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A Talk About “YES”

Fragile's Album Cover (www.allmusic.com)

Just this passing weekend, the world of rock and roll commemorated and recognized a true project in the art of mastery.  The album “Fragile” by Yes was released on November 12th, 1971, making this week it’s 47th anniversary.  The band Yes was brilliant in the creation of progressive rock. This genre is very unique, full of long-complex time signatures, and has dynamic-creative beats that make leeway to new types of installments all put into one song.  This is a benchmark that set the stage for so many bands to come. Even before this album, popular groups such as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and even jazz icons like Miles Davis, all planted the seeds in their tunes that grew into countless different styles. The influences all are so creative and as a result, truly made people realize that music can adapt and change.

The album “Fragile” was created with several substantial songs and interludes of sorts. The first piece on the album is named “Roundabout” and is by far the most famous Yes song of all time.  It is a nine-minute tune filled with various complex tempo changes, time signature differences, and masterful lyrics by vocalist Jon Anderson.  This song, in particular, covers the way progressive music should sound, creative and long, but nothing short of perfection. Subsequent to this tune is the first interlude which is “Cans and Brahms,” an extract from Brahms’ Fourth Symphony.  It is primarily a simple, clever solo by Rick Wakeman on keyboards. This then transitions us into another interlude which is “We Have Heaven”. It contains an amazing vocal job by Anderson while being backed up by his other bandmates Bill Bruford (drums), Chris Squire (bass guitar), and Steve Howe (Guitar).  They come together to overdub and electronically reinvent a simple interlude into an intriguing creation.

As the album continues we get to the next full-on masterpiece of a song, which is called “South Side of the Sky.”  This is an eight-minute piece that’s nothing shy of incredible. Through the odd-time drum fills, and strange voice melodies by Jon Anderson, this is a true tune to remember.  After “South Side of the Sky,” keyboardist Rick Wakeman gets his opportunity to create a unique and impressive solo that runs through the entire song. This so-called opportunity turned into the product of a tune named “Long Distance Runaround,” a piece with a catchy beat and an innovative flair.  As songs roll by, we pass interlude songs of “Five Percent for Nothing,” and “The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus).” Then, there is a simple acoustic guitar solo on the next to penultimate piece called “Mood for a Day,” overall, it is a nice, sort of relaxing part that smoothes out the folding from the last interludes.  Now, as everything dies down, a song called “Heart of the Sunrise,” which finishes off the master’s work. This is a tune that is a roller coaster of ingenuity as it starts off fast and loud and then flattens out to a soft release, and then everything just comes together again.

When we look at rock music today, it is truly a broken fragment of what progressive rock was.  It is the genre that influenced many forms of music today, so these bands that started it all are so crucial to current music that is favored in the modern day world.