Thursday, 12 April 2018

"Fragile: Definitive Edition CD/BLU RAY" by YES (November 2015 Panegyric Reissue - Steve Wilson Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Heart Of The Sunrise..."

The fifth release to date to receive the twinkle-fingers jiggery-pokery remix-magic of Porcupine Tree's Steve Wilson – 1971's "Fragile" was always going to inject a flying-jalopy flutter into the Prog Rock trousers of YES fans – make their scaly Schindleria Praematurus Space Ark hearts beat a little faster (if you get my fishy drift). And you have to say that the dapper gent has done another sterling job - even if I personally find the remixes just a tad too squeaky clean (1971's "The Yes Album", 1972's "Close To The Edge", 1973's double "Tales From Topographic Oceans" and 1974's "Relayer" are the other four Wilson revamps).

Firs up there are two versions of this November 2015 'Definitive Edition' Reissue for "Fragile" – the CD and DVD-A variant on Panegyric GYRSP50009 (Barcode 633367900722) and its bigger brother – the CD and BLU RAY Version – the one we are about to dance a jig too. There is a mountain of detail to be crossed, so onwards into the Heart of the Sunrise…

UK released Friday, 6 November 2015 - "Fragile: Definitive Edition CD/BLU RAY" by YES on Panegyric/Atlantic GYRBD50009 (Barcode 633367900821) is a 2-Disc Reissue (CD and BLU RAY) with New 5.1 Surround, Stereo and Instrumental Album Remixes and Remasters by Steve Wilson – it plays out as follows:

CD Definitive Edition (64:38 minutes):
1. Roundabout [Side 1]
2. Cans And Brahms
3. We Have Heaven
4. South Side Of The Sky
5. Five Per Cent For Nothing [Side 2]
6. Long Distance Runaround
7. The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)
8. Mood For A Day
9. Heart Of The Sunrise
Tracks 1 to 9 are their fourth studio album "Fragile" - released 26 November 1971 in the UK on Atlantic Records 2401019 and 4 January 1972 in the USA on Atlantic SD 7211. Produced by EDDIE OFFORD - it peaked at No. 7 in the UK and No. 4 in the USA and was the first Yes album to use Roger Dean's artwork (something that became synonymous with the band's image)

10. Roundabout (Rehearsal Take, Early Mix)
11. We Have Heaven (Full Version, Steve Wilson Mix)
12. South Side Of The Sky (Early Version, Steve Wilson Mix)
13. All Fighters Past (Steve Wilson Mix)
14. Mood For Another Day (Previously Unreleased Take)
15. We Have Heaven (Acapella, Steve Wilson Mix)
All tracks mixed and produced from the original multi-track tapes by STEVE WILSON

BLU RAY Definitive Edition:
Tracks 1 to 9 as per CD - LPCM Stereo (24bit/96khz)
Tracks1 to 9 as per CD - LPCM and DTS-HD MA (24bit/96khz)
Tracks 1 to 9 as per CD - Flat Transfer from Original Master - LPCM Stereo (24bit/192khz)
1. Roundabout (Rehearsal Take, Early Mix)
2. We Have Heaven (Full Version, Steve Wilson Mix)
3. South Side Of The Sky (Alternate Take, Steve Wilson Mix)
4. All Fighters Past (Steve Wilson Mix)
5. Mood For Another Day (Previously Unreleased Take)
6. We Have Heaven (Acapella, Steve Wilson Mix)
Tracks 1 to 6 LPCM Stereo (24bit/96khz)

1. Roundabout (Early Rough Mix from "Fragile" 2003 CD Reissue)
2. South Side Of The Sky (Early Take)
3. Roundabout (Headphones Mix for Vox Overdubs)
Tracks 1 to 3 LCM Stereo (24bit/96khz)
Tracks 1 to 9 as per the CD - LPCM Stereo (24bit/96khz)
Tracks 1 to 9 as per CD (with 6 and 7 as one track) plus "America" as Track 10
Mix from the Rhino DVD-A release - LPCM Stereo (24bit/96khz)
A1/B1 (Matrix) first -pressing UK original vinyl LP transfer
Tracks 1 to 9 as per the CD - LPCM Stereo (24bit/96khz)
10. Roundabout (US Single Edit)
11. Long Distance Runaround (US Single Edit)

