Coming out just nine months (!) after The Yes Album, Fragile (which included new keyboardist Rick Wakeman) was a brilliant classic rock album that (depending on how much you like Wakeman) eclipses The Yes Album in greatness.
This was the first Yes album with a cover by Roger Dean (not up to his usual style for the band and prior to his creating their iconic logo).
Some might argue that Fragile is a better album than The Yes Album, and I might be one of them, but it’s really close (and depends on the day). Fragile has bigger hits in “Roundabaout” and “Long Distance Runaround” (at only 3 minutes an actual radio song!), but it also has a number of weird little “solo” items.
“Roundabout is a staple in classic rock—not bad for an 8 minute song. The opening notes are iconic, and then the bass comes in, big and round and heavy. And there’s so many little fiddly bits-the keys, the guitars, even the bass, that it’s not even that clear to me how they did it all. But there’s also the “in and around the lake” part that has such simple guitars and is so catchy. It’s also the first time you really get to hear new keyboardist Rick Wakeman who is insanely talented and full of all kinds of interesting notions (and evidently a rack of 12 keyboards). And sure, the end of the song is mostly a chance for everyone to show off their skills and that’s pretty cool. The final section has some great harmonies ala Crosby, Stills and Nash.
According to Bruford: “I said—brightly—’Why don’t we do some individual things, whereby we all use the group for our own musical fantasy? I’ll be the director, conductor, and maestro for the day, then you do your track, and so on.’ And that’s why there are five tiny pieces of songs scattered between the longer songs. The first one is by Wakeman and is called “Cans and Brahms” a piano and organ piece. Wakeman later described the track as “dreadful” as contractual problems with A&M Records prevented him from writing a composition of his own. The following solo piece is by John Anderson and has multiple vocal lines overlapping over a simple musical base. I never knew the lines were “Tell the Moon dog, tell the March hare.” I love that it ends with footsteps running away and a door slamming—to what?
“South Side of the Sky” returns to a proper 8 minute song. It opens with a cool drum fill and some great guitar lines (all with Squire’s rumbling bass underneath–or actually in front). After about two minutes there’s some interesting piano sections, including an almost spooky solo section of high notes. There’s a pretty section of “la las” after this until the song comes bouncing back to the noisy part nearly 6 minutes in.
“Five Per Cent for Nothing” is a Bruford composition. It’s staccato and all over the place and was, evidently his first composition (all 38 seconds of it). Then comes “Long Distance Runaround,” another classic with an iconic guitar intro. There’s some more unusual guitar lines (and a lot of open space) in this song. It segues (and when I grew up the radio station often played both parts) into the next track written by Squire: “The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus).” Even though it is Squire’s it does not have a lot of crazy bass in it, well, until the end when he gets to really fly. This isn’t really a solo song since the rest of the band plays along. The final solo piece is Howe’s flamenco guitar piece “Mood for a Day” which is lovely.
And then comes “Heart of the Sunrise” one of my favorite Yes songs. It has one of the most amazing introductions to a song. It’s incredibly fast and intense riffage followed by a very slow section that has complex drumming an interesting bassline and keyboards. It’s great how Squire and Bruford keep the steady beat amidst all the flourish. The chaos goes on for nearly 3 and a half minutes before it totally mellows out to a delicate section sung by Anderson. Then as you settle into this more mellow (and very pretty) section, around 7 minutes in we get a wholly new section of some wild keyboard. And then some interspersing of weird keyboard and that awesome opening riff. And although it sounds like it’s going to fade out, there’s more to come—another delicate section with repeats of the great guitar riff (not the opening heavy riff, the other one). The song slowly builds to a climactic section that then switches back to the wild riff for a quick end. It’s exhilarating But that’s not exactly the end.
The disc ends with the door opening again and “We Have Heaven” reprising for a few seconds before fading out.
It’s outstanding and is unquestionably a classic.
Since almost every Yes album had different personnel, I’m going to keep a running tally here. Our second change occurs with this their fourth album:
Rick Wakeman (#2 replaced Tony Kaye)-keyboards
Steve Howe (#2)-guitar
[READ: January 15, 2015] Static Shock: Trial by Fire
In the old DC vs Marvel war I have clearly become a Marvel guy. In fact, when asked to name some DC guys, after Superman and Batman I fall flat. And, unlike the Marvel Universe, Superman and Batman are never really seen together. Let’s say that Marvel has done an awesome job at marketing.
So here’s a DC book, and I was pleased to give it a try. I was also pleased to see that the superhero is black–an all too rare experience in graphic novels.
The back of the book says that Static Shock is the “hot new animated series on the Kids WB!” I wasn’t sure if Kids WB was still on, but that’s irrelevant because this book was published in 2000 (! why are we getting it now?). The book was printed in 1993, so nothing in the introduction (which talks about the Kids WB ) is at all relevant.
Not to mention that the TV show was clearly adapted from the comic to make a much more kid friendly show. I didn’t realize that when my son grabbed this and started reading it. He put it down after a few pages. I don’t know if he got to the point where the boys in high school call each other fag and queer or the black kids are called monkey, or what. I had to apologize to him and he declared it “weird” so I don’t know what he actually thought.
Suffice it to say that this book is not for kids. It is a harsh look at racism in high school and the opportunity for a black nerd (who is into comics) to actually fight back against he white playas (who are way too into the hip hop scene).
Static Shock is really Virgil Hawkins, a nerdy kid who is friendly with a smoking hot white girl named Frieda. She likes him (but not really that way) and is really friendly to him too. In general, Virgil seems to be quite a friendly and well liked kid–except when the bullies get in the way.
The bullies wear over sized yellow jackets (looking strangely like hip hop fishermen) and they are led by Hotsreak a guy who seems to be able to control fire. When Static Shock shows up and learns what Hotstreak’s real identity is, he chokes. And that’s how we learn just what happened to Virgil to make him Static.
Virgil moved to Dakota to get away from trouble (which seemed to find him in his last place). He just wants a normal job and love from his mom and sister (she’s a bitch to him so that won’t happen).
Then we see what happened to him. As Static Shock he is able to fly on any flat surface (typically a garbage can lid). In the final book in this series (this covers books 1-4), Static befriends Holocaust, another black superhero. Holocaust takes no shit from anyone and he seems like a good role model, but what if he takes no shit from innocent people either? What will Static do?
I didn’t love the art style in the book (very super heroey which is not my thing), but I did like the story (once I forgave it for traumatizing my son–watch how you advertise things DC!).