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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 2/20/03

Yes: Fragile
1972 (2002) - Warner Music (Rhino)

review by Matt Rowe of The Digital Bits

DVD-AudioStereo/Multi-ChannelMeridian Lossless Packing CompressionDVD-Video compatible Dolby DigitalDVD-Video compatible DTS

Yes: Fragile (DVD-Audio) Album Rating: A

Audio Ratings (DVD-A 5.1/2.0): B+/A-

Extras Rating: B (see details below)

Specs and Features

52 mins, single-sided, single-layered, super jewel case packaging, photo gallery & lyrics (available during playback or separately), bonus track (America), band timeline (1968-1972), liner notes insert booklet, album-themed animated menu screens, track access (10 tracks - see track listing below), audio formats: DVD-A 5.1 & 2.0 (96/24), DD 5.1 & 2.0, DTS 5.1

Originally produced by Yes & Eddy Offord
Surround mix produced by Tim Weidner
5.1 & stereo mastering by Steve Hall at FutureDisc

Jon Anderson (vocals), Chris Squire (bass guitars, vocals), Steve Howe (guitars, vocals), Bill Bruford (drums, percussion), Rick Wakeman (organ, grand piano, electric piano, harpsichord, mellotron, synthesizer)

Yes has long been a fan favorite of the progressive crowd. Along with King Crimson, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and other popular bands that have helped to terraform today's musical scenery, Yes stands out due to their unique blending of styles. With the distinctive and soaring vocals of Jon Anderson, the jazzy and rhythmic bass of Chris Squire, the delicate guitar of Steve Howe and the progressive drumming skills of Bill Bruford, Yes music spoke of things springing from the collective minds of dreamers and was filled with expansive harmonies. By incorporating orchestral works in varying degrees over the course of their long career, Yes redefined what rock and roll could be. With fresh ideas and the ability to think beyond the standard chording of rock music, much of the band's catalog has become classic. And one of those classic albums is Fragile.

With Fragile, the core of Yes added a new keyboardist to their line-up, Rick Wakeman (who had played for Strawbs), and also introduced an expansive use of the synthesizer and moog mellotron into their style. This style became the signature that made a Yes song recognizable. Interestingly, it was Wakeman who brought with him the previously mentioned classical influence that really helped to elevate the band.

Although Yes already had several albums under their collective belts at the time they released Fragile, they still had yet to make their mark. That would be finally accomplished with the pared down for radio track, Roundabout. Interestingly, Roundabout is an 8 1/2 minute jewel of a song that Atlantic Records felt had extreme breakout potential. Without consulting with the band, Atlantic produced a radio friendly edit that propelled the band into the Top 40 and into history. But Roundabout wasn't the only gem on the album. Fragile featured 9 songs, several of them over the 8-minute mark (and one clocking in at 10 minutes). But that didn't hamper the buying public from enjoying this release.

Wakeman's effect and influence is felt in his singular Cans and Brahms, daringly subtitled Extracts from Brahms' 4th Symphony in E Minor Third Movement. It also shows that the band possesses serious musical chops. It only clocks in at a mere 1:35, but resonates long after the last piano fill. We Have Heaven is a gorgeously rendered harmonic song that exemplifies Anderson's vocal range. It also times at around 1:30, but leaves the same lasting impression. Some of the songs on this disc are individual endeavors in terms of song direction. Mood for a Day highlights Steve Howe's effectiveness as a guitarist. Five Per Cent for Nothing reveals the jazz rock leanings of Bill Bruford, who carried that affection far past his tenure with Yes. The Fish (Shinleria Praematurus), by Chris Squire, is a bass dominated masterpiece accentuated by the band only sparingly so as to spotlight Squire. However, it's the band pieces that really shine here, revealing the compatibility of the various players: Roundabout, Southside of the Sky, Long Distance Runaround and the ethereal Heart of the Sunrise.

This DVD-Audio version of Fragile is a stunning revisitation of these classic tracks. In the whole of this remix for 5.1, there is never a shuffling of the various musical elements simply to make full use of the available surround channels. Instead, the effect is more organic. When a piece reaches the point of fullness, it gradually expands to the surrounds to create an airy, yet understated, effect. The use of surround channels never steals from the main focus of the front primary channels: left, right and center. The 5.1 mix is very respectful of its stereo forbearer. And the high-resolution stereo mix is also a beautiful affair. Every note is clear and perfect, allowing the instruments to be heard in their full glory.

Although various Dolby Digital and DTS mixes are included to allow compatibility with all current DVD players, the Advanced Resolution options are really the only way to fully appreciate this album. The comparison of this disc to the original redbook standard CD is not even a fair topic for discussion. After listening to this version, the CD simply pales in comparison. I've said it all along - these high resolution mixes absolutely ruin your ability to listen to standard CDs.

This disc also provides a nicely designed and animated menu scheme, that fully adheres to the spirit of Yes. The menus allow you to choose from the various audio mixes that you desire. Also available as extras are a photo galley, lyrics and a band timeline (that only leads up to this album, not beyond). This disc also includes a bonus track, America. The disc comes in an oversized super jewel case with an impressive insert booklet. The booklet contains original artwork, an interview, expanded liner notes and photos as well as standard track listings and credits.

This is, at the present, the definitive release of Fragile, and the only way to fully enjoy it. I highly recommend it to fans of the band and high-resolution music in general, who will delight in the quality with which they're able to hear the music. The disc's quality speaks volumes about the potential of the DVD-Audio format.

Matt Rowe
Visit Matt Rowe's MusicTAP ------ Music Flows There!

Track Listing:

Cans and Brahms
We Have Heaven
South Side of the Sky
Five Per Cent for Nothing
Long Distance Runaround
The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)
Mood for a Day
Heart of the Sunrise

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