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CD Review

Kate Hoffman-Baley




Should Tribute Bands Be Trusted? FRAGILE says YES!


There is a rise in bands that do more than simply "cover" tunes. A new

genre is emerging among the ranks of musicians who are wearied by the

general direction of popular music, and are more than merely inspired by

the artists who helped mold the progressive movement of the early

seventies. These tribute bands are taking on the heavy weights in Classic

Rock making a name for themselves often with the same tenacity as the

original band and bringing it home to smaller venues and to newer,

younger audiences. What is attracting these audiences to these tribute

bands remains unclear unless one remembers what the original attraction

was to the original band. It was the music. It is hard for a new band to

promote themselves as a TRIBUTE BAND and harder still for them to

replicate the exact sound of the original band. They are setting

themselves up for intense scrutiny especially among the legions of fans

that came of age listening to the original masters. However, there are

some notable exceptions, and topping the list is FRAGILE, the UK based

YES tribute band.

I must admit that I am a skeptic. I grew up listening to some of the

premier bands covering the masters of Rock and Roll. They did so to

develop their own distinctive style and broaden the base of their

listening audience. THE BEATLES covered CHUCK BERRY and YES covered THE

BEATLES. However, these respective bands did so to enhance the

credibility of their own creations and to create propriety to their own

music. They were never considered tribute bands. The subsequent years has

shown us that both Berry and The Beatles still remain the most covered

artists in rock history, but who covers YES? The latter is a band in all

its incarnations that took a potpourri of artists and eclectic sounds and

produced music that was the quintessence of progressive rock. They are

also the band least likely to be covered at some juke joint on a Saturday

night. I predict that YES acts will never replace the legion of ELVIS

impersonators that endlessly parade though the lounges of least

resistance. YES music is more tuned to the mind. FRAGILE is the reminder.

FRAGILE’s first CD, "Live at the Half Moon" is an accolade to the AOR

(album oriented rock) sound that was the succession in music during YES’

ascent on the airwaves. What is alluring about FRAGILE is their facility

to snare the YES facade and give it a familiar face. FRAGILE has the

talent to pull off YES’ celebrity without compromise and a band who has

enough confidence in their own ability as artists to do their first

recording in a LIVE venue. This is not an easy task even for the most

seasoned veterans, and few, if any, can persuade a loyal YES fan base

that any ensemble can replicate the renderings of YES live unless it is

YES themselves. YES fans take note! FRAGILE is closer to the cutting edge

of YES than YES has been in awhile!

"Live at the Half Moon" is a platter full of YES material performed by a

troupe that could have easily called themselves, "The Big Re-Generators."

I was immediately struck by FRAGILE’s individuality as performers and

their intuitions that YES covers are better served outside the studio. A

casual YES fan would be challenged to identify FRAGILE as a tribute band

since their style is so like their mentors. The paradox is that FRAGILE

reminds their audience that while YES gave the rock music world a higher

plateau to achieve, FRAGILE can stand at peace in the face of YES fans

with a blossoming fan base of their own. "Live at the Half Moon" is the

best of both realms and FRAGILE may be the visionaries to whom YES passes

their keys to ascension.

Recorded June 8, 2000 in London, "Live at the Half Moon" is a jubilant

interpretation of the epitome of the YES legacy. The obvious trick for

anyone attempting to emulate the YES sound is to avoid the ambush of YES

fans that may lynch you if your singer falls short of capturing the

lilting quality of JON ANDERSON’s voice. FRAGILE’s vocalist, STEVE

CARNEY, does not have to worry. His neck is safe. He is a brilliant

singer whose ardent vocal performance never strained under the pressure

even when doing the last song in the set, a nearly ten minute version of

"Starship Trooper". Steve is a befitting benefactor to Anderson’s tenure

as YES’ most recognizable voice.

On the other hand, what about the other members of FRAGILE, and how do

they compare to their counterparts in the YES genealogy? It could be

musical genocide to make those comparisons, but the FRAGILE musicians are

enormously endowed with artistic agility and collectively they are

cementing YES’ heritage in rock history and paving their own path for

future artists who will never see YES or FRAGILE perform live. Many kudos

need to be given to these men, JON BASTABLE (bass), MITCH HARWOOD (drums

and vocals), TOM DAWE (guitar and vocals), ROBERT ILLES (lead guitar),

and GONZALO CARRERAS (keyboards). They are massively gifted musicians.

"Live at the Half Moon" proves that YES can be covered and that there are

artists with enough ability to do it! It just takes a collective talent

who possesses a collective conscious and is empowered by the music. YES

sired it. FRAGILE nursed it. "Live at the Half Moon" nailed it!

Should tribute bands be trusted? The jury will be out on that one as long

as there are ears to listen. I suppose it depends on what one trusts them

to do. They will never replace the originals, but they should be trusted

to compliment the artists who inspired them by being as true to the music

as possible. (The word "tribute" does mean, "to honor".) I will say this.

If tribute bands are to remain a viable presence in the music industry

and not be regulated to the back rooms of bars or billed as nostalgia

acts, then FRAGILE could well prove to be the standard for most other

tribute bands to aspire to. They are true to the time and the word of YES

music, and prove, without dispute, that "It Can Happen"!

Kathryn Hoffman-Baley

© April 12, 2001

All Rights Reserved

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