Written by 10:07 am Audiophile Music, Audiophile, Audiophile News, Blu-ray, Blu-ray Disc, Compact Disc, Digital, Dolby Atmos, Dolby Atmos, SACD/DVD-Audio, Surround Sound, Vinyl

Yes’ Super Deluxe Edition 1LP/4CD/1Bluray Set Celebrates Landmark 1971 Hit Album Fragile With New Wilson Stereo, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround and Dolby Atmos Remixes, Plus Grundman Remasters and Previously Unreleased Tracks

Mark Smotroff explores the new 4CD + Blu-ray super deluxe edition of Yes’ landmark 1971 release, Fragile…


By Mark Smotroff

The new Super Deluxe Edition of Fragile, Yes’ landmark 1971 smash hit album is a wonderful celebration of the band’s ground breaking and majestic fourth release, home to its Top 20 U.S. hit single “Roundabout.” 

While not 100-percent perfect, mostly the benefits are all upside on this deluxe set just out today from Rhino Records and Warner Music.  Stick with me as there is a lot to run through in a short amount of time. 

First off, for vinyl fans, we get the original album newly remastered by Bernie Grundman from the original analog tapes. The new Blu-ray Disc included in the Super Deluxe Edition of Fragile features fresh 2024 mixes by Steven Wilson in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Atmos, Stereo and even stripped back instrumental versions of all the album tracks.

Across four CDs we get, again, Bernie Grundman’s new remaster of the original mix plus Steven Wilson’s 2024 remix of the album plus instrumentals. Perhaps most exciting is the material on the last two discs featuring rarities and live recordings. Some of this material was issued on the 2015 “Definitive Edition” of Fragile on Blu-ray Disc (click here for my prior review of that set) so having them now in somewhat lower fidelity — on a 16-bit, 44.1 kHz Compact Disc — is actually a handy thing because it means that more people can now hear this music who may not have access to a Blu-ray Disc player.  

There are numerous live recordings including a few tracks reputedly from February 1972 at New York City’s Academy of Music. These tapes capture Yes while Bill Bruford was still in the group, rocking out as only he can on “The Fish,” “Perpetual Change” and “Yours In No Disgrace.”  I would love to hear this entire show at some point, actually! While not perfect sound, it still is very enjoyable and the performance is terrific. 

There is a new instrumental version of “America” included in the Super Deluxe Edition of Fragile as well as a new Dolby Atmos mix of the full 10 minute epic (complementing versions on on the original 2002 DVD Audio Disc edition of Fragile and 2013 Blu-ray Disc of Close To The Edge, which I reviewed here)

Still with me? I know there’s a lot of granular stuff I’m getting into right now, but frankly, if you’re reading this review chances are this is what you want to learn about.

One of the biggest surprises for me is a curious track on CD #4 (More Rarities & Live) called “The Dean.” This is not listed as “previously unreleased,” however I have not found it showing up elsewhere — I went so far as to check in with a friend who is even more hard-core a Yes fanatic than I am and he had not heard of it before! It’s a curious piece which sounds unlike anything I’ve heard from Yes, to the point where I wonder if it actually is Yes! It finds the group riffing repetitively on a sequence of music similar to the core downward pattern found in The Grateful Dead’s “Friend Of The Devil” with (one assumes) Jon Anderson vocalizing over the slow groove. The guitarist is playing more bluesy than I would expect from Steve Howe during this period. I’ll be curious to learn more about this track (unfortunately, there is no additional information given in the enclosed booklet).  [UPDATE: Apparently, according to information which surfaced yesterday in a Facebook Yes fan group (“YMP Discussion Group“) the track is indeed not Yes but Terry Reid who was reportedly working with then-future Yes drummer Alan White at the time on a new album at the same studio. It is the last song on his album The Other Side of The River called “Sabyla.” The question remains as to how and why this was included on the set, a puzzle since it is pretty obviously not a Yes related track. Very curious. But, for now, mystery solved, seemingly.]

As far as how the surround mixes sound, I’m not going to choose one over the other as better or worse because all the different versions that have been released — dating back to the 2002 DVD Audio Disc and the 2015 Blu-ray Disc — each bring something compelling to the table. And if you are a fan of Yes and immersive surround music, you probably want to own them all in your collection. 

The new Dolby Atmos mix of course offers a bit more sense of the studio presence where the band was recording. While keeping true to the original intent of the album, producer/engineer Steven Wilson has made some fascinating choices to fill the height channels with discrete information. For example, parts of the guitar “harmonic” at the opening of “Roundabout” appear there and the acoustic guitar at the end feels more three dimensional, reaching out into in the room.  Bill Bruford’s neat cymbal and drum stick percussive  textures during “The Fish” percolate from those channels at points.

