Atlantic Records, 1972

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Some readers may remember back in April I pulled Yes's Tales From Topographic Oceans out for a serious case of Texas whup-ass. I honestly don't remember a time I had more fun writing a negative review.

Now that the smoke has finally cleared from that one, I decided I should be fair and pull out of the Archives (where we won money betting on the Packers Monday night) one of their albums I enjoyed from my youth - 1972's Fragile. It was not nearly as pompous, and does contain some incredible performances, despite being incredibly dated.

Yes was in the middle of yet another personnel change -- like this would ever change in the band's history -- replacing keyboardist Tony Kaye with Rick Wakeman. The band was coming off the semi-hit "I've Seen All Good People," and was ready to break into the big leagues. They succeeded -- Fragile became their second-highest charting album, hitting number four.

The album opens up with "Roundabout," an eight-minute opus that seems to wrap up the band the best for this period of their career. From the opening guitar build from Steve Howe to the technical bass line of Chris Squire to Jon Anderson's lifting vocals that almost seem detached from the music, this is a song that doesn't seem as long as the record label claims it is.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The only real negative of this album is the "individual ideas" that each artist is given room to create. I'll concede that each artist is a master of their instrument - do they really need their own private forum to show off? Drummer Bill Bruford's "Five Per Cent Of Nothing" is a waste of vinyl, and Wakeman's "Cans And Brahms" is a bit overblown - should that really surprise me, though? (Editor's note: When re-posting this review, I learned that the reason the album features these individual works is because the band needed to get an album out to help pay for the costs of Wakeman's equipment. Thanks to Bruce Eder of All-Music Guide for the enlightenment.)

Now then - having run this concept into the ground, I again make a concession that there are some good performances here. Howe's "Mood For A Day" is a nice piece for the classical guitar, though I prefer an instrumental he did on the video for Yessongs more. Anderson's vocal montage on "We Have Heaven" is beautiful - though one wonders if we needed the uncredited reprise at the end of the album. And while I'm not particularly fond of Squire's contrubition with "The Fish {Schindleria Praematurus)" it is forever part of our minds for being linked to the single "Long Distance Runaround."

So in reality, we have an album which is really made up of only four real songs, two of which we've already touched on. Of the two remaining tracks, the real treasure is "Heart Of The Sunrise," another epic opus which begins to demonstrate that Yes knew there was a fine line between art rock and pompousity, a line they choose not to cross here - smart move. The remaining track, "South Side Of The Sky," is one I just can't really get into for some reason.

Fragile is also noteworthy for being the first Yes album which featured the artwork of Roger Dean,who would be almost permanently linked to the band for his work for them. The "bubble" logo for the band, however, was not developed yet - it would make its debut on Close To The Edge.

But like the psychadelia that is featured in Dean's artwork, some of Yes's music has not aged well - maybe this is why I can't get into "South Side Of The Sky." Still, most of the band performances on Fragile -- as well as a few solo performances - are quite enjoyable 25 years after this one first hit the bins.

Rating: B-

User Rating: A-


dude i totally know that you patted yourself on the back profusely for giving this album a not so great review (because its cool to oppose common view and you know thats why you wrote this) but you know that despite any bogus claims you have about the "showing off" taking away from the quality of the album (and its hilarious that the editor had to correct that statement) but the fact is that your trying to hard to put a critical viewpoint on the album and your not considering that the seperate ideas, although a tad pretentious at first glance, give this album the feel and aura that it has.
i mean if the editor has to correct the statement that practically sums up this review... i think it should just be deleted... there is another much better review of this album on daily vault
Sigh - where do I begin with you? I thought the review was rather positive - I mean, a "B-" might not be great in your eyes, but coming from someone whose job it is to be critical of these discs when he listens to them, I thought it ended up coming out smelling pretty good.

As for the "editor" adding in the correction - ahem, *I* added the explanation. Sometimes, one doesn't know all the facts surrounding a disc, and I've never claimed to have inside knowledge of any of the recording processes of any of the discs I've reviewed. If anything, I think my posting that there was an explanation for why things were so admits that I'm willing to continue to learn for my craft.

You prefer the other review of "Fragile"? Fine - won't hurt my feelings. But that's the beauty of this site - you can get differing views of the same album without the ass-kissing towards the labels, since we have nothing to lose. At least we listen to the damn things (Hell-OOO, Maxim!).

© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Atlantic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.