Fragile (1971)


  
1. Roundabout 2. Cans and Brahms 3. We Have Heaven 4. South Side of the Sky 5. Five Percent of Nothing 6. Long Distance Rundaround 7. The Fish (Schindleria Praematuris) 8. Mood for a Day 9. Heart of the Sunrise

 

I’m guessing that most fans would probably rate this record as the band’s best – if not the top 3 or the top 5. This album has two very strong things in its favor when looking at the history of this band. First, it features the band’s best known song Roundabout. Second, Rick Wakeman is now the new keyboard player. This means that the “classic” line up of Anderson-Bruford-Wakeman-Howe-Squire is now in place. When I say “classic”, I use that term rather loosely since this band had an incredible array of lineups throughout its career. But for whatever reason, this lineup seemed to be the “favorite” of the more serious fans.

Even considering both of the above mentioned “reasons”, I’m a bit hesitant to join on this bandwagon. First, the “classic” lineup was only featured on two studio albums before the lineup shuffled once again. Second, as good as Roundabout is, it’s worn out its welcome a bit for me. Since Yes really never had that many radio friendly singles, this was the song that seemed to always be played whenever a Classic Rock radio station “needed to play a ‘Yes’ song”. I’m also guessing it’s been played at every Yes show since its inception – probably somewhere near the end of each show. That’s a bit unfair to label a song like this in such an unfavorable light – it is a great song. But it is what it is, and I just became a bit tired of the song.

History has also told us that this album had to be “made in a hurry”. This was probably much more common when artists were expected to release a new album every year, in addition to going on a prolonged tour to support the particular album. So the fact that they had a new keyboard player that they were trying to assimilate probably added to the pressure. The end result means that every member has a “solo” piece on this record since there was a bit of space yet to be filled. Each one of these songs is fairly short, some better than others. Bill Bruford’s Five Percent of Nothing, sadly, is an incredible waste of space clocking in at only 37 seconds). These interludes are a bit too choppy and, unfortunately, disturb the flow a bit.

In fact, in addition to Roundabout, the only other “real” songs featured are Heart of the Sunrise, Long Distance Runaround and South Side of the Sky. All succeed for the most part. Heart of the Sunrise is one of those long, epic pieces that manages to still be played at most shows. As much as I enjoy the song, I’ve always felt the first 3 minutes were a tad too monotonous. It sounds like they were trying to fill space on the record (which we now know, they probably were). Long Distance Runaround is one of those rare Yes songs that sounds rather radio friendly without too much prog-rock mumbo jumbo. Again, it still remains a fan favorite. It’s also fairly short by the band’s standards, clocking in at about three and a half minutes.South Side of the Sky is probably the least known of the bunch, but it’s a very successful tune on its own merits. Like many Yes songs, the quality of the piece is best revealed when the listener really listens to the song, as opposed to having it play on the stereo while one does housework or something. Close observation reveals excellent musicianship and harmony within the band.

Had they ditched the five solo pieces and replaced them with one more solid song, the appeal of this record would go up a notch for my personal tastes. It’s still a great record, and the fact that it was a bit rushed tells you that the members had a solid grasp on what they were doing.

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