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YES – FRAGILE – Super Deluxe Edition with LP + 4 x CDs & Blu Ray due in June. (1971/ 2024)

Burning Shed has announced the release of a special edition of YES’s “Fragile” album on 28th June. This is as good an opportunity as any for digging into the archives and a Prog Rock survey I edited, published by Acid Dragon. Respondents included Roine Stolt, Mike Stobbie of Pallas, Tim Bowness of No Man, Ken Senior, Paul McMahon of Haze, and Fred Tomsett, the editor of the wonderful Hammill/ VDGG magazine “Pilgrims”; a broad spectrum of opinion then with 100 sets of preferences enshrined in ‘A Final Cut’ Robert Fripp declined the invitation to participate, but was very nice about it - I still have the postcard he sent!

This kind of pastime (that some might consider frivolous) goes back to when I was kid pouring over the charts in papers like Record Mirror, Sounds and Melody Maker, not to be taken seriously but good fun. It surprised me a little that “Fragole” didn’t even make the top 30 in the survey. “Close to the Edge” was #1 and “Going for the One” (somewhat surprisingly) was #2. “Relayer” (possibly my own favourite Yes album) was #10, “The Yes Album” #13.

Anyway, after re-reading (with a little embarrassment) what I said about it in 1998, I have now produced a vastly amended version:

(Roundabout, Cans and Brahms, We Have Heaven, South Side of the Sky, 5% of Nothing, Long Distance Runaround, The Fish (Shindleria Praematurus), Mood for a Day, Heart of the Sunrise)

The versatility, virtuosity and sheer ingenuity of Steve Howe’s guitar playing (including flamenco on his solo track ‘Mood for a Day’ and recording an acoustic guitar part in the studio corridor); debutant Rick Wakeman’s Brahms inspired dalliance played on electronic keyboards (which he later called ‘dreadful’) and incisive and technically gifted keyboard work everywhere else, knocking off a marvellous Hammond solo in one take in the opening track ‘Roundabout’ (which surely must have pleased him!); the growing prowess of Chris Squire as his finger picking bass emanated mightily from the head of his Rickenbacker 2001 – no supporting role for him then , and Bruford’s multi-dimensional drumming all add an invigorating freshness to Yes’s music, which combines solo and group material reasonably successfully.

Squire emerges as an increasingly influential figure in the overall writing stakes, besides his estimable solo composition about a prehistoric marine creature called ‘The Fish’. Bruford has to make do with 35 seconds in ‘5% of Nothing which references the Kent State shooting in protest against the Vietnam War. Infectious instrumental and vocal hooks abound in the mellotron drenched 11-minute classic ‘Heart of the Sunrise’, another Yes staple ‘Roundabout’, an Anderson. Howe composition, that needs no introduction (just like the two backwards piano chords in the actual introduction) - an edited version made #13 on the US singles chart- and another cracking track, ‘South Side of the Sky’ (Anderson/ Squire). A reprise of Jon Anderson’s ‘We Have Heaven’ is squirreled away at the end of the album, using chants also used copiously to good effect on his excellent solo album “Olias of Sunhillow.” But it was ‘Long Distance Runaround’ that would prove to be an enduring progressive pop song.

This was the first, but not the last Yes album to feature Roger Dean’s distinctive artwork, and reached #4 on the US Billboard chart (Yes, a prog band could reach these heights in the land of Uncle Sam!) and #7 in the UK. It attained platinum status in the UK and double platinum status in the US, with over 2-million sales and counting. More details on this latest reissue to follow soon!

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