YES was:
JON ANDERSON – Lead Vocals
STEVE HOWE – Electric and Acoustic Guitars and Vocals
RICK WAKEMAN – Organ, Grand Piano, Electric Piano, Harpsichord, Mellotron and Synthesizer
CHRIS SQUIRE – Bass Guitars and Vocals
BILL BRUFORD – Drums and Percussion

PACKAGING: Using a Mini-LP replica gatefold sleeve (slightly oversized compared to the CD variant) – you get the original Roger Dean artwork - gatefold sleeve with the lyrics on one side and the album credits on the other with the mini booklet of the original LP now detached) - as well as archive material (evolution of the Fragile logo) and new Roger Dean front-cover images used on both discs (they are housed in plain black card sleeves). Noted Progressive Rock writer and enthusiast SID SMITH provides new liner notes in the 16-page booklet and there are Audio Source notes about the Transfers, Remixes and BLU RAY Set-up (Headless Operation) and so forth.

The booklet also has the usual original/reissue credits, the lyrics to the four worded tracks, repro's of a UK, USA and French original 1971 LP labels (a white label promo for the American issue on Atlantic SD 7211), period colour photos of each band member, concert tickets for the October 1971 Tour (Jonathan Swift was the support act), photos of the rare and unique artwork to French, Dutch, German and Spanish edited singles for "Roundabout" (called "Carrusel" in Spain) most with "Long Distance Runaround" as its flipside - as well as a Melody Maker magazine full-page advert for the album. Sid Smith interviews Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe, Roger Dean and others and of course discusses the sad passing of original Bassist Chris Squire in 2015 only months before the reissue – noting quite rightly that the big man and the unique Bass sounds he made came from a mere 23 year-old back in August and September 1971. The whole shebang is nicely presented and feels substantial – especially the sheer amount of material on the BR disc. If I were to criticise - I'd say that some of the BLU RAY 'Exclusive' material is mildly superfluous whilst other parts of it should have been made available on the CD too (the single edits would easily have fit). But others would argue that if you buy this BR version – then you know what it is that you're getting - and fair enough. To the music...

The album "Fragile" consisted of four centrepieces – the short "Long Distance Runaround" and the long "Roundabout", "Heart of the Sunrise" and "South Side Of The Sky". But realising they hadn’t enough material, each was sent off to write a solo piece - and they did. Personally I find Bruford’s "Five Per Cent For Nothing" (named after a dodgy publishing deal) and Wakeman’s "Cans And Brahms" both superfluous to anyone’s requirements. The individual stuff is saved by Chris Squire’s ingenious "The Fish" where every sound is from some sort of Bass Guitar, Howe’s delightful Spanish guitar piece "Mood For A Day" and Anderson’s voice-crescendo "We Have Heaven".

What is fascinating though (apart from the staggering clean audio provided by Wilson – disarmingly perfect almost) is the unexpected quality of the extras which are thankfully worthy of the moniker Bonus and not just reissue padding. Apparently found at the end of one of the master tapes whilst Steve Wilson was researching the reissue - the snippet "All Fighters Past" turns out to be a work-in-progress abandoned at the sessions. But on hearing it fans will immediately recognise that it was used for passages in both "Siberian Khatru" on 1972's "Close To The Edge" and in parts of "The Revealing Science Of God" on Side 1 of 1973's double-album "Tales From Topographic Oceans". The piano-to-the-fore/at-the-beginning of the Early Mix for "South Side Of The Sky" almost makes me wonder did the boys make an arrangement mistake. I can understand why the clever finished version was chosen but there’s something about this Rick Wakeman led cut that I find a hundred times more endearing than the released version. The two versions of Anderson's beautiful vocal tour-de-force "We Have Heaven" are fascinating - but although the 'Headphones Mix' on the BLU RAY is a trip - I thought the rehearsal variant of "Roundabout" on the CD didn’t seem radically different.

YES broke American with "Fragile" in January 1972 when an edit of "Roundabout" was played on US Radio and its angular yet funky rhythms caught the listener's fascination. The album eventually made No. 4 there – better than they did in their native Blighty. YES had truly arrived and with a different kind of music made on their own terms – an amazing achievement.

"…Mountains come out of the sky…" – Jon Anderson sang on the opening musical carousel "Roundabout". Well, having loved "Fragile" back in those heady days - I'm so pleased to report that this superb-sounding 2015 reissue warrants another ride on the 1971 Space Ark. Letting in the sunshine indeed...

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