Yes-Fragile (DVD-Audio) (1972) (NTSC)
Main Menu Animation
|Year Of Production||1972|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||None Given|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (1536Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
English MLP 96/24 5.1
English MLP 96/24 2.0
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||480i (NTSC)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Those familiar with my review of the disappointing Magnification album will no doubt recall that I suggested that perhaps it would be best to await the release of the much-delayed Fragile album instead. Well, the album is finally here and it simply serves to confirm much of what was said in the earlier review: the difference is something akin to man and woman...
Recorded in 1971 and released in 1972, Fragile arguably is the break out album for Yes. It rode high on the charts across the world and even spawned a hit single. Listening to the album after so many years that it is not funny it takes a while for the greatness to sink in, but greatness is what surrounds the album. Featuring the classic line up of the band, we get to hear an album that draws together the many facets of the individuals making up the band. These facets perhaps reached a higher conclusion on Close To The Edge, but there is certainly plenty to admire here, from some fine vocal work from Jon Anderson to some rather intriguing arrangements from Rick Wakeman that really are a precursor to some of the concept albums he later went on to produce as a solo artist.
Whilst their most recent album certainly tried to emulate the quality we find here, it failed pretty miserably. Thankfully, we have the original album to remind us that their recent drudgery had its roots in some almost-dazzling progressive music that invited expansion of and exploration at the boundaries of popular music in the 1970s.
The album itself has been treated as the classic that it is and has been afforded a wonderful selection of soundtracks, well engineered in general and eminently listenable. Having now gotten the first of the classic albums, we can but trust that the rest will be forthcoming sooner rather than later. In the meantime, as Molly Meldrum would say - do yourself a favour...
2. Cans And Brahms
3. We Have Heaven
4. South Side Of The Sky
5. Five Per Cent For Nothing
|6. Long Distance Runaround|
7. The Fish
8. Mood For A Day
9. Heart Of The Sunrise
There is no video on the disc, as everything comprises NTSC menus and stills. These are clear enough, although a couple could be a little sharper and better defined colour-wise.
Crikey, I have not listened to the album in about twenty years and I end up having to listen to it five times in succession. Yes, there are indeed five soundtracks on the disc! The choices are: a DVD-Audio only MLP 96 kHz/24 bit 5.1 soundtrack, a DVD-Audio only MLP 96 kHz/24 bit 2.0 soundtrack, a DVD-Video compatible Dolby Digital 5.1 448 kb/s soundtrack, a full bit rate DVD-Video compatible dts 5.1 1536 kb/s soundtrack and a DVD-Video compatible Dolby Digital 2.0 448 kb/s soundtrack. Obviously I listened to all the soundtracks in their entirety.
One of the great things about listening to all five soundtracks is the fact that this is, to me, not an album that really jumps out at you straight out. However, as you listen to it a few times, you soon start to understand why this is considered one of the classic Yes albums. Having not listened to the album for so long - I somehow missed replacing my well-worn original release LP with CD - it took a while for the whole "thing" to sink in. By the end of the fifth listen, I remained convinced that this is one of the definitive albums by arguably the definitive Yes line-up. So, this is a classic album that needs to be treated right in the re-mixing department - and treated right it is. This is as good as the album has ever sounded and the surround sound has been done very well - avoiding too much gimmickry but providing enough to show that LP and CD have never done the music justice.
Irrespective of which soundtrack choice you make, I would seriously doubt that you will find anything significant to complain about.
The DVD-Audio compatible MLP 5.1 soundtrack was the second through the player, but is mentioned first as it is really the raison d'être for the format. Nearly everything you need to know about this soundtrack is demonstrated in the opening track, Roundabout. Once the rear surround channels start to come into play, they really kick in quite wonderfully. Whilst the soundtrack has a basic frontal presence to start with, the rear surround channels come into play quite subtly to start with and end up presenting a really nicely balanced sound with plenty of surround presence. The sound is quite specifically placed at times (We Have Heaven as an example), with front to rear movement quite obvious but not sounding gimmicky (Five Per Cent For Nothing). The Rick Wakeman arranged Cans and Brahms demonstrates a very nice handling of the very strong bass inherent in the music, being significantly better than the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack in this regard. The quality continues throughout the album: basically lovely rear channel use, a strongly encompassing sound and, in the case of the terrific bonus track America, a gorgeous use of counterpoint in the rear channels courtesy of the synthesiser.
The sheer quality on offer in the surround encoding really is something that we have not seen too much of and harkens back to say Alice Cooper's Welcome To My Nightmare. Indeed, it would be fair to say that some releases I have listened to in recent times have diminished my enthusiasm for the format somewhat, but this restores it completely. It is a pity that we do not hear this quality more often. This is an excellent soundtrack that really brings the thirty year old material to life like never before.
