Cent For Nothing) and Howe’s beautiful classical guitar piece (Mood For A Day).

The longer tracks, “Roundabout,” “Long Distance Roundabout” and “Heart Of The Sunrise” have to be some of the most catchy sounding progressive music ever! Each delivers a different mood mixing beautiful melodies with hearty instrumental workouts. The new lineup melds well together and although this album could be deemed a rehearsal for the following more sophisticated albums, FRAGILE works wonderfully in its own right providing yet another transitory experience in the fluidity of YES’ ever-changing career. This is one of my first prog albums so it has that specialness attached as well, but even listening to it now with a more objective ear, it rings a uniqueness and warmth that very few other albums in history do.
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