Fragile is yet another record the deserves some of the credit for helping me become a better listener.
This shootout taught us that track one is not as well recorded as the rest of side one. On copy after copy, and there were well over a dozen, it was the other big track on side one, South Side of the Sky, that had consistently better sound.
You really hear it in the choruses, where the voices are especially full-bodied, powerful, rich and energetic on that fourth track. A lesser amount of these qualities can be heard on the first.
We play both songs, but we play them in reverse order, knowing that the mind-boggling sound is really going to be on South Side, not so much Roundabout.
This record should give any record you own a run for its money. It’s as BIG and as BOLD a statement about raising the bar for rock recordings as any I know. Without a doubt one of the Best Rock Recordings of all time.
A well known audiophile record reviewer opined on his website that Fragile “was never a very good recording to begin with… cardboardy, compressed and somewhat cloudy and distant.”
Perhaps his old copy sounded like that, or maybe it sounded like that on his stereo, but our Hot Stampers sure don’t. The typical pressing of Fragile can be painful — smeary and dull with plenty of distortion. If you know the magic stamper numbers and you spend the time to clean and play enough copies, you’re bound to hear some serious magic.
Of course, that’s a lot of work, and some people are probably too busy typing out lists of their pricey equipment to be bothered with such things.
My equipment was forced to evolve in order to be able to play the scores of challenging recordings issued by Yes and other groups in the ’70s. You could say that the albums of Yes informed not only my taste in music but the actual stereo I play that music on.
I’ve had large scale dynamic speakers for the last four decades, precisely in order to play records like this, the kind of music I fell in love with fifty years ago.