The DVD-Video compatible Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was the first soundtrack through the player, and an interesting comparison it was too. Roundabout is quite similar in some ways, but different in others. Overall the sound seems to have a little more body to it, being quite a robust sound in many ways. This is effectively counterbalanced by a slightly less distinctive use of the surround channels that ultimately gives the soundtrack a lack of specific placement to the instruments at times. Cans and Brahms unfortunately has been mixed with too much bass, so when the synthesiser kicks in for the organ track, the reverb goes way beyond what is truly necessary. However, it is noted that this is the only area where there is any problem with the bass channel at all. In something of a twist that I was not expecting, the front to rear sound sweep in Five Per Cent For Nothing is really obvious, far more so than the MLP soundtrack. Some might consider it too flashy or showy, but it is a very impressive demonstration of just what can be done with surround sound. Certainly there is no way you could go back to listening to plain old stereo for a track such as this after hearing it in surround sound. If I had one word to describe the overall soundtrack, it would have to be balanced. Very nice, despite the odd minor caveat.
The DVD-Video compatible dts 5.1 soundtrack falls somewhere between the two other six channel soundtracks in style. Whilst it is generally not as distinctive in the surround channels, especially the rears, the soundtrack has a noticeable improvement in body. Unfortunately, this might have come at the cost of some clarity in the sound mix - on odd occasions it just seems to be a little more muddied than the other two six channel soundtracks. One area where it really shines though is in the bass channel in Cans and Brahms. The bass is way more solid, with nary an inkling of reverb compared to the Dolby Digital soundtrack, and with a degree more body than the MLP soundtrack. The style of sound obviously suits this track more than the other two, but that is balanced by the sound being less suitable to some of the other tracks. Frankly, I would have expected a bit more clarity overall in this full bitrate soundtrack, but that is sort of like saying the soundtrack is 98% okay as opposed to 100% perfect - a very small difference indeed.
The DVD-Audio compatible MLP 2.0 soundtrack is really wonderful, and about the only comment made in my notes during the review sessions was "clarity". Whilst it obviously lacks the surround sound bells and whistles, what the soundtrack does give you is about as clear a sound as I have ever heard for this sort of music - and believe me the music really benefits from it. Indeed, after completing listening to all five soundtracks, this is the one soundtrack I returned to for a general listen whilst I typed this review. I know everybody associates DVD-Audio (and to some extent SACD) with surround sound, but this is the sort of soundtrack that can convince you that there is still plenty of life left in simple stereo sound if it is done right. This is done very right indeed.
The DVD-Video compatible Dolby Digital 2.0 at the full bit rate is a most pleasing effort too. Okay, it is a bit wimpish after what went before it, but if this was the only way you could listen to this classic album on DVD, suffice it to say that it would still be a quantum improvement over anything that has gone before. Whilst I could not make a direct comparison with the CD, I did the unthinkable and dug out that old LP, got the old player to work and listened to just how bad music used to sound! Did we really listen to music that way? I know purists argue that vinyl sounds better, but when it is worn, dusty and generally not in excellent condition, there is nothing worse than vinyl to my ears.
|Surround Channel Use|
This seems to be a sort of standard offering that we can expect on DVD-Audio - nice but leaving you wishing for a bit more.
An okay sixteen page effort, mainly photos but with a four page essay about the recording of the album.
Twenty photos of the band members, accessible during playback only in DVD-Audio mode and from the menu only in DVD-Video mode. Nothing terribly exciting.
Running to many pages (sorry, I lost count of how many and cannot be bothered rechecking the count) of photos, album covers, single covers, notes, programmes, posters, advertisements and other promotional stuff, this covers the period 1968 to 1972. Unlikely to be that absorbing for anything but serious fans of the band, this is nonetheless a nice inclusion.
Exactly what it says and accessible during playback only in DVD-Audio mode and from the menu only in DVD-Video mode.
Basically repeating those included in the booklet.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This DVD-Audio is identical in content and format around the world.
After the relative disappointment of the newer Magnification album, this is a significant improvement in every way. A classic album, to which has been added a terrific bonus track in America, from the start of the period when Yes basically could do no wrong. Initial listenings after so long a time almost convinced me that the album was not a classic, but by the end of five listenings there is absolutely no doubt that this is a genuinely classic album. The remastering for surround sound release is very good indeed and demonstrates just how good the original recordings were - they simply did not have the technology to really bring the music to life as we hear so well here. This really is a wonderful ear-opener of an album and Yes fans should not hesitate. If you have always held a low opinion of the band, then perhaps this might not be a bad place to reinvestigate them - there is a lot of revelation here. Definitely one of the classic albums of the 1970s.
|DVD||Denon DVD-1600, using S-Video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|