Monday, March 19, 2012

"Fragile" by Yes (1971)

View the Premise & Ground Rules for Revisiting Vinyl.

Fun Fact: "Fragile" turns out to be an incredibly appropriate title.

Filed between: Frankie Yankovic and Neil Young.

Key Tracks: Round-About is pure, unabashed musicality.  If you haven't heard this one, you should check it out.  Heart of the Sunrise is good too.

Obvious Filler & Swings-and-Misses: All of the solo songs (we'll get to this in a minute) - Cans and Brahms, We Have Heaven and The FishFive Per Cent of Nothing is the closest thing to a decent track on any of the solo outings, and even it sounds more like an etude than an actual song.  Mood for a Day also almost works, mostly because it sounds like a collaboration and was apparently taken from pieces of each band member's efforts.

My Overall Rating of the Tracks (Collaborations): Recommended Listening (3/4 stars)

My Overall Rating of the Tracks (Solos): Don't bother.

Token prog rock lines on "Fragile":
-"The eagles' dancing wings create, as weather spins out of hand" - Round-About
"A snow storm, a stimulating voice of warmth of the sky of warmth when you die" - South Side of the Sky
"Hot colour melting the anger to stone" - Long Distance Run-Around
"Straight light moving and removing SHARPNESS of the coulur sun shine" - Heart of the Sunrise

Prog rock is all about the concept.  The liner notes of "Fragile" explain its concept.  They say, "Five tracks on this album (sic) are the individual ideas, personally arranged and organised, by the five members of the Band."

Basically, interwoven among the band collaborations are solo efforts - tracks where each band member (including the vocalist) gets a single track to overdub as many things as possible and create an interesting piece of music using only his instrument (mostly).  Yes gets high marks for the idea.  Unfortunately, the execution of those tracks is severely lacking and tends to devolve into pretentious self-eggrandizing on "Fragile."

Lets look at The Fish for example.  It's the bass guitar solo effort and bass is the only instrument that appears on the entire track.  And it falls completely flat.  It's weird and unintersting.  What's really odd about it is the fact that the bass is the most prominent, skillful instrument on all the collaborative tracks.  And really, all of the instruments work incredibly well when everyone's pulling together.  The various solos on Round-About and South Side of the Sky are amazing, but they only work with at least a semblance of context.

But I must stress again this this record is worth having for Round-About and the three other collaborative tracks.

So, is it an album?  No.  Not even the random, hidden-track reprise can tie it all together.  The idea of everyone literally doing his own thing pretty much cuts this one off at the ankles.  However, if the band had collaborated on more songs and jettisoned the "solo" concept, it would have worked really well.  The collaborations are certainly like-minded efforts, and the words in those songs fold back on themselves and their neighbors like a lyrical Mobius strip.

Up next, "More of the Monkees" by... well, duh... The Monkees.

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