Sunday, July 15, 2018

Mountains come out of the sky and they stand there.

Fragile (AM9)
Artist: Yes
Release Date: January 4, 1972
Label: Atlantic
Producer: Yes, Eddie Offord
Length: 39:52
Tracks: 1) "Roundabout" (8:30); 2) "Cans and Brahms" (1:38); 3) "We Have Heaven" (1:40); 4) "South Side of the Sky" (8:02); 5) "Five Percent for Nothing" (0:35); 6) "Long Distance Runaround" (3:30); 7) "The Fish; Schindleria Praematurus" (2:39); 8) "Mood for a Day" (3:00); 9) "Heart of the Sunrise" (11:27)
Personnel: Jon Anderson, Vocals; Steve Howe, electric and acoustic guitars; Chris Squire, bass; Rick Wakeman, Hammond organ, grand piano, RMI 368 electra-piano, harpsichord, mellotron, Moog; Bill Bruford, drums, percussion.

Sprawling; precise; adventurous; that otherworldly guitar of Howe, the behemoth bass of Chris Squire, Wakeman's dazzling keyboards, the jazz-inspired drumming of Bill Bruford, and that voice of Jon Anderson's; no other like it, a voice as moving as when the Whos down in Whoville sang without packages, boxes, or bags. (Nahoo Dooray!) Fragile is musical alchemy. Orchestrationally orgasmic.

Fragile contains the greatest rock hit ever written in "Roundabout;" rock not pop, AOR that made it to the top 40. The song has everything. A signature intro, hard driving riffs, unbelievable musicianship, a dramatic bridge of quiet vocal harmonies, and a landmark guitar solo to boot. In general, the Rolling Stone Top 500 list has a lack of love for Prog Rock that borders on the inexcusable, but snubbing Fragile for the likes of Labelle or, here's another one, Sleater Kenny, F-ing really? (Somebody really likes Portlandia.) Two words: SHARP! DISTANCE!

The LP contrasts five shorter individual impressions with four generally longer group collaborations. The solo works are clever but not exhaustive examples of each member's virtuosity and encompass themes from the overtly academic to the abstract and sublime, including an inspiring example of Steve Howe's musical prowess in "Mood For A Day". The four group collaborations are superbly crafted pieces that display impeccable musicianship circumscribed on exacting arrangements that ebb and flow, are at once melodious and abstruse, that surge to powerful crescendos before suddenly subsiding - an engrossing experience for the listener, particularly in its prog-lite accessibility. The Anderson vocals are lush, graceful and majestic, highlighting an increasingly metaphysical lyric base that builds on a theme of earthly and universal affiliation (like Anderson, I'm not really sure what I'm talking about). Whatever the cryptic meaning, the lyrics warrant debate. Overall Fragile has a an artistic rancor that counterpoints intense collusion, leaving the impression that the band is moving in an even more ambitious, adventurous direction, which, of course, it was.