Sound effects often fare well in surround sound and in the Super Deluxe Edition of Fragile Mr. Wilson makes the most of the albums dramatic key moments such as the door slamming at the end of  “We Have Heaven.” Its a stunner — that door slam has never sounded quite so huge and lifelike!  The thunder at the start of “South Side Of The Sky” is awesome as well. I do however miss the footsteps circling around the room as in the earlier 5.1 mix. Again, each surround sound version has its strengths and weaknesses. 

I certainly understand the rationale for not repeating including the 2002 DVD Audio mix on this new disc, which of all the mixes was least true to the original album intent.  However, I still love the madness of that mix on “Five Percent For Nothing” which insanely bounces the music around the room in time to music, to the point where it is almost disorienting!  For those not wishing to take that much of a roller coaster ride, Mr. Wilson’s new 2024 version is much more straightforward, again keeping closer to the intent of the original album. 

If I have any big disappointments with this Blu-ray Disc included in the Super Deluxe Edition of Fragile it is not unique to this release. The Dolby Atmos mixes are limited to 48 kHz — that is the industry standard at present — which sound fine on their own. But when you switch over to the 5.1 mix in DTS-HD Master Audio — at 96K, along with the Stereo mixes — you realize that the sonic difference is palpable, both in volume and overall sense of realism. So much so, that I will probably be more inclined to listen to the 5.1 mixes for the most part as they generally sound better to my ear and personal preferences. 

Of course as they say: “your mileage may vary.” For many fans who might be listening to the Atmos mix on headphones or through a soundbar, 48 kHz is probably more than adequate. You’ll have to decide for yourself which version you like better better. Just know that there are some differences in the sound quality and how it presents the music.

The good news is we have lots of options to choose from, which at the end of the day isn’t a bad thing, folks…

The new vinyl mastering by Bernie Grundman is very good. The best thing I can say is that the album sounds like Yes’ Fragile should sound. And while I have to do a bit more comparing and contrasting, my initial impression had me wondering whether they were working off of the original UK master tape or perhaps a version mastered for the US market back in the day. Indeed, when I played my somewhat recently acquired original UK pressing (purple and orange Atlantic Records labels) I thought the new edition sounded a bit more like what I remembered the US versions sounding like (which I grew up listening too, so its kind of ingrained in my DNA by this point in time). As I said, I’ll have to spend more time comparing them in the future and may update this accordingly at some point. 

My only ding on the vinyl front is that I heard some low level but audible surface noise at points on one side of the album. Nothing major, but I have to acknowledge its presence. 

If I have any real nits to pick about the Super Deluxe Edition of Fragile they are more about the packaging. The cover printing, while striking and commanding looking — it will pop on store shelves, no doubt — is actually pretty heavily oversaturated, losing much of watercolor-like nuance of Roger Dean’s iconic imagery (as you see in the comparison photo I included below showing the US promo on the left and the 1971 UK original on the right, flanking the new Super Deluxe Edition cover).

I’m glad that the included booklet is full album size and reproduces the original artwork from the half-size version in the original editions. However, I do wish the enclosed essays were more expansive and focused on the material at hand in the set vs. the more generalized history piece that is found here. Its perfectly fine, but for those of us familiar with the band’s roots, it feels like there could have been a bit more to this booklet. Heck, even including the essay (and great archival photos of the band and the various label variants and such) from the 2015 “Definitive Edition CD/Blu-ray” package would have gone a long way to deliver a sense of value add. Just sayin’… 

Overall, this new Super Deluxe Edition of Fragile is quite nice and certainly appealing to serious Yes fans. For the price, $99 on Amazon (click through on the titles here in this review to jump to that page), it feels pretty reasonable given all the material included. This is fine addition to the collections of the serious completist Yes fan, especially those who love immersive surround sound and Dolby Atmos music. 

[Mark Smotroff has been reviewing music at AudiophileReview for many years but can also be found at AnalogPlanet.com. In the past he has written for Sound & Vision, DISCoveries, EQ, Mix and many more. An avid vinyl collector and music enthusiast who has also worked in marketing communications for decades you can learn  more about his background at LinkedIn.]

