Although Golden Fragments is the first actual release from Fragile, these musicians are well-known for 20 years worth of touring around Europe as a Yes tribute project, having made appearances with Steve Howe, Alan White and Rick Wakeman. No longer a live project, they have turned their hand towards writing and recording Yes-inspired music. You can make your own minds up on that, but I'm happy to say that if you want a large slice of fresh Yes in your life, then there is probably no better ensemble to provide it in terms of experience, understanding and feel.
Despite the obvious signposts, Fragile are too experienced and talented to fall into pastiche or to try and produce anything like a 'new' Yes album. There are plenty of Yes-tropes, however. The opening track, When Wars Are Won immediately evokes some Howe / Moraz inspired atmospherics recalling the post-battle desolation of Relayer; and if Claire Hamill's vocal is sufficiently other-worldly without directly referencing the Mystic of Accrington, there are plenty of impenetrable incantations evoking the universal spiritual collective, and so on. The important thing is that while Fragile speak in the language of Yes, such that any fan will recognise the references, the context is all their own and as such can stand for itself without labouring the Yes-isms. (and on the off chance that anyone from any of the many Yesses come across this - that's two album titles I've given you). While there is an essential Yessiness running through the core, it is not a distraction from what is a very entertaining collection. Five Senses is all flourishes, spriitual awakening, and a glorious jazz tinged guitar solo and Heaven's Core a quintessential piece of 70s prog, laced with a good measure psychedelia, and even an occasional flavour of 80s Madchester. Open Space (the acoustic guitar solo - brave move) carries a pleasant tinge of Iberia.The various strands are synthesised to great original effect on Time To Dream conjoined with Now We Are Sunlight a great bass-led visceral beast complemented by swirling organ and spiky, jagged guitar runs. Clive Bayley's vocal (Mabel Greer's Toyshop) on these tracks shows up their essential earthy roots and adds a new, surprising dimension. The endpiece Old Worlds And Kingdoms / Too Late In The Day is a fittingly grandiose finale introduced by portentous piano and bursting into life with glittering synthesizer and guitar fills. One gets the sense that here Fragile really wanted to break loose and show what they can do which succeeds to exhilarating effect.
In summary, this is an immensely enjoyable collection, inspired by mostly 70s era Yes, but which will appeal to any fan of prog from that era and which compares most favourably with other offerings inspired by music from that era. There is plenty to admire both in the reflections of Yes and in the originality and enthusiasm imbued into these new songs which makes it fresh and vibrant today.
**** Andrew Cottrell
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