CD Review


Malcolm Jeffrey



Shining, Flying, Purple Wolfhounds


Fragile are a tribute band from London. Now you all know the tribute scene some of these bands are remarkable musicians who have managed to duplicate their heroes' music to a high degree of accuracy. Fragile, however, are something different altogether - they are one of only two bands we know of in the World who have taken on the, frankly, hugely daunting task of covering the music of Yes. So, this quality live CD will only be of interest you if you're a) a Yes fan or b) if you appreciate bravery on a major level - some of you can leave now. Either way, you need to appreciate what a challenge Fragile have set themselves - not just a matter of strumming your way through "second verse/same as the first" Oasis covers, Fragile have aimed high and decided to attempt to reproduce Yes' multi-time-signature, never-the-same-key-twice, tight-as-a-snaredrum, mushroom-lyric, downright-bloody-difficult-to-play virtuoso seventies' musicianship : and, with this CD and with their live set, they have to a surprising extent succeeded !

They've got to do Jon Anderson's all-the-way-up-there hippy abstract lyric singing - the singer, Steve Carney, has a fine higher-than-most voice and pulls the task off well, somehow incorporating some of Accrington Jon's mannerisms and persona into his performance too. They've got to do Wakeman, and new keys man Gonzalo Carreras is easily technically up to the job. They 've got to be able to produce Chris Squire's growling, ringing-like-a-bell Ricky bass lines - Jon Bastable throws himself into his playing and captures most of the Doctor's technique and sound. They've got to have a drummer able to hold the time changes together like White and be off-beat and jazzy like Bruford, and Mitch Harwood rises to the challenge with skill and accuracy. And they've got to be able to do the wildly differing Steve Howe, Peter Banks AND Trevor Rabin, and they achieve it by employing two guitarists - the frankly astounding Robert Illes almost note-perfect on Howe and Banks, and, to get a studio sound live, the solid and reliable Tom Dawe on live overdubs, and lead and support playing.

On the CD, what do you get ? You get an accurate "Roundabout" and a tight "I've Seen All Good People" ; they impress taking on and almost nailing the evil and difficult "Heart Of The Sunrise", followed by a re-arranged, slower and still Yessy "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" ; they acknowledge the longer Yes material with an epic 30 minute Yes medley comprising "Long Distance Runaround", "The Fish", excerpts from "The Gates of Delirium", "Soon", "Arthur" and "Six Wives", "Hearts", "The Revealing Science of God", "Ritual" , and a tremendous, complete "Yours Is No Disgrace" to wind it up ; and the show ends with a fine "Starship Trooper" too. And even the CD cover is sort of Roger Deany as well.

And how do they rate ? Pretty damn close, actually. You Yes-heads out there can relax, because it's not perfect and was never going to be - how could it ? I play some of this stuff myself, and it's very tough to master : so what if, very rarely, the odd bass-line, vocal melody or drum part are simplified or reworked, the odd guitar part is fluffed and infrequently the chords aren't quite right ? That's not the point at all. Yes Live themselves aren't exactly the same as the lps and sometimes cock it up too, don't they? No, the whole point of this recording is in the spirit of it (warning ! Hippy Bit Alert !) - more evidence that we're all part of a bigger world full of Yes followers, that someone else is obviously getting so much out of Yes' glorious, incomprehensible, interwoven, complex and joyous music that they wanted to perform it themselves to other people, that someone else remembers the time when airplay, beats per minute and playlists meant nothing, it was just the sound, the flexibility, the musicianship and the fun of doing it that counted.

If you've read this far, and you still agree, then what can I say ? Go and see the amazing Fragile (point your browsers at yestribute.com) and be in the same room with dozens of others singing un-selfconsciously about "shining, flying, purple wolfhounds". And buy the CD - you'll like it !


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