Disc 1: Original Album Remastered

1. ROUNDABOUT [8:32]

2. CANS AND BRAHMS [1:38]

3. WE HAVE HEAVEN [1:40]

4. SOUTH SIDE OF THE SKY [7:56]

5. FIVE PER CENT FOR NOTHING [0:36]

6. LONG DISTANCE RUNAROUND [3:30]

7. THE FISH (SCHINDLERIA PRAEMATURUS) [2:38]

8. MOOD FOR A DAY [2:58]

9. HEART OF THE SUNRISE [11:26]

Disc 2: 2024 Remixes & Instrumentals

2024 Remixes

1. ROUNDABOUT [8:32]

2. CANS AND BRAHMS [1:40]

3. WE HAVE HEAVEN [1:42]

4. SOUTH SIDE OF THE SKY [8:02]

5. FIVE PER CENT FOR NOTHING [0:36]

6. LONG DISTANCE RUNAROUND [3:30]

7. THE FISH (SCHINDLERIA PRAEMATURUS) [2:39]

8. MOOD FOR A DAY [2:58]

9. HEART OF THE SUNRISE [10:38]

10. WE HAVE HEAVEN (Reprise) [0:48]

2024 Instrumental Mixes

11. ROUNDABOUT [8:31]

12. WE HAVE HEAVEN [1:40]

13. SOUTH SIDE OF THE SKY [8:04]

14. LONG DISTANCE RUNAROUND [3:30]

15. THE FISH (SCHINDLERIA PRAEMATURUS) [2:39]

16. HEART OF THE SUNRISE [10:39]

17. WE HAVE HEAVEN (Reprise) [0:47]

Disc 3: Rarities

1. ROUNDABOUT (US Single Edit) [3:27]

2. LONG DISTANCE RUNAROUND (US Single Edit) [3:15]

3. ALL FIGHTERS PAST (Steven Wilson Mix) [2:33]

4. SOUTH SIDE OF THE SKY (Early Take) [6:20]

5. ROUNDABOUT (Rehearsal Take/Early Mix) [8:10]

6. MOOD FOR ANOTHER DAY [2:59]

7. WE HAVE HEAVEN (Full Version) [Steven Wilson Mix] [2:20]

8. SOUTH SIDE OF THE SKY (Early Version) [Steven Wilson Mix] [5:10]

9. LONG DISTANCE RUNAROUND (Steven Wilson Edit)* [3:38]

10. HEART OF THE SUNRISE (Steven Wilson Edit)* [4:06]

11. AMERICA [10:30]

12. ROUNDABOUT (Early Rough Mix) [8:34]

13. WE HAVE HEAVEN (Acapella) [Steven Wilson Mix] [1:59]

Disc 4: More Rarities & Live

1. FIVE PER CENT FOR NOTHING (Alternate Version)* [0:44]

2. HEART OF THE SUNRISE (Alternate Version)* [10:39]

3. LONG DISTANCE RUNAROUND/THE FISH (SCHINDLERIA PRAEMATURUS) (Alternate Version)* [6:02]

4. THE DEAN [3:45]

5. AMERICA [Instrumental]* [10:31]

6. LONG DISTANCE RUNAROUND/THE FISH (SCHINDLERIA PRAEMATURUS) (Live)* [12:35]

7. PERPETUAL CHANGE (Live)* [10:45]

8. YOURS IS NO DISGRACE (Live)* [13:37]

Tracks 6-8

Recorded live at ACADEMY OF MUSIC, New York, NY (2/19/72)

[Previously Unreleased]

Blu-Ray:

2024 Dolby Atmos Mix

2024 5.1 Mix DTS-HD MA

2024 Stereo Remix

2024 Stereo Remaster

2024 Instrumental Mix

1. ROUNDABOUT [8:32]    2024 Steven Wilson Atmos Mix

2. CANS AND BRAHMS [1:40] 2024 Steven Wilson Atmos Mix

3. WE HAVE HEAVEN [1:42] 2024 Steven Wilson Atmos Mix

4. SOUTH SIDE OF THE SKY [8:02] 2024 Steven Wilson Atmos Mix

5. FIVE PER CENT FOR NOTHING [0:36] 2024 Steven Wilson Atmos Mix

6. LONG DISTANCE RUNAROUND [3:30] 2024 Steven Wilson Atmos Mix

7. THE FISH (SCHINDLERIA PRAEMATURUS) [2:38] 2024 Steven Wilson Atmos Mix

8. MOOD FOR A DAY [2:58] 2024 Steven Wilson Atmos Mix

9. HEART OF THE SUNRISE [10:39] 2024 Steven Wilson Atmos Mix

10. WE HAVE HEAVEN (Reprise) [0:47] 2024 Steven Wilson Atmos Mix

11. AMERICA [10:30] 2024 Steven Wilson Atmos Mix

LP: Cut from the original analog master by Bernie Grundman

Side A

1. ROUNDABOUT [8:32]

2. CANS AND BRAHMS [1:38]

3. WE HAVE HEAVEN [1:40]

4. SOUTH SIDE OF THE SKY [7:56]

Side B

1. FIVE PER CENT FOR NOTHING [0:36]

2. LONG DISTANCE RUNAROUND [3:30]

3. THE FISH (SCHINDLERIA PRAEMATURUS) [2:38]

4. MOOD FOR A DAY [2:58]

5. HEART OF THE SUNRISE [11:26]

*Previously Unreleased

(Visited 887 times, 234 visits today)
Close