Just a few weeks before their heroes and role-models introduced their new album to the public, former Yes tribute band Fragile released a sophomore attempt, entitled Beyond.
A brief reminder: the band, formed in 1999, has spent the first two decades of its existence mainly re-enacting the music of the legendary British band Yes. They also performed live with Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman, among others. Until last year, when a message appeared that Fragile had ceased to exist as a tribute band. And, more or less out of the blue, released a debut album, Golden Fragments, with pure authentic music, naturally strongly influenced by Yes. In the best tradition of the latter (Close to the Edge, Relayer), the new album contains three songs, which in turn can be divided into sub-sections. And with good reason as, in keeping with the original band, this also applies to the cover design. Once again compliments to Steve Mayerson who allowed the band to use his Prayer Pods painting. The analogy with Yes/Roger Dean is quite obvious.
Opening track Beyond clocks in at no less than 22-minutes and consists of five parts. Sent Through the Morning features staccato harmony vocals and is strongly reminiscent of Yes’ Relayer. Oliver Day’s Howe-esque antics steal the show, and it all sounds very familiar. The lyrics are somewhat woolly and mysterious; the music is very busy, hectic almost, a lot is happening all at the same time. This certainly applies to Sharkflight, Yes from ’74 to ’77 I would say, with the emphasis on the Tales from Topographic Oceans/Relayer era – hectic jazz/fusion/sympho rock. “New Hope is here”, Claire Hamill sings on Dawn, the third movement, in a key reminiscent of early Kate Bush. An interesting piece, with mainly solemn symphonic music, somewhat in the vein of I Get Up, I Get Down. This vocal style is continued in the more rocking The Other Side, Max Hunt providing with Wakeman and especially Moraz-like runs. The opening song, which takes up an entire record side, contains a closing track in the form of Flight, which includes a mini-version of Soon. Phew, time to catch my breath, even for a recognised Yes-addict.
Let’s move on to the second song, Yours and Mine, written by Hamill, Hunt and Day. Here we have once again a subdivision: on Like There’s No Tomorrow, synthesisers and organ provide a background against which Day can solo to his heart’s content, with occasional contributions from Hunt on MiniMoog. Hamill sounds more like Annie Haslam (of Renaissance) here, especially in the lower registers. (Let’s Live) Like There’s No Tomorrow is a catchy, even poppy tune. ‘Yes meets Renaissance’, not for the first or probably the last time. Part two is called Diorama, the harmony vocals reminiscent of the best from Awaken with acoustic guitar playing by Oliver Day. Max Hunt indulges once more on church organ before the theme returns. The lyrics are about a farmer’s daughter from southern England who falls in love with the wrong man, against her family’s wishes.
Again, this special fusion of Yes and Renaissance on the third and final track, The Golden Ring of Time. More Renaissance than Yes, I would say, with Steve Howe (Oliver Day) on steel guitar. Mystical lyrics about mysterious men with golden rings, howling dogs and looming sunrises. In addition to Day, Hunt’s piano sounds also excel with ingenuity.
In my review of the band’s debut album Golden Fragments, my criticism was mainly focused on the lack of consistency in the compositions. The members can all play, no doubt about it, but writing a solid piece of symphonic (Yes) rock music with head and tail, that’s a different story. It’s clearly audible that this time the band has paid much more attention to the songwriting part in particular.
However, as a critic, there’s always something to whine about. This time the increased attention for the composition of the songs leads to an overkill on the instrumental side. Rarely has an album sounded so ‘full’ and, above all, ‘busy’, as if the gentlemen/lady were attempting to rival their idols. It sometimes gets a little over the top, but wasn’t that also the criticism the originals received, especially at the time of the release of Relayer? You can also go too far in copying your idols.
This ‘busy’ and ‘dense’ feel especially applies to opening song Beyond; Yours and Mine, for instance, is already lighter in structure and lyrics. But I am most impressed by closing track The Golden Ring of Time. The combination of Yes and Renaissance is a successful one and would definitely get my vote when it comes to the future sound of the band. And I’m pretty sure there will be a third Fragile album to come. There is more than sufficient potential within the band to ensure a sequel.
01. Beyond (21:57)
– a) Sent Through the Morning
– b) Sharkflight
– c) Dawn
– d) The Other Side
– e) Flight
02. Yours and Mine (14:26)
– a) Like There’s No Tomorrow
– b) Diorama
03. The Golden Ring of Time (14:06)
Total Time – 50:29
Claire Hamill – Lead Vocals
Oliver Day – Guitars
Russ Wilson – Drums & Percussion
Max Hunt – Keyboards, Bass, Guitars, Percussion, Vocals
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 3rd August 2021
– Beyond (2021)
– Golden Fragments (2020)