Yes - Fragile
1972 brought Yes their major break through in the shape of a surprise hit single Roundabout . Catapulting the band from cult status in America to a top 5 album hit and cementing their success in the UK . Late '71 had seen keyboard player Tony Kaye leave (to join Flash and old Yes mate Peter Banks) and be replaced by Rick Wakeman. With heavy touring and financial strain Fragile was recorded in 2 months again with Eddie Offord at the production helm.
What is clear despite some indulgences on the record is that Yes had refined their sound further. The bass playing of Chris Squire is more prominent and indeed leads many of the main musical themes and the whole Yes sound has a more organic feel. Wakeman's playing is flashier at times than Kaye's and whilst it would lead the band ultimately to greater heights but another dominant musical personality added to the friction factor which would continue to plague the band.
Roundabout kicks the album off in a confident manner, a classical guitar intro is quickly despatched behind the main jaunty inventive commercial groove, the song unfolds in typical Yes fashion eventually encompassing a slow passage before kicking back into the main theme.
The album is ultimately more fragmented than its predecessor due to the decision to allow each member their own individualpiece of music. Two of these resulted in nice solo interludes from Squire ( Fish ) and Howe's classical guitar piece Mood For A Day but the other 3 are so slight as to add little to proceedings other than create little interludes.
However the epic bookends Roundabout and Heart Of The Sunrise and two other main songs provide the bulk of the album. Long Distance Run Around is the shortest at just under 4 minutes, a commercial mini-epic . South Side Of The Sky for the first time shows the more challenging side of Yes, the main theme hints at free Jazz /Rock fusion and is a much more aggressive musical mix than they had previously attempted however the centre piece is a soothing piece of harmony singing with little piano motifs that evoke Take Five era Dave Brubeck. The highlight of the record is Heart Of The Sunrise eleven minutes of changing time signatures and a soaring and reflective chorus perfectly conceived in the new mature Yes style.
Fragile also saw the debut of Roger Dean's artwork which became so much of the Yes story. The packaging of the disc reflects this as the series moves away from plain jewel cases into an extravagant outer sleeve housing a three piece fold out replica of the original vinyl, it's a nice touch that is repeated through the Dean releases with the exception of Drama.
Fragile couldn't repeat the cohesion of it's predecessor but it does reflect a band moving and growing at a remarkable pace.
© Ben Campbell
For this reissue, Analogue productions have impeccably released the record in a beautiful hard gatefold cover. This is inside its own protective plastic sleeve. the record itself is inside a plastic lined paper inner. Although some think this sounds quite sharp sounding, it has been remastered from the original analog/ue tapes by Steve Hoffman and we can assume this is as close to the original as you can get. Perfect 180grm, completely silent vinyl pressing. Analogue Productions use their own record label instead of original label.