Yes - Fragile (Mike review)

I've been pulling out a lot of old classics of late and while I'm stretching the definition of classic by labelling Yes's fourth album with it, in the annals of rock history it probably could be considered one. Anyone who grew up listening to rock radio might remember the yearly song battles where they'd pair classics up tournament style only for nearly every year for the final two songs to be Yes - Roundabout vs Led Zeppelin - Stairway to Heaven, with Roundabout losing perrenially to the Zep 4 mainstay. Fragile also contains what is a prog rock canon piece, the timeless Heart of the Sunrise, which is so strong it almost drags the rest of the album along with it, it's a demonstration in itself that perfect symphonic rock also has a cosmic or ethereal element to it. Also quite wonderful but far less known, the side 1 closer South Side of the Sky which probably ranks with Siberian Khatru and the two long pieces on side 2 of Relayer as Yes's secondary great canon, those songs perhaps not the peak material that they'd always play live or which would make Classic Yes, but enough to make you partially forget that Yes were probably, taken as a career, more responsible for bad music than good music. Also making Classic Yes, undoubtedly due to Chris Squire's insistence, the tedious bass feature The Fish, which was one of five short pieces all contributed by the musicians and probably the main reason why Fragile doesn't quite hold together as an album despite how strong some of the collective material is. Wakeman and Howe's pieces are basically tedious classical guff that make me run for the skip button, while Anderson's We Have Heaven is, surprisingly, the best of the five, a clever vocal montage that ends about when it should. And Bruford's Five Percent of Nothing is such a short skiffle that it's barely worth noting. In fact it's almost worth just reprogramming this to play Roundabout (assuming you aren't tired of it, to me this is a track like Don't Fear the Reaper or Carry on Wayward Son that are practically timeless in my book) South Side of the Sky, Heart of the Sunrise and, if you have the newest remaster, the America bonus track. Perhaps in a way this album perfectly demonstrates both the highs and lows of the central progressive rock movement, before they'd go on to put it all together with the near-perfect Close to the Edge and nearly permanently burn themselves out.

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