Yes - Fragile
What makes a classic? Is it staying power or the ability to stay relevant years after it was created? Is it the way it reverberates within thousands or even millions of listeners? Or is it simply the noting of such a claim by enough people in the business of criticising music and musicians? Whatever it may be, there are certain undeniable classics out there, albums that paved new lanes or cemented over others to become landmarks and pinnacles. For the progressive powerhouse known as Yes, it didn't take long to create such a phenominal release. Less than 5 years into their recording careers, they would release Fragile, an album that sounds as fresh and relevant now than it ever has.
During the early 70's, progressive rock was slowly shifting from bare-boned rock to a more expressive and descriptive sound; what changed the most was the lack of fear in certain bands in trying to incorporate hard rock and even some pop into the mix. Yes were one of the originators of pure prog, letting their songs branch into unknown territories and always impressing with their vast wealths of talent and sophistication. The melodic and emotive vocals of Jon Anderson, the virtuoso guitarwork of Steve Howe, the bass mastery of Chris Squire. Fragile, to get down to the actual review section of this review, showcases the entire band at their songwriting peaks. No other collection of Yes songs comes close to matching these in terms of writing or structuring, as the album as a whole flows like one wonderful suite. Opener "Roundabout" arguably has the most to do with this album's staying power, as it's always been a radio mainstay and a song (apart from "Owner of a Lonely Heart") that most know the band for. "Cans and Brahms" and "We Have Heaven" are lovely interludes, the former a classical piece performed by keyboardist-supreme Rick Wakeman, the latter more of a full song with soaring vocals and tribal beats. "Long Distance Runaround" and "Heart of the Sunrise" are the album's two best songs, the latter stretching a satisfying 11 minutes.
All in all, Fragile is a classic of one of music's most influential movements of the past 50 years. In terms of creative spirit, Yes were always at the forefront of innovation in the field of rock music, and almost every album they released in the 70's was a tribute not only to the definitions of progression but to the undeniable dedication that true musicians have to their craft. This is one record that will never fail to impress me, no matter how many times I hear it.
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