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Another Gift From England

Fragile, by Yes Atlantic SD 7211, $5.98

By Henry W. Mcgee iii

ONCE AGAIN the English have given American rock musicians something to think about. No longer content to ape twelve bar blues patterns, several English groups like Emerson, Lake, and Palmer and King Crimson have struck out in a new direction to create carefully arranged and precisely executed tonal patterns and musical textures.

One of the most exciting of these new English groups is Yes. Their music is a careful balance between rock, electronic, and classical influences. For example, in Yes's rendition of portions of the third movement of Brahm's 4th Symphony in E minor, they replace the strings with an electric piano, the reeds with an electric harpsicord, and the contra bassoon with a moog synthesizer. As a result of their efforts, the group has produced the definitive rock version of a classical work.

The most interesting aspect of Yes's music is its ability to create a high degree of excitement in a tightly structured format. Eschewing the standard rock pattern of vocal alternating with instrumental solos, the group's music proceeds on a logic of its own. Always tightly constructed, but never forced, the songs involve such a variety of instruments that the listener is sometimes overwhelmed. Songs like "Roundabout," "South Side of the Sky," and "Long Distance Runaround" are collages of melodies, percussion patterns, and vocal harmonies. Electric and acoustic guitars alternate freely with electric and grand pianos. Yes refuses to be hemmed in by musical convention; their motto appears to be "if it sounds good, play it."

Unlike most English groups performing similar music, Yes views a song's lyrics as an aid, rather than a hiderance, to expressing a song's ideas. For example, in "South Side of the Sky," while a synthesizer and electric guitar play to the accompaniment of a howling wind, the group sings in tight harmony:

A river, a mountain to be crossed,

The sunshine in mountains sometimes lost,

Around the south side, so cold that we cried.

Were ever coler on that day, a million miles away.

It seemed like all of eternity.

Move forward, was my friend's only cry.

In deeper, to somewhere we could lie,

And rest for the day, with cold in the way.

Were ever colder on that day, a million miles away.

It seemed like all of eternity.

Yes's creativity appears to be limitless, and Fragile is a superb statement of their musical ideas. Hopefully the album will become influential and give rock an important new direction.

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